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James Berkland

north on Bay Shore, by San Carlos, and I looked in the rearview mirror, and I saw this rolling wave coming at me up the pavement. It was a few inches high, and it went under the car with a bump, and rapidly disappeared up the road. And David Ocompimer said, well, ma’am, I’m afraid that was an optical illusion, because the actual ground motion was only a fraction of an inch, and you couldn’t have seen it. He tells her, but she said it happened.

Now, I saw it happen in 1957 with the Daly City quake. I was sixty miles away, and I hear a big boom! I was in the kitchen, putting away the groceries., and I thought a big explosion hit downtown. I go to the door, and all of a sudden the groundwaves come in– the first was a p wave, that was essentially a sound wave. Then the s wave, which comes more slowly. An s wave has set speed slower than the p, just like lightening and thunder. You count to five, and you know how many miles away it is. The p wave arrives, and then you count to the s wave. If it’s five seconds, it’s about 25 miles away.

David: I can always hear an earthquake before I feel it. I hear a rumbling off in the distance that appears to be moving closer.

James: That’s the p wave. It’s a sound wave. It’s push-pull, push-pull, push-pull, not a snakey S wave. So one goes five miles a second, the other about three mile. So if it takes five seconds between p and s, it’s 25 miles away from the epicenter. Ten seconds. about fifty miles away. So it was about ten seconds by the time I put my groceries down , and I head for the door, and this mmmvvvaway, the wavy drama hits. I look out there and here’s ten acres undulating like a choppy ocean, maybe up and down a foot. I was kind of naive at the time. I was waiting for the ground to open. Let me see these big cracks open up you know. And, yeah., nothing.

So after about fifteen seconds it just stopped. It’s like you feel when the total eclipse is over– darn, I wish it lasted longer. That was really great. So living in the country. the nearest person was about a hundred yards away, talking over the fence with some visitor. Nobody was home so I go up there and see these people and say, whoa, that was some earthquake wasn’t it? First one I ever saw. I was 27 years old. As a native Californian, I had really felt left out. I had finally experienced a pretty good jolt. So one of the ladies– the visitor, who was apparently from Eureka– said, it was nothing we like we had in Eureka two weeks ago. They’d had a 6.5. And so I realized then there was earthquake snobbery out there. (laughter)

David: A married couple told me that during an earthquake back in 1979, they both saw the glass in the door, waving like water.

James: Yes, no question. In fact, I saw the wave preserved in the frame of a glass door in an unfinished house. It had fallen out, and it had a bulge in it, a wave about at least an inch, clearly. It seemed to be waiting for maybe the sun to shine on it. It was just going to pop with a little more stress.

David: Why didn’t it shatter?

James: It’s the length of time you have. It’s like Silly Putty. If you pull it. it’s like taffy. If you jerk it, it breaks. If you if you hit it with a hammer, it shatters like glass. So it’s the length of time you act on it.

David: I remember being told as a kid that glass is actually a liquid. That’s why if you look at old houses the windows are sometimes thicker on the bottom.

James: Yes, exactly. It’s non-crystalline. Opal is a non-crystalline form of silica. Quartz is a crystalline form. Then there’s intermediate forms. You can see if you run an x-ray, you get a beautiful high crystalline peak on quartz. With the opal you just get a broad mound; the peak is going to show later on. In between you get into estrobolite, high grade calcite, which is partly crystallized.

So yeah, glass will eventually crystalize and shatter too. That’s why it doesn’t survive very long in nature. if you see obsidian that’s glass. If you take a chunk of granite and cook it up to about 600 degrees centigrade it would melt. If you take that granite melt and throw it on the ground, and if you gave it maybe a week to cool down, it would be like a lava flow, like ireilite, with maybe tiny little crystals begin to show. Maybe give it a million years to cool under pressure you get vanities. So the same chemistry, but it depends on the physical conditions that it went through as to what kind of rock you’re going to get.

David: What do you think you can do to improve your earthquake predicting methods?

James: As I say, the more information the better. Now computers are helping. I have been desperate for a long time to get a good graphics program.

David: What kind of graphic modeling is a computer helpful with?

James: Well, with all this data here. It’s hard to see what’s happening in four cities at once, with dogs plus cats and lost plus found. As I say, you start to see a lost animal showing up in the papers maybe three to five days after it’s gone. Here’s how clear it is, and I did do graphics. If you can see the visuals, here’s the most missing dogs in the history of the Bay Area from normal things other than quakes. Here’s July 8th, 85, that’s 72. Then there’s 85 missing dogs. Look it was only 36, 30 there, and then it rapidly increases to 85. What’s going on? The highest is 1980, July see there 45 lost and 43 found, that’s 88, and it’s on the 9th of July. So these are the two highest, the 88 and the 85. The third highest was 81 missing on the 27th of October. Now if you go to the month of July every year you’ll see a very high number right around this period, and often no quakes to explain it. And it happens in every city. Why? Because of what happens here.

David: Oh, because of the Fourth of July celebration fireworks.

James: Yeah, it drives the dogs batty. We had a big Samilee out here that ripped out our screen door about this time. After the centennial they eased off on restrictions on fireworks, and now its gradually quieting down a bit, so we don’t see these kinds of numbers. Usually it’s in the fifties or sixties. But every year on the 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, you hit the peaks. Then it kind of wedges down, because some people put an ad for one day, or three days, or two weeks. So I don’t pay attention to the number of new ads, but the total ads. Otherwise I’d be spending all my time doing this.

But I do notice that when you suddenly see an abrupt change it’s usually on the found side first. This is because the person immediately recognizes this dog or cat on their doorstep is not their’s. Also, in the last fifteen years or so many papers have allowed you to put a found ad in for free, a two maybe three day found ad. You can call then up right away and say, we got this dog here in our garage, and it doesn’t have a collar. So you put it in free, that attracts other people to look at the Lost and Found ads, and then you can put your ads in. It works well.

Before they did that you have almost no found ads, because most people are not going to spend those kind of bucks for somebody else’s dog. So you see the founds pick up instantly because people recognize it. But the lost side will wait a few days as people look around the neighborhood. and finally after judging they might put an ad in. So every year– and I’ve back to July’s in the sixties and so forth– Fourth of July produces this tremendous reaction of missing dogs. This is not so much for the cats, as they’re not as ear oriented.

David: Have you ever seen the Fourth of July numbers coincide with preearthquake missing dog numbers?

James: Quake at the same type? Yes, and usually you get a double-peak. They had a big one in Oceanside at the same time as they had one in Palm Springs. So the LA missing dogs responded at about 86. So here, 44, 49. See, it’d been down here 13, 14, 23, 20, 18– wham– up to 49! 1 didn’t get the numbers there, it may have been even higher, but here’s the ocean tide quake of 5.6. So we had 44, 49, 44, 28, oh the double peak doesn’t show there. Oh well. But Oceanside here, and Palm Springs right here. The 6.5 in Palm springs caused quite a bit of damage down there. A lot of roads blocked by landslides and things.

The 4th of July is here. Now, meantime here’s 64 missing on the 9th of July. See, that’s usually the date– the 9th. It gives you enough time after the 4th for an average to build up. Now, here it goes down. Now, see when goes down– this is what I’m saying, 64, 48, 48, and then back up to 62. That usually indicates there was secondary signal. I don’t know that we had anything that significant around here. San Palukay is right over here with 2.9, but that’s not good enough. It doesn’t show up. But it could have been this, because look at that one– 6.4, 5.6 and 6.4 up in Bishop.

Now, this was hot one. This was the Dog Days. I predicted a quake a here in the newspapers. The San Jose Mercury News carried my prediction. And on the day of this 5.6 that shook the Bay Area they said, “Berkland wrong. We’re lucky.” Now, sure it wasn’t centered here, but we had quake because the ground shook. That’s an earthquake- ground shakes. I said it would happen within 70 miles, and it happened 160 miles away. But that’s a pretty good quake– the strongest in Northern California for many months– and to say, Berkland totally missed is bad reporting. I wouldn’t call it a miss, even though it certainly wasn’t a total hit.

David: Do they generally carry your predictions in The Mercury News?

James: Not anymore. No they definitely ruled against it. The Morgan Hill paper and the Gilroy paper. She was very good. and almost every year they’d call me. Okay, how did you do last year? I’d give them a summary of the data, and I give them a new window. One guy had gone to his professor who in just a random way set up an eight day window based on the birthdays of his students. In fact, he never reported his results. But

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