Ron Schott, an excellent member of the online geology community, challenged his cohort for Accretionary Wedge #41 to "relate the story of the most memorable or significant geological event that you've directly experienced."
Geology is everywhere, but geological events are uncommon because Earth really takes its time. I've felt plenty of earthquakes, so even the magnitude 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake, memorable as it was, was just a larger example of something familiar. I've seen lots of volcanoes, but none of them, not even Kilauea, was doing anything when I was there. I've seen a thousand landslides, but never one in progress. I've inspected the wave-scoured walls of Lituya Bay, Alaska, where the world's greatest tsunami occurred in 1958, but the occasion was in 1976. I've seen Old Faithful eruptbut no offense, who hasn't?
Some of my stickiest memories involve human practices related to geology. A few months ago, for instance, I got to spend time in the clangorous presence of Yuba Gold Dredge 17. I also remember the press conference in 2007 that first displayed the precious cores of rock retrieved from the San Andreas fault nearly 3 kilometers underground.
But this contraption was probably the coolest of all. It was an artwork installed in Parkfield, on the San Andreas fault, in the summer and fall of 2008 called the Parkfield Interventional EQ Fieldwork. It was, in effect, a robot built to do interpretive dancing based on California's vibrations. It consisted of a motorized platform covered with steel wands, in a shallow pit with sculpted earthen banks. The motors were driven in response to seismic noise; that is, it served as a seismic amplifier for the whole state of California. I stopped by on my way to Las Vegas in late October and had the work all to myself. It muttered and hummed, awaking to a slow rattling ripple whenever I stamped on the geophones planted nearby. I stayed and let my mind expand across California and deep into its lithosphere, but after an hour or so, no large earthquake had occurred in the statejust a bit of mumbling. Too bad; I would have been there when it happened. Then I got lunch at the nearby Parkfield Cafe, where I stuck my business card on the wall next to Susan Hough's, and was on my way.
PIEQF Geology Guide photo first posted 30 Dec 2011