I have a basic belief. This belief has come to shape me as a person, as a professional, and as a writer. I believe we are all connected. Despite our issues that revolve and evolve around social constructs such as race, gender, and sexuality, I believe we’re all connected at the basic levels of humanity. Perhaps we may not see it so profoundly but it’s there. History tells us that it’s there.
Maybe it was the close proximity to the water from the San Francisco Bay, or the sand from the beach looking out into the Pacific Ocean, or if it crisp air swirling around AT&T park, but I realized that I must travel more in order to become a better writer. The knowledge that instead of seeing the the sunrise from the Atlantic Ocean, I’m seeing it set from the Pacific just gave me the sense that we are not alone and they we experience and perceive the same things differently.
This sense of connectivity was brought home when I read The New Yorker Article about the Cascadia subduction zone. The richly dense article goes into horrifying detail about a earthquake that is likely to happen in the Pacific Northwest. The whole article goes into detail about how this will happen and how scientists were able to discover the history behind the subduction zone. It’s this history that makes this entire thing so very interesting.
The Cascadia fault line was discovered only 50 years ago, which was news to everyone there considering that no earthquakes were ever reported in that area. I wont go into specifics about the Ring of Fire, but I will say that massive research has been done to show that two plates (the Juan de Fuca oceanic plate and the North American tectonic plate) have been stuck together for far too long and it’s only a matter of time before it snaps like a rubber band. How is the connectivity? The history of how this was discovered.
It all starts with scientist trying to figure out what happened to the Ghost Forest in Washington. Here are a bunch of dead trees that look really creepy but how did they get they way? In short, they discovered a massive earthquake took place here before America was born. They figure roughly around 1700 this massive quake cause the land around the trees to drop thus killing all them at the same time, which is pretty spooky. But it gets even spookier when they figured out the this date coincides with something called the “orphan tsunami” in Japan.
The article beautifully explains that the Japanese have records of earthquakes and tsunamis for centuries. They understood the correlation between the two so when this random tsunami hit one year without an earthquake, it caused a bit of alarm. This orphan was one of a kind until scientists were able to connect where it came from:
At approximately nine o’ clock at night on January 26, 1700, a magnitude-9.0 earthquake struck the Pacific Northwest, causing sudden land subsidence, drowning coastal forests, and, out in the ocean, lifting up a wave half the length of a continent. It took roughly fifteen minutes for the Eastern half of that wave to strike the Northwest coast. It took ten hours for the other half to cross the ocean. It reached Japan on January 27, 1700.
That’s some shit right? Well it gets stranger than that and before I get into how, I want to point out that we, as a society, seem to put so little faith into oral histories of other cultures. I think historians tend to be judgmental about people who don’t have a written account of their history. Welp, oral history has a place in this:
In 1964, Chief Louis Nookmis, of the Huu-ay-aht First Nation, in British Columbia, told a story, passed down through seven generations, about the eradication of Vancouver Island’s Pachena Bay people. “I think it was at nighttime that the land shook,” Nookmis recalled. According to another tribal history, “They sank at once, were all drowned; not one survived.” A hundred years earlier, Billy Balch, a leader of the Makah tribe, recounted a similar story. Before his own time, he said, all the water had receded from Washington State’s Neah Bay, then suddenly poured back in, inundating the entire region. Those who survived later found canoes hanging from the trees. In a 2005 study, Ruth Ludwin, then a seismologist at the University of Washington, together with nine colleagues, collected and analyzed Native American reports of earthquakes and saltwater floods. Some of those reports contained enough information to estimate a date range for the events they described. On average, the midpoint of that range was 1701.
Damn son, are we not connected? Does this not tell a global history about a cataclysmic event that literally spans the world? Two different types of recorded history from two different civilizations help piece together a modern mystery of the Cascadia subduction zone. A horrible event that shows the destructive force of our planet while at the same times showing that what happens on one side of the world effects the other.
When I was sitting the beach last week out in California, all I could think about is why are we so cruel to other people when the world is so beautiful? I don’t have all the answers but I do know that search for the meaning of everything that happens maybe beyond our horizon.
I think we should all take time to enjoy the beauty of this world and realize that our sunset is someone’s sunrise and that is a blessing.