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Ashfall movie. Ashfall philippines. The Republic of Iceland () (;) is a European island country located in the North Atlantic Ocean. It has a population of about 320, 000 and a total area of 103, 000 km². Its capital and largest city is Reykjavík, whose surrounding area is home to some two-thirds of the national population. Located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Iceland is volcanically and geologically active on a large scale; this defines the landscape. The interior mainly consists of a plateau characterised by sand fields, mountains and glaciers, while many big glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Warmed by the Gulf Stream, Iceland has a temperate climate relative to its latitude and provides a habitable environment and nature. According to Landnámabók, the settlement of Iceland began in AD 874 when the Norwegian chieftain Ingólfur Arnarson became the first permanent Norwegian settler on the island. Others had visited the island earlier and stayed over winter. Over the next centuries, people of Nordic and Celtic origin settled in Iceland. Until the 20th century, the Icelandic population relied largely on fisheries and agriculture, and was from 1262 to 1918 a part of the Norwegian, and later the Danish monarchies. In the 20th century, Iceland's economy and welfare system developed quickly, and in recent decades the nation has implemented free trade in the European Economic Area, diversifying from fishing to new economic fields in services, finance and various industries. Iceland is a free market economy with low taxes compared with other OECD countries. The country maintains a Nordic welfare system providing universal health care and post-secondary education for its citizens. Icelandic culture is based on the nation’s Norse heritage and its status as a developed and technologically advanced society. The country's cultural heritage includes traditional Icelandic cuisine, the nation’s poetry, and the medieval Icelandic Sagas. In recent years, Iceland has been one of the wealthiest and most developed nations in the world. In 2007, it was ranked as the most developed country in the world by the United Nations' Human Development Index and the fourth most productive country per capita. In 2008, however, the nation’s banking system systematically failed, causing significant economic contraction and political unrest that lead to early parliamentary elections making Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir the country's Prime Minister. Geography A map of Iceland with major towns marked Iceland is located in the North Atlantic Ocean just south of the Arctic Circle, which passes through the small island of Grímsey off Iceland's northern coast, but not through mainland Iceland. Unlike neighbouring Greenland, Iceland is a part of Europe, not of North America, though geologically the island is part of both continental plates. Because of cultural, economic and linguistic similarities, Iceland is one of the Nordic countries and participates in Nordic cooperation. The closest bodies of land are Greenland (287 km) and the Faroe Islands (420 km). The closest distance to the mainland of Europe is 970 km (to Norway). Iceland is the world's 18th largest island, and Europe's second largest island following Great Britain. The main island is 101, 826 km² but the entire country is in size, of which 62. 7% is tundra. Lakes and glaciers cover 14. 3%; only 23% is vegetated. The largest lakes are Þórisvatn ( Reservoir): and Þingvallavatn:; other important lakes include Lögurinn and Mývatn. Öskjuvatn is the deepest lake at. However, geologically Iceland is a subaerial part of the Mid-Atlantic ridge, the ridge along which the oceanic crust spreads and forms new oceanic crust. In addition to this, this part of the mid ocean ridge is located atop a mantle plume causing Iceland to be subaerial (above sea level). Tectonically, Iceland belongs neither to the European continent nor to North America since it is a raised part of the oceanic crust, not a continental land mass. Many fjords punctuate its 4, 970 km long coastline, which is also where most settlements are situated. The island's interior, the Highlands of Iceland, are a cold and uninhabitable combination of sand and mountains. The major towns are the capital of Reykjavík, along with its outlying towns of Kópavogur, Hafnarfjörður and Garðabær, Reykjanesbær, where the international airport is located, and Akureyri, in northern Iceland. The island of Grímsey just south of the Arctic Circle contains the northernmost habitation of Iceland. Iceland has three national parks: Vatnajökull National Park, Snæfellsjökull National Park, and Þingvellir National Park. Geological activity A geologically young land, Iceland is located on both the Iceland hotspot and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which runs right through it. This combined location means that the island is highly geologically active and has many volcanoes, notably Hekla, Eldgjá, Herðubreið and Eldfell. Iceland is one of two places on Earth where a mid-ocean ridge rises above sea level, making it an easily accessible site to study the geology of such ridges. The volcanic eruption of Laki in 1783-1784 caused a famine that killed nearly a quarter of the island's population; the eruption caused dust clouds and haze to appear over most of Europe and parts of Asia and Africa for several months afterward. There are also many geysers in Iceland, including Geysir, from which the English word is derived, as well as the famous Strokkur, which erupts every 5–10 minutes. After a phase of inactivity, Geysir started erupting again after a series of earthquakes in the year 2000. With the widespread availability of geothermal power, and because many rivers and waterfalls are harnessed for hydroelectricity, most residents have inexpensive hot water and home heat. The island itself is composed primarily of basalt, a low- silica lava associated with effusive volcanism like Hawaii. Iceland, however, has various kinds of volcanoes, many of which produce more evolved lavas such as rhyolite and andesite. controls Surtsey, one of the youngest islands in the world. Named after Surtr, it rose above the ocean in a series of volcanic eruptions between 8 November, 1963 and 5 June, 1968. Only scientists researching the growth of new life are allowed to visit the island. Climate 200 px The climate of Iceland's coast is subpolar oceanic. The warm North Atlantic Current ensures generally higher annual temperatures than in most places of similar latitude in the world. Regions in the world with similar climate include the Aleutian Islands, the Alaska Peninsula and Tierra del Fuego, although these regions are closer to the equator. Despite its proximity to the Arctic, the island's coasts remain ice-free through the winter. Ice incursions are rare, the last having occurred on the north coast in 1969. There are some variations in the climate between different parts of the island. Generally speaking, the south coast is warmer, wetter and windier than the north. Low-lying inland areas in the north are the most arid. Snowfall in winter is more common in the north than the south (there is ca. 50% chance of a white Christmas in Reykjavík but ca. 70% in Akureyri). The Central Highlands are the coldest part of the country. The highest air temperature recorded was on 22 June, 1939 at Teigarhorn on the southeastern coast. The lowest was on 22 January, 1918 at Grímsstaðir and Möðrudalur in the northeastern hinterland. The temperature records for Reykjavík are on 30 July 2008, and on 21 January 1918. Flora and fauna Few plants and animals have migrated to the island or evolved locally since the last ice age, 10, 000 years ago. There are around 1, 300 known species of insects in Iceland, which is a rather low number compared with other countries (over one million species have been described worldwide). The only native land mammal when humans arrived was the Arctic Fox, which came to the island at the end of the ice age, walking over the frozen sea. There are no native reptiles or amphibians on the island. Phytogeographically, Iceland belongs to the Arctic province of the Circumboreal Region within the Boreal Kingdom. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the territory of Iceland belongs to the ecoregion of Iceland boreal birch forests and alpine tundra. Approximately three-quarters of the island are barren of vegetation; plant life consists mainly of grassland which is regularly grazed by livestock. The most common tree native to Iceland is the Northern Birch Betula pubescens, which formerly formed forest over much of Iceland along with "Aspen" (Populus Tremola), "Rowan" (Sorbus Aucuparia) and "Common Juniper" (Juniperus communis) and other smaller trees. Permanent human settlement greatly disturbed the isolated ecosystem of thin, volcanic soils and limited species diversity. The forests were heavily exploited over the centuries for firewood and timber. Deforestation caused a loss of critical topsoil due to erosion, greatly reducing the ability of birches to grow back. Today, only a few small birch stands exist in isolated reserves. The planting of new forests has increased the number of trees, but does not compare to the original forests. Some of the planted forests include new foreign species. The animals of Iceland include the Icelandic sheep, cattle, chicken, goat and the sturdy Icelandic horse, as well as the Icelandic sheepdog. Many varieties of fish live in the ocean waters surrounding Iceland, and the fishing industry is a main contributor to Iceland's economy, accounting for more than half of the country's total exports. Wild mammals include the Arctic Fox, mink, mice, rats, rabbits and reindeer. Polar bears occasionally visit the island, travelling on icebergs from Greenland. In May 2008 two polar bears arrived only two weeks apart. Birds, especially seabirds, are a very important part of Iceland's animal life. Puffins, skuas, and kittiwakes nest on its sea cliffs. Commercial whaling is practiced intermittently along with scientific whale hunts. Whale watching has become an important part of Iceland's economy since 1997. History Settlement and the establishment of the Commonwealth (874–1262) The first people believed to have visited Iceland were members of a Hiberno-Scottish mission or hermits, also known as Papar, who came in the 8th century. No archaeological discoveries support this theory; the monks are supposed to have left with the arrival of Norsemen, who systematically made settled in the period circa AD 870–930. The results of recent carbon dating work, published in the journal Skírnir, suggests that the country may have been settled as early as the second half of the 7th century. The first known permanent Norse settler was Ingólfur Arnarson, who built his homestead in Reykjavík in the year 874. Ingólfur was followed by many other emigrant settlers, largely Norsemen and their Irish slaves. By 930, most arable land had been claimed and the Althing, a legislative and judiciary parliament, was founded as the political hub of the Icelandic Commonwealth. Christianity was adopted 999–1000. The Commonwealth lasted until 1262 when the political system devised by the original settlers proved unable to cope with the increasing power of Icelandic chieftains. Middle Ages to the Early Modern Era The internal struggles and civil strife of the Sturlung Era led to the signing of the Old Covenant, which brought Iceland under the Norwegian crown. Possession of Iceland passed to Denmark-Norway in the late 14th century, when the kingdoms of Norway and Denmark were united in the Kalmar Union. In the ensuing centuries, Iceland became one of the poorest countries in Europe. Infertile soil, volcanic eruptions, and an unforgiving climate made for harsh life in a society whose subsistence depended almost entirely on agriculture. The Black Death swept Iceland in 1402–04 and 1494–95, each time killing about half the population. Around the middle of the 16th century, King Christian III of Denmark began to impose Lutheranism on all his subjects. The last Catholic bishop in Iceland was beheaded in 1550, along with two of his sons and the country subsequently became fully Lutheran. Lutheranism has since remained the dominant religion. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Denmark imposed harsh trade restrictions on Iceland, while pirates from England, Spain and Algeria ( Turkish Abductions) raided its coasts. A great smallpox epidemic in the 18th century killed around a third of the population. In 1783 the Laki volcano erupted, with devastating effects. The years following the eruption, known as the Mist Hardships (Icelandic: Móðuharðindin), saw the death of over half of all livestock in the country, with ensuing famine in which around a quarter of the population died. The Independence Movement and the World Wars (1814-1945) In 1814, following the Napoleonic Wars, Denmark-Norway was broken up into two separate kingdoms via the Treaty of Kiel. Iceland, however, remained a Danish dependency. Throughout the 19th century, the country's climate continued to grow worse, resulting in mass emigration to the New World, particularly Manitoba in Canada. About 15, 000 out of a total population of 70, 000 left. However, a new national consciousness was revived, inspired by romantic and nationalist ideas from continental Europe, and an Icelandic independence movement arose under the leadership of Jón Sigurðsson. In 1874, Denmark granted Iceland a constitution and home rule, which was expanded in 1904. The Act of Union, an agreement with Denmark signed on 1 December 1918, recognised Iceland as a fully sovereign state under the Danish king. During World War II, Iceland joined Denmark in asserting neutrality. After the German occupation of Denmark on 9 April 1940, the Icelandic parliament declared that the Icelandic government should assume the Danish king's duties and take control over foreign affairs and other matters previously handled by Denmark on behalf of Iceland. A month later, British Armed Forces occupied Iceland, violating Icelandic neutrality. In 1941, responsibility for the occupation was taken over by the United States. Allied occupation of Iceland lasted throughout the war. On 31 December 1943, the Act of Union agreement expired after 25 years. Beginning on 20 May 1944, Icelanders voted in a four-day plebiscite on whether to terminate the union with Denmark and establish a republic. The vote was 97% in favour of ending the union and 95% in favour of the new republican constitution. Iceland formally became an independent republic on 17 June 1944, with Sveinn Björnsson as the first president. Recent history (1946–present) In 1946, the Allied occupation force left Iceland, which formally became a member of NATO on 30 March 1949, amid domestic controversy and riots. On 5 May 1951, a defence agreement was signed with the United States. American troops returned to Iceland and remained throughout the Cold War, finally leaving on 30 September 2006. The immediate post-war period was followed by substantial economic growth, driven by industrialisation of the fishing industry and Marshall aid. The 1970s were marked by the Cod Wars —several disputes with the United Kingdom over Iceland's extension of its fishing limits. The economy was greatly diversified and liberalised when Iceland joined the European Economic Area in 1994. During the period 2003–07, Iceland developed from a nation best known for its fishing industry into a global financial powerhouse, but was consequently hit particularly hard by the 2008 global financial crisis. Government Iceland is a representative democracy and a parliamentary republic. The modern parliament, called "Alþingi" (English: Althing), was founded in 1845 as an advisory body to the Danish monarch. It was widely seen as a re-establishment of the assembly founded in 930 in the Commonwealth period and suspended in 1799. Consequently, "it is arguably the world's oldest parliamentary democracy. " It currently has 63 members, elected for a four year term. The president of Iceland is a largely ceremonial head of state and serves as a diplomat but can block a law voted by the parliament and put it to a national referendum. The current president is Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson. The head of government is the prime minister, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, who, together with the cabinet, is responsible for executive government. The cabinet is appointed by the president after a general election to Althing; however, the appointment is usually negotiated by the leaders of the political parties, who decide among themselves after discussions which parties can form the cabinet and how its seats are to be distributed, under the condition that it has a majority support in Althing. Only when the party leaders are unable to reach a conclusion by themselves in a reasonable time does the president exercise this power and appoint the cabinet himself or herself. This has not happened since the republic was founded in 1944, but in 1942 the regent of the country ( Sveinn Björnsson who had been installed in that position by the Althing in 1941) did appoint a non-parliamentary government. The regent had, for all practical purposes, the position of a president, and Sveinn in fact became the country's first president in 1944. The governments of Iceland have almost always been coalitions with two or more parties involved, as no single political party has received a majority of seats in Althing during the republic. The extent of the political power possessed by the office of the president is disputed by legal scholars in Iceland; several provisions of the constitution appear to give the president some important powers but other provisions and traditions suggest differently. In 1980, Icelanders elected Vigdís Finnbogadóttir as president, the world's first directly elected female head of state. She retired from office in 1996. Elections for town councils, presidency and parliament are each held every four years. The next elections are scheduled for 2010, 2012 and 2013 respectively. Subdivisions Iceland is divided into regions, constituencies, counties, and municipalities. There are eight regions which are primarily used for statistical purposes; the district court jurisdictions also use an older version of this division. Until 2003, the constituencies for the parliamentary elections were the same as the regions, but by an amendment to the constitution, they were changed to the current six constituencies: * Reykjavík North and Reykjavík South (city regions); * Southwest (four geographically separate suburban areas around Reykjavík); * Northwest and Northeast (north half of Iceland, split); and, * South (south half of Iceland, excluding Reykjavík and suburbs). The redistricting change was made in order to balance the weight of different districts of the country, since previously a vote cast in the sparsely populated areas around the country would count much more than a vote cast in the Reykjavík city area. The imbalance between districts has been reduced by the new system, but still exists. File:Regions of | Regions of Iceland File:Constituencies | Constituencies of Iceland | Counties of Iceland Iceland's 23 counties are, for the most part, historical divisions. Currently, Iceland is split up among 26 magistrates ( sýslumenn, singular sýslumaður) who represent government in various capacities. Among their duties are tax collection, administering bankruptcy declarations, and performing civil marriages. After a police reorganization in 2007, which combined police forces in multiple counties, about half of them are in charge of police forces. There are 79 municipalities in Iceland which govern local matters like schools, transport and zoning. These are the actual second-level subdivision of Iceland, as the constituencies have no relevance except in elections and for statistical purposes. Reykjavík is by far the most populous municipality, about four times more populous than Kópavogur, the second one. Politics Iceland has a left–right multi-party system. The biggest parties are the Social Democratic Alliance ( Samfylkingin), the Centre-right Independence Party ( Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn) and the Left-Green Movement ( Vinstrihreyfingin - grænt framboð). Other political parties with seats in Althing are the centrist Progressive Party ( Framsóknarflokkurinn) and the Citizens' Movement ( Borgarahreyfingin). Many other parties exist on the municipal level, most of which only run locally in a single municipality. | Social Democratic Alliance File:Independence | Independence Party File:Left-green | Left-Green Movement File:Framsóknarflokkurinn | Progressive Party File:Borgarahr-logo | Citizens' Movement Foreign relations Nordic prime ministers in 2007 Iceland maintains diplomatic and commercial relations with practically all nations, but its ties with the Nordic countries, Germany, the US and the other NATO nations are particularly close. Icelanders remain especially proud of the role Iceland played in hosting the historic 1986 Reagan–Gorbachev summit in Reykjavík, which set the stage for the end of the Cold War. Iceland's principal historical international disputes involved disagreements over fishing rights. Conflict with the United Kingdom led to a series of so-called Cod Wars in 1952–1956 as a result of the extension of Iceland's fishing zone from, 1958–61 following a further extension to, 1972–73 with another extension to; and in 1975–76 another extension to. Iceland has no standing army. The U. S. Air Force maintained four to six interceptors at the Keflavík base, until 30 September, 2006 when they were withdrawn. Iceland supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq despite much controversy in Iceland, deploying a Coast Guard EOD team to Iraq which was replaced later by members of the Icelandic Crisis Response Unit. Iceland has also participated in the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan and the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia. Despite the ongoing financial crisis the first new patrol ship for decades was launched on 29 April 2009. Iceland is a member of European Economic Area (EEA), which allows the country access to the single market of the European Union (EU). It is not a member of EU, but in July 2009 the Icelandic parliament, the Althingi, voted in favour of application for EU membership. EU officials mentioned 2011 or 2012 as possible accession dates. Iceland is also a member of the UN, NATO, EFTA and OECD. Demographics The original population of Iceland was of Nordic and Celtic origin. This is evident from literary evidence dating from the settlement period as well as from later scientific studies such as blood type and genetic analyses. One such genetics study has indicated that the majority of the male settlers were of Nordic origin while the majority of the women were of Celtic origin. Iceland has extensive genealogical records dating back to the late 17th century and fragmentary records extending back to the Age of Settlement. The biopharmaceutical company deCODE Genetics has funded the creation of a genealogy database which attempts to cover all of Iceland's known inhabitants. It sees the database, called Íslendingabók, as a valuable tool for conducting research on genetic diseases, given the relative isolation of Iceland's population. The population of the island is believed to have varied from 40, 000–60, 000 in the period from initial settlement until the mid-19th century. During that time, cold winters, ashfall from volcanic eruptions, and bubonic plagues adversely affected the population several times. The first census was carried out in 1703 and revealed that the population was then 50, 358. After the destructive volcanic eruptions of the Laki volcano during 1783–84 the population reached a low of about 40, 000. Improving living conditions have triggered a rapid increase in population since the mid-19th century—from about 60, 000 in 1850 to 320, 000 in 2008. Population estimate Year Population 2008 313, 376 2009 319, 442 2010 317, 440 2020 340, 095 2030 368, 468 2040 391, 983 2050 408, 835 Source: Statistics Iceland In December 2007, 33, 678 people (13. 5% of the total population) living in Iceland had been born abroad, including children of Icelandic parents living abroad. 19, 000 people (6% of the population) held foreign citizenship. Polish people make up the far largest minority nationality (see table on the right for more details), and still form the bulk of the foreign workforce. About 8, 000 Poles now live in Iceland, 1, 500 of them in Reyðarfjörður where they make up 75 percent of the workforce who are building the Fjarðarál aluminium plant. The recent surge in immigration has been credited to a labour shortage because of the booming economy at the time, while restrictions on the movement of people from the Eastern European countries that joined the EU / European Economic Area in 2004 have been lifted. Large-scale construction projects in the east of Iceland (see Kárahnjúkar Hydropower Project) have also brought in many people whose stay is expected to be temporary. The Icelandic financial crisis threatens to push many immigrants—mostly those from Poland—back home. The southwest corner of Iceland is the most densely populated region. It is also the location of the capital Reykjavík, the northernmost capital in the world. The largest towns outside the greater Reykjavík area are Akureyri and Reykjanesbær, although the latter is relatively close to the capital. Greenland was first settled by some 500 Icelanders under the leadership of Erik the Red in the late 10th century. The total population reached a high point of perhaps 5, 000 and developed independent institutions before disappearing by 1500. From Greenland the Norsemen launched expeditions to settle in Vinland, but these attempts to colonize the North America were soon abandoned in the face of hostility from the indigenous peoples. Immigration to the United States and Canada began in the 1870s. Today, Canada has over 88, 000 people of Icelandic descent. There are more than 40, 000 Americans of Icelandic descent according to the 2000 U. census. 10 most populous towns in Iceland List of ten most populous towns in Iceland. The population census is 1 October, 2009. Language Iceland's official written and spoken language is Icelandic, a North Germanic language descended from Old Norse. It has changed less from Old Norse than the other Nordic languages, has preserved more verb and noun inflection, and has to a considerable extent developed new vocabulary based on native roots rather than borrowings from other languages. It is the only living language to retain the runic letter Þ. The closest living language to Icelandic is Faroese. In education, the use of Icelandic Sign Language for Iceland's deaf community is regulated by the National Curriculum Guide. English is widely spoken as a secondary language. Danish is also widely understood and spoken. Studying both languages is a mandatory part of the compulsory school curriculum. Other commonly spoken languages are German, Norwegian and Swedish. Danish is mostly spoken in a way largely comprehensible to Swedes and Norwegians—it is often referred to as "Scandinavian" in Iceland. Rather than using family names as is the custom in all mainland European nations, the Icelanders use patronymics. The patronymic follows the person's given name, e. g. Ólafur Jónsson ("Ólafur, Jón's son") or Katrín Karlsdóttir ("Katrín, Karl's daughter"). It is for this reason that the Icelandic telephone directory is listed alphabetically by first name rather than surname. Religion Icelanders enjoy freedom of religion under the constitution, though the National Church of Iceland, a Lutheran body, is the state church. The National Registry keeps account of the religious affiliation of every Icelandic citizen. In 2005, Icelanders were divided into religious groups as follows: 80. 7% members of the National Church of Iceland. 6. 2% members of unregistered religious organisations or with no specified religious affiliation. 4. 9% members of the Free Lutheran Churches of Reykjavík and Hafnarfjörður. 2. 8% not members of any religious group. 2. 5% members of the Roman Catholic Church, which has a Diocese of Reykjavík (see also Bishop of Reykjavík). The remaining 2. 9% includes around 20-25 other Christian denominations while around 1% belong to non-Christian religious organisations. The largest non-Christian denomination is Ásatrúarfélagið, a neopagan group. Religious attendance is relatively low, as in the other Nordic countries. The above statistics represent administrative membership of religious organisations which does not necessarily closely reflect the belief demographics of the population of Iceland. According to Froese (2001), 23% of those in Iceland are either atheist or agnostic. Economy and Infrastructure Iceland was the seventh most productive country in the world by List of countries by GDP per capita (US$54, 858), and the fifth most productive by GDP at purchasing power parity ($40, 112). Except for its abundant hydroelectric and geothermal power, Iceland lacks natural resources; historically its economy depended heavily on the fishing industry, which still provides almost 40% of export earnings and employs 8% of the work force. The economy is vulnerable to declining fish stocks and drops in world prices for its main material exports: fish and fish products, aluminium, and ferrosilicon. Whaling in Iceland has been historically significant. Although the Icelandic economy still relies heavily on fishing, its importance is diminishing as the travel industry and other service, technology and various other industries grow. Although Iceland is a highly developed country, it is still one of the most newly industrialised in Europe. Until the 20th century, it was among the poorest countries in Western Europe. The strong economic growth that Iceland has experienced in recent decades has only just allowed for the modernisation of infrastructure. Many political parties remain opposed to EU membership, primarily due to Icelanders' concern about losing control over their natural resources. Iceland's economy has been diversifying into manufacturing and service industries in the last decade, including software production, biotechnology, and financial services. Despite the decision to resume commercial whale hunting in 2006, the tourism sector is expanding, with the recent trends in ecotourism and whale-watching. Iceland's agriculture industry consists mainly of potatoes, green vegetables (in greenhouses), mutton and dairy products. The financial centre is Borgartún in Reykjavík, hosting a large number of companies and three investment banks. Iceland's stock market, the Iceland Stock Exchange (ISE), was established in 1985. The three investments banks collapsed in October 2008 taking down the entire financial sector, stock market, and currency with it. The national currency of Iceland is the Icelandic króna (ISK). An extensive poll, released on 11 September, 2007, by Capacent Gallup showed that 53% of respondents were in favour of adopting the euro, 37% opposed and 10% undecided. Iceland ranked 5th in the Index of Economic Freedom 2006 and 14th in 2008. Iceland has a flat tax system. The main personal income tax rate is a flat 22. 75 percent and combined with municipal taxes the total tax rate is not more than 35. 72%, and there are many deductions. The corporate tax rate is a flat 18 percent, one of the lowest in the world. Other taxes include a value-added tax and a net wealth tax. (The wealth tax was eliminated in 2006. ) Employment regulations are relatively flexible. Property rights are strong and Iceland is one of the few countries where they are applied to fishery management. Taxpayers pay various subsidies to each other, similar to European countries with welfare state, but the spending is less than in most European countries. Despite low tax rates, overall taxation and consumption is still much higher than countries such as Ireland. According to OECD, agricultural support is the highest among OECD countries and an impediment to structural change. Also, health care and education spending have relatively poor return by OECD measures. OECD Economic survey of Iceland 2008 highlighted Iceland's challenges in currency and macroeconomic policy. There was a currency crisis that started in the spring of 2008 and on 6 October trading in Iceland's banks was suspended as the government battled to save the economy. Iceland was ranked first in Development Index report for 2007/2008. Icelanders are the fourteenth longest-living nation with a life expectancy at birth of 80. 67 years. The Gini coefficient ranks Iceland as one of the most egalitarian countries in the world. 2008–2009 economic crisis Iceland has been hit especially hard by the ongoing late 2000s recession, because of the failure of its banking system and a subsequent economic crisis. Before the crash of the three largest banks in Iceland, Glitnir, Landsbanki and Kaupthing, their combined debt exceeded approximately six times the nation's gross domestic product of € 14 billion ($19 billion). In October 2008, the Icelandic parliament passed emergency legislation to minimize the impact of the financial crisis. The Financial Supervisory Authority of Iceland used permission granted by the emergency legislation to take over the domestic operations of the three largest banks. Icelandic officials, including central bank governor Davíð Oddsson, stated that the state did not intend to take over any of the banks' foreign debts or assets. Instead, new banks were established around the domestic operations of the banks, and the old banks will be run into bankruptcy. The Icelandic economic crisis has been a matter of great concern in international media. On 28 October 2008, the Icelandic government raised interest rates to 18%, (as of July 2009, it is 12%) a move which was forced in part by the terms of acquiring a loan from the IMF. After the rate hike, trading on the Icelandic króna finally resumed on the open market, with valuation at around 250 ISK per Euro, less than one-third the value of the 1:70 exchange rate during most of 2008, and a significant drop from the 1:150 exchange ratio of the week before. Iceland has appealed to Nordic countries for an additional €4 billion in aid to avert the continuing crisis. On 26 January 2009, the coalition government collapsed due to the public dissent over the handling of the financial crisis. A new left-wing government was formed a week later and immediately set about removing Central Bank governor Davíð Oddsson and his aides from the bank through changes in law. Oddsson was removed on 26 February, 2009. Transportation [[File:Route1(iceland)|thumb| The Ring Road of Iceland and some towns it passes through: 1. Reykjavík, 2. Borgarnes, 3. Blönduós, 4. Akureyri, 5. Egilsstaðir, 6. Höfn, 7. Selfoss. ]] The social structure of Iceland is very dependent upon the personal car. Icelanders have one of the highest levels of car ownership per capita: 656, 7 cars per 1000 inhabitants in 2008 () or on average one car per inhabitant older than 17 years. Most Icelanders travel by car to work, school or other activities. The main mode of transport in Iceland is road. Iceland has 13, 034 km of administered roads, of which 4, 617 km are paved and 8, 338 km are not. The ring road was completed in 1974 and the last communities were connected to the road system only a few years previously and there were only short stretches of roads paved before that date. Today, roads are being improved throughout the country and freeways are being built in and around Reykjavík. A great number of roads remain unpaved to this day, mostly little used rural roads. The road speed limits are 50 km/h (30 mph) in towns, 80 km/h (50 mph) on gravel country roads and 90 km/h (56 mph) is the limit on hard-surfaced roads. Iceland currently has no railways. Route 1 or the Ring Road (Icelandic: Þjóðvegur 1 or Hringvegur) is a main road in Iceland that runs around the island and connects all inhabited parts (the interior of the island is uninhabited). The road is 1, 337 km long (830 miles). It has one lane in each direction, except near larger towns and cities and in the Hvalfjörður Tunnel where it has more lanes. Most smaller bridges on it are single lane and made of wood and/or steel. Most of the road's length is paved with asphalt, in the east 5 km (3. 1 miles) of road are currently being moved and are gravel but will be paved soon (as of 29 September, 2008). The main hub for international transport is Keflavík International Airport, which serves Reykjavík and the country in general. It is 48 km (30 mi) to the west of Reykjavík. Domestic flights, flights to Greenland and the Faroe Islands and business flights operate mostly out of Reykjavík Airport, which lies in the city centre. Most general aviation traffic is also in Reykjavík. There are 103 registered airports and airfields in Iceland; most of them are unpaved and located in rural areas. The biggest airport in Iceland is Keflavík International Airport and the biggest airfield is Geitamelur, a four-runway field around 100 km (62 mi) east of Reykjavík, dedicated exclusively to gliding. Energy Renewable sources provide practically all of Iceland's electricity and over 70% of the nation's total energy, with most of the remainder from imported oil used in transportation and in the fishing fleet. Iceland expects to be energy-independent by 2050. Iceland's largest geothermal power plant is located in Nesjavellir, while the Kárahnjúkar dam will be the country's largest hydroelectric power plant. Icelanders emit 10. 0 tonnes of CO2 equivalent of greenhouse gases per capita, which is higher than many European nations. This is due to the wide use of personal transport and a large fishing fleet. Iceland is one of the few countries that have filling stations dispensing hydrogen fuel for cars powered by fuel cells. It is also one of a few countries currently capable of producing hydrogen in adequate quantities at a reasonable cost, because of Iceland's plentiful renewable sources of energy. Iceland has never produced oil or gas. On January 22, 2009 Iceland announced its first round of offshore licensing to companies looking to explore for hydrocarbons in a region northeast of Iceland, known as the Dreki area. Education and science Ministry of Education, Science and Culture is responsible for the policies and methods that schools must use, and they issue the National Curriculum Guidelines. However, the playschools and the primary and lower secondary schools are funded and administered by the municipalities. Nursery school or leikskóli, is non-compulsory education for children younger than six years, and is the first step in the education system. The current legislation concerning playschools was passed in 1994. They are also responsible for ensuring that the curriculum is suitable so as to make the transition into compulsory education as easy as possible. Compulsory education, or grunnskóli, comprises primary and lower secondary education, which often is conducted at the same institution. Education is mandatory by law for children aged from 6 to 16 years. The school year lasts nine months, and begins between 21 August and 1 September, ending between 31 May and 10 June. The minimum number of school days was once 170, but after a new teachers' wage contract, it increased to 180. Lessons take place five days a week. The Programme for International Student Assessment, coordinated by the OECD, currently ranks the Icelandic secondary education as the 27th in the world, significantly below the OECD average. Upper secondary education or framhaldsskóli follows lower secondary education. These schools are also known as gymnasia in English. It is not compulsory, but everyone who has had a compulsory education has the right to upper secondary education. This stage of education is governed by the Upper Secondary School Act of 1996. All schools in Iceland are mixed sex schools. The largest seat of higher education is the University of Iceland, which has its main campus in central Reykjavík. Other schools offering university-level instruction include Reykjavík University, University of Akureyri and Bifrost University. By 1999, 82. 3% of Icelanders had access to a computer. Iceland also had 1, 007 mobile phone subscriptions per 1, 000 people in 2006, the 16th highest in the world. Iceland is home to the European Mars Analog Research Station. Culture Icelandic culture has its roots in Norse traditions. Icelandic literature is popular, in particular the sagas and eddas which were written during the High and Late Middle Ages. Icelanders place relatively great importance on independence and self-sufficiency; in a European Commission public opinion analysis over 85% of Icelanders found independence to be "very important" contrasted with the EU25 average of 53%, and 47% for the Norwegians, and 49% for the Danes. Some traditional beliefs remain today; for example, some Icelanders either believe in elves or are unwilling to rule out their existence. Iceland ranks first on the Human Development Index, and was recently ranked the fourth happiest country in the world. Iceland is progressive in terms of lesbian, gay bisexual and transgendered ( LGBT) matters. In 1996, Parliament passed legislation to create registered partnerships for same-sex couples, covering nearly all the rights and benefits of marriage. In 2006, by unanimous vote of Parliament, further legislation was passed, granting same-sex couples the same rights as different-sex couples in adoption, parenting and assisted insemination treatment. Literature Iceland's best-known classical works of literature are the Icelanders' sagas, prose epics set in Iceland's age of settlement. The most famous of these include Njáls saga, about an epic blood feud, and Grœnlendinga saga and Eiríks saga, describing the discovery and settlement of Greenland and Vinland (modern Newfoundland). Egils saga, Laxdæla saga, Grettis saga, Gísla saga and Gunnlaugs saga ormstungu are also notable and popular Icelanders' sagas. A translation of the Bible was published in the 16th century. Important compositions since the 15th to the 19th century include sacred verse, most famously the Passion Hymns of Hallgrímur Pétursson, and rímur, rhyming epic poems. Originating in the 14th century, rímur were popular into the 19th century, when the development of new literary forms was provoked by the influential, National-Romantic writer Jónas Hallgrímsson. In recent times, Iceland has produced many great writers, the best-known of which is arguably Halldór Laxness who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1955. Steinn Steinarr was an influential modernist poet. Art The distinctive rendition of the Icelandic landscape by its painters can be linked to nationalism and the movement to home rule and independence, which was very active in this period. Contemporary Icelandic painting is typically traced to the work of Þórarinn Þorláksson, who, following formal training in art in the 1890s in Copenhagen, returned to Iceland to paint and exhibit works from 1900 to his death in 1924, almost exclusively portraying the Icelandic landscape. Several other Icelandic men and women artists learned in Denmark Academy at that time, including Ásgrímur Jónsson, who together with Þórarinn created a distinctive portrayal of Iceland's landscape in a romantic naturalistic style. Other landscape artists quickly followed in the footsteps of Þórarinn and Ásgrímur. These included Jóhannes Kjarval and Júlíana Sveinsdóttir. Kjarval in particular is noted for the distinct techniques in the application of paint that he developed in a concerted effort to render the characteristic volcanic rock that dominates the Icelandic environment. Einar Hákonarson is an expressionistic and figurative painter who by some is considered to have brought the figure back into Icelandic painting. In the 1980s many Icelandic artists worked with the subject of the new painting in their work. In the recent years artistic practice has multiplied, and the Icelandic art scene has become a setting for many large scale projects and exhibitions. The artist run gallery space Kling og Bang, members of which later ran the studio complex and exhibition venue Klink og Bank has been a significant portion of the trend of self organised spaces, exhibitions and projects. The Living Art Museum, Reykjavík Municipal Art Museum and the National Gallery of Iceland are the larger, more established institutions, curating shows and festivals. Icelandic architecture draws from Scandinavian influences. The scarcity of native trees resulted in traditional houses being covered by grass and turf. Music Icelandic music is related to Nordic music, and includes vibrant Electronic music, folk and pop traditions, including medieval music group Voces Thules, alternative rock band The Sugarcubes, singers Björk and Emiliana Torrini; and Sigur Rós. The national anthem of Iceland is " Lofsöngur ", written by Matthías Jochumsson, with music by Sveinbjörn Sveinbjörnsson. Traditional Icelandic music is strongly religious. Hallgrímur Pétursson wrote many Protestant hymns in the 17th century. Icelandic music was modernised in the 19th century, when Magnús Stephensen brought pipe organs, which were followed by harmoniums Other vital traditions of Icelandic music are epic alliterative and rhyming ballads called rímur. Rímur are epic tales, usually a cappella, which can be traced back to skaldic poetry, using complex metaphors and elaborate rhyme schemes. The best known rímur poet of the 19th century was Sigurður Breiðfjörð (1798–1846). A modern revitalization of the tradition began in 1929 with the formation of the organization Iðunn. Icelandic contemporary music consists of a big group of bands, ranging from pop-rock groups such as Bang Gang, Quarashi and Amiina to solo ballad singers like Bubbi Morthens, Megas and Björgvin Halldórsson. Independent music is also very strong in Iceland, with bands such as múm, Sigur Rós and solo artists Emiliana Torrini and Mugison being fairly well-known outside Many Icelandic artists and bands have had great success internationally, most notably Björk and Sigur Rós but also Quarashi, Hera, Ampop, Mínus and múm. The main music festival is arguably Iceland Airwaves, an annual event on the Icelandic music scene, where Icelandic bands along with foreign ones occupy the clubs of Reykjavík for a week. Media Iceland's largest television stations are the state-run Sjónvarpið and the privately owned Stöð 2, Skjár einn and ÍNN. Smaller stations exist, many of them local. Radio is broadcast throughout the country, including some parts of the interior. The main radio stations are Rás 1, Rás 2 and Bylgjan. The daily newspapers are Morgunblaðið and Fréttablaðið. The most popular websites are the news sites Vísir and. Iceland is home to television network Nick Jr. 's LazyTown (Icelandic: Latibær), a children's television programme created by Magnús Scheving. It has become a very popular programme for children and adults and is shown in over 100 countries, including the UK, the Americas and Sweden. The LazyTown studios are located in Garðabær. Actress Anita Briem, known for her performance in Showtime 's The Tudors, is Icelandic. Briem starred in the 2008 film Journey to the Center of the Earth, which shot scenes in Iceland. Cuisine Iceland liver sausage Most national Icelandic foods are based around fish, lamb and dairy products. Þorramatur is a national food consisting of many dishes and is usually consumed around the month of Þorri. Traditional dishes include skyr, cured ram scrota, cured shark, singed sheep heads and black pudding. The modern Icelandic diet is very diverse, and includes cuisines from all over the world. As in other Western societies, fast food restaurants are widespread. Sport Sport is an important part of the Icelandic culture. The main traditional sport in Iceland is Glíma, a form of wrestling thought to have originated in medieval times. Popular sports are football, track and field, handball and basketball. Handball is often referred to as a national sport, Iceland's team is one of the top-ranked teams in the world and Icelandic women are surprisingly good at football relative to the size of the country, the national team ranked 19th by FIFA. Iceland has excellent conditions for ice and rock climbing, although mountain climbing and hiking is preferred by the general public. Iceland is also a world class destination for alpine ski touring and Telemark skiing with the Troll Peninsula in Northern Iceland being the center of activity. Iceland also has the most Strongman competition wins. The oldest sport association in Iceland is the Reykjavík Shooting Association, founded 1867. Rifle shooting became very popular in the 19th century and was heavily encouraged by politicians and others pushing for Icelandic independence. Shooting remains popular and all types of shooting with small arms is practiced in the country. See also Accession of Iceland to the European Union Icelanders Index of Iceland-related articles List of international rankings New Iceland in Manitoba, Canada References Footnotes Bibliography External links Gateway to Government Offices of Iceland Icelandic Government Information Center & Icelandic Embassies Chief of State and Cabinet Members Iceland entry at Encyclopædia Britannica Iceland from UCB Libraries GovPubs [irc #Iceland Icelandic Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel] Wikia has a wiki on this subject at World Wikia: Travel Website HD video of Iceland landscapes by Eva Sturm vifanord – a digital library that provides scientific information on the Nordic and Baltic countries as well as the Baltic region as a whole


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Ashfall in the philippines. Ashfall movie 2019. Ashfall. Ashfall showtimes. Ashfall 2019. Ashfall nebraska state park. Great! Ashfall Episode 1 RAW released. Let's watching and enjoying Ashfall Episode 1 and many other episodes of Ashfall with Full HD for FREE. Check out all of our freely drama series online by clicking on Drama List. Here is the RAW. Facebook Twitter Switch Off Light Download Favorites Please scroll down to choose servers and episodes Standard Server Choose this server Kvid Choose this server Xstreamcdn Choose this server Mp4upload Choose this server Dear valued customer, 1. Dramacool regularly updates new technology. If there any errors appear, please reload the page first. If errors reappear then report to us. 2. Main player supported Chromecast & Airplay. You can use it to streaming on your TV. 3. Please be patient with popup ads with us, that supports us to maintain our fully service to you. Thank you for your support and cooperation. View more video Show all episodes.

A. Sample Number For example: year, personal initials, and a number (06KW-1) but you can label however you want as long as the number is unique (no two are the same). B. Date & Time of Collection If you collected ash during an ash fall event please indicate the time ash began falling and when it stopped (i. e. duration of ash collection). We need accurate times to the nearest minute (i. e the time on your cellular phone is usually accurate Alaska Standard Time) C. Location of Collection GPS location, map location, street address, general location, whatever you can provide (more detail is better). D. Dimensions of Container Give length, width, or diameter of inside edge of container lip. Please specify units (inches, centimeters) e. g. L=12 cm, W= 10 cm, or D = 6 cm. E. Thickness of Ash Layer (to the nearest 1/16 inch or 1/2 millimeter) If you don't have a metric ruler use an inch ruler rather than guessing, it's amazing how easy this is to overestimate. There is a metric ruler on the datasheet that you can cut out and used. The more accurate you are the better the volume calculation will be! F. Describe surface upon which ash has fallen Snow, ice, metal roof, wood, etc. G. Describe weather conditions during ash fall, if known Wind speed, wind direction, gusty or not, snowfall or rainfall during ash deposition, etc. H. Photos If you have photos of your sampling routine or of people doing the sampling please send them to the address above or if digital, send to Please only send copies or digital images as they will not be returned. All photos will be credited to photographer. Please send samples and sample information to: USGS/Alaska Volcano Observatory, c/o Tephra Lab 4230 University Dr., Suite 201 Anchorage, AK 99508 For more information contact us, 907-786-7497, Volcano information can be found on our website: Thank you for your contribution to volcano science in Alaska!

You go down through the Ocean View district of San Francisco to the first freeway exit after Daly City, where you describe, in effect, a hairpin turn to head north past a McDonald’s to a dead end in a local dump. It is called the Daly City Scavenger Company. You leave your car and walk north on a high contour some hundreds of yards through deep grasses until a path to your left takes you down a steep slope a quarter of a mile to the ocean. You double back along the water, south to Mussel Rock. Mussel Rock is a horse. As any geologist will tell you, a horse is a displaced rock mass that has been caught between the walls of a fault. This one appeared to have got away. It seemed to have strained successfully to jump out of the continent. Or so I thought the first time I was there. It loomed in fog. Green seas slammed against it and turned white. It was not a small rock. It was like a three-story building, standing in the Pacific, with brown pelicans on the roof. You could walk out on a ledge and look up through the fog at the pelicans. When you looked around and faced inland, you saw that you were at the base of a fifty-foot cliff, its lithology shattered beyond identification. A huge crack split the cliff from top to bottom and ran on out through the ledge and under the waves. After a five-hundred-mile northwesterly drift through southern and central California, this was where the San Andreas Fault intersected the sea. I went to Mussel Rock that foggy afternoon in 1978 with the geologist Kenneth Deffeyes. I have returned a number of times since, alone or in the company of others. With regard to the lithosphere, it’s a good place to sit and watch the plates move. It is a moment in geography that does your thinking for you. The San Andreas Fault, of course, is not a single strand. It is something like a wire rope, as much as half a mile wide, each strand the signature of one or many earthquakes. Mussel Rock is near the outboard edge of the zone. You cannot really say that on one side of the big crack is the North American Plate and on the other side is the Pacific Plate, but it’s tempting to do so. Almost automatically, you stand with one foot on each side and imagine your stride lengthening—your right foot, say, riding backward toward Mexico, your left foot in motion toward Alaska. There’s some truth in such a picture, but the actual plate boundary is not so sharply defined. Not only is the San Andreas of varying width in its complexity of strands, it is merely the senior fault in a large family of more or less parallel faults in an over-all swath at least fifty miles wide. Some of the faults are to the west and under the ocean; more are inland. Whether the plate boundary is five miles wide or fifty miles wide or extends all the way to central Utah is a matter that geologists currently debate. Nonetheless, there is granite under the sea off Mussel Rock that is evidently from the southern Sierra Nevada, has travelled three hundred miles along the San Andreas system, and continues to move northwest. As evidence of the motion of the plates, that granite will do. For an extremely large percentage of the history of the world, there was no California. That is, according to present theory. I don’t mean to suggest that California was underwater and has since come up. I mean to say that of the varied terranes and physiographic provinces that we now call California nothing whatever was there. The continent ended far to the east, the continental shelf as well. Where California has come to be, there was only blue sea reaching down some miles to ocean-crustal rock, which was moving, as it does, into subduction zones to be consumed. Ocean floors with an aggregate area many times the size of the present Pacific were made at spreading centers, moved around the curve of the earth, and melted in trenches before there ever was so much as a kilogram of California. Then, a piece at a time—according to present theory—parts began to assemble. An island arc here, a piece of a continent there—a Japan at a time, a New Zealand, a Madagascar—came crunching in upon the continent and have thus far adhered. Baja is about to detach. A great deal more may go with it. Some parts of California arrived head on, and others came sliding in on transform faults, in the manner of that Sierra granite west of the San Andreas. In 1906, the jump of the great earthquake—the throw, the offset, the maximum amount of local displacement as one plate moved with respect to the other—was something like twenty feet. The dynamics that have pieced together the whole of California have consisted of tens of thousands of earthquakes as great as that—tens of thousands of examples of what people like to singularize as “the big one”—and many millions of earthquakes of lesser magnitude. In 1914, Andrew Lawson, writing the San Francisco Folio of the Geologic Atlas of the United States, wistfully said, “Most of the faults are the expression of energies that have been long spent and are not in any sense a menace. It is, moreover, barely possible that stresses in the San Andreas fault zone have been completely and permanently relieved by the fault movement of 1906. ” Andrew Lawson—who named the San Andreas Fault—was a structural geologist of the first order, whose theoretical conclusions were as revered in his time as others’ are at present. For the next six decades in California, a growing population tended to imagine that the stresses were indeed gone—that the greatest of historic earthquakes (in this part of the fault) had relieved the pressure and settled the risk forever. In the nineteen-sixties, though, when the work of several scientists from various parts of the world coalesced to form the theory of plate tectonics, it became apparent—at least, to geologists—that those twenty feet of 1906 were a minuscule part of a shifting global geometry. The twenty-odd lithospheric plates of which the rind of the earth consists are nearly all in continual motion; in these plate movements, earthquakes are the incremental steps. Fifty thousand major earthquakes will move something about a hundred miles. After there was nothing, earthquakes brought things from far parts of the world to fashion California. Deffeyes and I had been working in Utah and Nevada, in the physiographic province of the Basin and Range. Now he was about to go east and home, and we wandered around San Francisco while waiting for his plane. Downtown, we walked by the Transamerica building, with its wide base, its high sides narrowing to a point, and other buildings immensely tall and straight. Deffeyes said, “There are two earthquake-resistant structures—the pyramids and the redwoods. These guys are working both sides of the street. ” The skyscrapers were new, in 1978. In an earthquake, buildings of different height would have different sway periods, he noted. They would “creak and groan, skin to skin. ” The expansion joints in freeways attracted his eye. He said they might open up in an earthquake, causing roadways to fall. He called the freeways “disposable—Kleenexes good for one blow. ” He made these remarks in the shadowy space of Second Street and Stillman, under the elevated terminus of Interstate 80, the beginnings of the San Francisco Skyway, the two-level structure of the Embarcadero Freeway, and so many additional looping ramps and rights-of-way that Deffeyes referred to it all as the Spaghetti Bowl. He said it was resting on a bog that had once surrounded a tidal creek. The multiple roadways were held in the air by large steel Ts. Deffeyes said, “It’s the engineer in a game against nature. In a great earthquake, the ground will turn to gray jello. Those Ts may uproot like tomato stakes. And that will seal everyone in town. Under the landfill, the preëxisting mud in the old tidal channel will liquefy. You could wiggle your feet a bit and go up to your knees. ” In 1906, the shaking over the old tidal channel that is now under the freeways was second in intensity only to the San Andreas fault zone itself, seven miles away. “Los Angeles, someday, will be sealed in worse than this, ” he continued. “In the critical hours after a great earthquake, they will be cut off from help, food, water. Take one piece out of each freeway and they’re through. ” In a rented pickup, we had entered California the day before, climbing the staircase of fault blocks west of Reno that had led the Donner Party to the crest of mountains named for snow. This was among the first of a series of journeys on and near Interstate 80 that I would be making in the company of geologists, for the purpose of describing not only the rock exposed in roadcuts—and the regional geologies into which the roadcuts would serve as windows—but also the geologists themselves. The result was meant to be a sort of cross-section of the United States at about the fortieth parallel, and a picture of the science. The writing would develop as four compositions, of which this is the fourth. The element controlling them—the subject that has shaped the over-all structure—has been plate tectonics. The scientific papers that effected the plate-tectonics revolution were published from 1959 to 1968. Much of what was written there was at first widely scorned. As I started out on my transcontinental journeys, in 1978, I wanted to see how the science was settling down with its new theory, and, as a continuing result of its revelations, what revisions would occur in the consensual biography of the earth. Plenty of other matters would be discussed, but that one was paramount. The developed structure has not been linear—not a straightforward trip from New York to San Francisco on the interstate. It began in New Jersey and then leaped to Nevada, because the tectonics in New Jersey two hundred million years ago are being recapitulated by the tectonics in Nevada today. While the progress was not linear in a geographic sense, thematically it was aimed at California. In California was the prow of the North American Plate—in these latitudes, the sliding boundary. California was also among the freshest acquisitions of the continent. So radical and contemporary were the regional tectonics that the highest and the lowest points in the contiguous United States were within eighty miles of each other in California. As nowhere else along the fortieth parallel in North America, this was where the new theory was announcing its agenda. Over the years, I would crisscross the country many times, revisiting people and places, yet the first morning with Deffeyes among the rocks of California retains a certain burnish, because it exemplified not only how abrupt the transition can be as you move from one physiographic province to another but also the jurisdictional differences in the world of the geologist. As we crossed the state line under a clear sky and ascended toward Truckee, we passed big masses of competent, blocky, beautiful rocks bright in their quartzes and feldspars and peppered with shining black mica. The ebullient Deffeyes said, “Come into the Sierra and commune with the granite. ” A bend or two later, his mood extending even to the diamond-shaped warnings at the side of the road, he said, “Falling-rock signs are always good news to us. ” Then a big pink-and-buff roadcut confused him. He said he thought it consisted of “young volcanics, ” but preferred to let it remain “mysterious for the moment. ” The moment stretched. Deffeyes is as eclectic as a geologist can become, a generalist of remarkable range, but his particular expertise—he wrote his dissertation in Nevada and has done much work there since—was fading in the distance behind him. Up the road was a metasediment in dark and narrow blocks going every which way, like jackstraws. Deffeyes got out of the pickup and put his nose on the outcrop, but he had an easier time identifying a bald eagle that watched him from an overhanging pine. “You need a new geologist, ” he said to me. We took a rock sample, washed our hands In melting snow, and ate a couple of sandwiches as we watched wet traffic with bright headlights come down from Donner Summit. Looking back to the cloudless Basin and Range and seeing what lay ahead for us, Deffeyes said, “Out of the rain shadow, into the rain. ” After we got up into the high country ourselves, some additional metasediment left him colder than the rain. “The time has come to turn you over to Eldridge Moores, ” he said. A few miles farther on, we came to a big, gravelly roadcut that looked like an ashfall, a mudflow, glacial till, and fresh oatmeal, imperfectly blended. “I don’t know what this glop is, ” he said, in final capitulation. “You need a new geologist. You need a Californian. ” Moores could be found on a one-acre farm in the Great Central Valley—in a tract surrounded on three sides by the vegetable-crop field labs of the University of California, Davis. Twenty years earlier, Davis had been an agricultural college, but it had since expanded in numerous directions to take its place beside Berkeley, attracting to the Geology Department, for example, such youthful figures of future reputation as the mantle petrologist Ian MacGregor and the paleobiologist Jere Lipps, not to mention the tectonicist Eldridge Moores. At one time and another in what now approaches fifteen years, Moores and I would not so much traverse California as go into it in both directions from the middle. We would hammer the outcrops of Interstate 80 from Nevada to San Francisco, reaching out to related rock even farther than Timbuctoo. Timbuctoo is in Yuba County. The better to understand California, I would follow him to analogous geological field areas in Macedonia and Cyprus—journeys much enhanced by his knowledge of modern Greek. He has read widely in Greek history as well as geologic history, and standing on the steps of the Parthenon he sounds like any other tour guide—recounting wars, explosions, orations, and stolen marbles—until he tells you where the hill itself arrived from, and when, and why the Greeks sited their temple on soluble rock that they knew to be riddled with caverns. Moores has been a counsellor through all my projects in geology, across which time our beards have turned gray. He and his wife, Judy, still live in their turn-of-the-century farmhouse, with its high ceilings, its old two-light windows, its pools of sun on cedar floors. Their children—who were five, eight, and eleven when I met them—are grown and gone. On each of two porches lie big chunks of serpentine—smooth as talc, mottled black and green. When you see rocks like that on a porch, a geologist is inside. In the living room is a framed montage of nine covers from Geology, a magazine introduced in the nineteen-seventies by the Geological Society of America and raised during the editorship of Eldridge Moores (1981-1988) to a level of world importance in the science. Moores is the sort of person who runs up flights of stairs circling elevator shafts, because elevators are so slow. He edited Geology while teaching full time and advancing his own widespread research. The montage was a gift to him from people at the G. S. A. It includes fumaroles in Iceland, dunes in southern Colorado, orange-hot lava on Kilauea, and a painting of a Triceratops being eaten alive by a Tyrannosaurus rex. In the heavens close above the struggling creatures is the Apollo Object—an asteroid, roughly six miles in diameter—that is believed to have collided with the earth and caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. In the editor’s notes on the contents page, Moores referred to the painting “The Last Supper. ” There were outraged complaints from geologists. The centerpiece of the montage is a 1988 cover showing Moores on a coastal outcrop playing a cello. Moores grew up in Arizona’s central highlands, in a community so remote and sparse that it was called a camp. A very great distance from pavement, it was far up the switchbacks of a mountain ridge and among the open mouths of small, hard-rock mines. At the age of thirteen, he learned to play the cello, and he practiced long in the afternoons. The miners, his father included, could not understand why he would want to do that. Moores has played with symphony orchestras in Davis and Sacramento. The coastal outcrop on the cover of Geology is the brecciated limestone of Petra tou Romiou, Cyprus. Moores in the field has long since overcome the most obvious drawback of a cello. He travels with an instrument handcrafted in a workshop in Maryland. Essentially, it is just like any other cello but it has no belly. Neck, pegbox, fingerboard, bridge—everything from scroll to spike fits into a slim rectangular case wired to serve as an electronic belly. This is a Sherpa’s cello, a Chomolungma cello, a base-camp viol. In Moores’ living room is a grand piano. Still on a shelf behind it are the sheet-music boxes of his children, labelled “Brian Clarinet, ” “Brian Bassoon, ” “Kathryn Cello, ” “Geneva Piano, ” and “Geneva Violin, ” and three additional boxes labelled “Eldridge Cello, ” “Eldridge Cello and Piano, ” “Eldridge Cello Concertos and Trios. ” Judy grew up in farming country in Orange County, New York. On her California acre of the Great Valley she grows vegetables twelve months a year, and has also raised bush strawberries, grapes, blackberries, goats, pigs, chickens, pears, nectarines, plums, cherries, peaches, apricots, asparagus, ziziphus, figs, apples, persimmons, and pineapple guavas—but not so prolifically in recent years, because she has been working toward a Ph. D. in human development, and teaching in the Early Childhood Laboratory at U. C. Davis. She has worked in regional science centers since she was a teen-ager, and, with others, she founded one in Davis. School buses bring children there from sixty miles around to get their hands on spotting scopes, microscopes, oscilloscopes, and living snakes, on u-build-it skeletons, on take-apart anatomies and disassembled brains. Judy, trim and teacherly, puts her hands palms down on a table to show the interaction of lithospheric plates. Lithosphere is crustal rock and mantle rock down to a zone in the mantle that is lubricious enough to allow the plates to move. Thumbs tucked, fingers flat, the hands side by side, she presses them hard together until they buckle upward. The hands are two continents, or other landmasses, converging, colliding—making mountains. The Himalaya was made that way. Placing the hands flat again, she slowly moves them apart. These are two plates separating, one on either side of a spreading center. The Atlantic Ocean was made that way. She begins to slide one hand under the other. This is subduction. Ocean floors are consumed that way. Thumbs tucked, fingers flat, palms again side by side, she slides one hand forward, one back, the index fingers rubbing. This is the motion of a transform fault, a strike-slip fault—the San Andreas Fault. Parts of California have slid into present place that way. Convergent margins, divergent margins, transform faults: she has outlined the boundaries of the earth’s plates. There is enough complexity in tectonics to lithify the nimblest mind, but the basic mode] is that simple. Take your hands with you—she smiles—and you are ready for the mountains. When I first went into the Sierra with Judy’s husband, in 1978, he had an oyster-gray Volkswagen bus with a sticker on its bumper that said “Stop Continental Drift. ” I guess he thought that was funny. There were not a few geologists then who really would have stopped it in its tracks if they could have figured out a mechanism for doing so, but since no one knew then (or knows now) what drives the plates no one knew how to stop them. Plate tectonics had arrived in geology just about when Moores did, and—in his metaphor—he hit the beach in the second wave. He has called it “the realization wave”: when geologists began to see the full dimensions and implications of the new theory, and the research possibilities it afforded—a scientific revolution literally on a global scale. As long-established geologic concepts disintegrated under the advance of the new paradigm, people coming into geology in the nineteen-sixties realized what was being handed to them, and would carry its principles into every corner of the science, historically revising every corner of the world. Physiographic California, for much of its length, is divided into three parts. Where Interstate 80 crosses them, from Reno to San Francisco, they make a profile that is acutely defined: the Sierra Nevada, highest mountain range in the Lower Forty-eight; the Great Central Valley, essentially at sea level and very much flatter than Iowa or Kansas, and the Coast Ranges, a marine medley, still ascending from the adjacent sea. In this cross-section, the Coast Ranges occupy forty miles, the valley fifty miles, the mountains ninety. All of it added together is not a great distance. It is not as much as New York to Boston. It is Harrisburg to Pittsburgh. In breadth and in profile, a comparable country lies between Genoa and Zurich—the Apennines, the Po Plain, the Alps. An old VW bus is best off climbing the Sierra from the west. Often likened to a raised trapdoor, the Sierra has a long and planar western slope and—near the state line—a plunging escarpment facing east. The shape of the Sierra is also like an airfoil, or a woodshed, with its long sloping back and its sheer front. The nineteenth-century geologist Clarence King compared it to “a sea-wave”—a crested ocean roller about to break upon Nevada. The image of the trapdoor best serves the tectonics. Hinged somewhere beneath the Great Valley, and sharply faulted on its eastern face, the range began to rise only a very short geologic time ago—perhaps three million years, or four million years—and it is still rising, still active, continually at play with the Richter scale and occasionally driven by great earthquakes (Owens Valley, 1872). In geologic ages just before the uplift, volcanic andesite flows spread themselves over the terrain like butterscotch syrup over ice cream. Successive andesite flows filled in local landscapes and hardened flat upon them. As the trapdoor rises—as this immense crustal block, the Sierra Nevada, tilts upward—the andesite flows tilt with it, and to see them now in the roadcuts of the interstate is to see the angle of the uplift. Bear in mind how young all this is. Until the latter part of the present geologic era, there was no Sierra Nevada—no mountain range, no rain shadow, no ten-thousand-foot wall. Big rivers ran west through the space now filled by the mountains. They crossed a plain to the ocean. Remember about mountains: what they are made of is not what made them. With the exception of volcanoes, when mountains rise, as a result of some tectonic force, they consist of what happened to be there. If bands of phyllites and folded metasediments happen to be there, up they go as part of the mountains. If serpentinized peridotites and gold-bearing gravels happen to be there, up they go as part of the mountains. If a great granite batholith happens to be there, up it goes as part of the mountains. And while everything is going up it is being eroded as well, by water and (sometimes) ice. Cirques are cut, and U-shaped valleys, ravines, minarets. Parts tumble on one another, increasing, with each confusion, the landscape’s beauty. On the first of our numerous trips to the Sierra, Moores pulled over to the shoulder of the interstate to have a look at the outcrop that had frustrated Ken Deffeyes—the one that Deffeyes had identified as glop. It was sixteen miles west of Donner Summit, beside a bridge over the road to Yuba Gap. Moores in the field looks something like what Sigmund Freud might have looked like had Freud gone into geology. Above Moores’ round face and gray-rimmed glasses and diagnostic beard is a white, broad-brimmed, canvas fedora featuring a panama block. There are weather creases at the edges of his eyes. He typically wears plaid shirts, blue twill trousers, blue running shoes. On one hip is a notebook bag, on the other a Brunton compass in a cracked leather case. He is a chunky man with a long large chest and a short stretch between his hips and the terrain. From cords around his neck dangle two Hastings Triplets, the small and powerful lenses that geologists hold close to outcrops in order to study crystals. He did not need them to see what was incorporated in this massive paradox of glop. It contained jagged rock splinters and smoothly rounded pebbles as well. “It’s hard at first blush to tell that it’s mudflow and not wholly glacial, ” Moores said. “It is mostly andesite mudflow breccia with reworked stream gravel in it and glacial till on top, which appears to be moraine but is not. ” In the early Pliocene, a volcano grew into the range there. It has long since eroded away. Andesite lavas poured from the volcano. Lighter eruptive material settled around the crater. In the moist atmosphere, the volcano’s eruptions caused prolonged heavy rains. The water mobilized the unstable slopes. Volcanic muds—full of the sharp rock fragments that would cement together as breccia—slid into the country. In quiet periods between eruptions, streams flowing down the volcano tumbled some of the rock fragments, rounding pebbles. In recent time, alpine glaciers dug into the country and dozed away much of what was left of the volcano, and as the ice melted it left upon the brecciated mudflows heaps of lateral till. (“It is mostly andesite mudflow breccia with reworked stream gravel in it and glacial till on top, which appears to be moraine but is not. ”) All this had happened in one areal spot. All this was represented in that one roadcut. Anyone could be pardoned if, at first glance, the complete narrative seemed less than apparent. The story had repeated itself through much of the Sierra during the same band of time: other volcanoes extruding andesite and shedding mud, their remains disturbed by ice. It was a surface story, a latter-day account. The brecciated mudflows and andesite lavaflows had come to rest on rock that was older by as much as five hundred million years—rock with a deep and different story, rock that just happened to be there when the mountains rose. In the discipline of stratigraphy, gaps in time are known as unconformities. The layers of the Grand Canyon are full of such temporal gaps. Much more time is absent there than is represented. If a gap of five hundred million years were the right five hundred million years, it could erase the Grand Canyon. In eastern California, the infinitesimal space between the andesite flows and the rock on which they hardened is known as the Great Sierra Nevada Unconformity. To understand what that was and how it had come to be was to understand the relationship between just two of the parts in a millipartite structure. Moores and I went on to California’s eastern boundary, turned around, and recrossed the Sierra, as we would do repeatedly in the coming years. Climbing the steep east face of the mountains, you see granite and more granite and andesite capping the granite. So far so comprehensible. But before you have crossed the range you have seen rock of such varied type, age, and provenance that time itself becomes nervous—Pliocene, Miocene, Eocene nonmarine, Jurassic here, Triassic there, Ypresian, Lutetian, Tithonian, Rhaetian, Messinian, Maastrichtian, Valanginian, Kimmeridgian, upper Paleozoic. The rocks seem to change as fast as the traffic. You see olivine-rich, badly deformed metamorphic rock. You see serpentine. Gabbro. One thing follows another in a manner that seems random—a collection of relics from varied ages and many ancestral landscapes, transported from far or near, set beside or upon one another, lifted en masse in fresh young mountains and exposed in roadcuts by the state. You cannot be expected, just by looking at it, to fit it all together in mobile space and sequential time, to see in the congestion within this lithic barn—this Sierra Nevada, this atticful of objects from around the Pacific world—the events and the vistas that each item represents. Suppose you were to find in a spacious loft a whale-oil lamp of pressed lead glass. What would you think, know, guess, and wonder about the origin and the travels of that lamp? And suppose you were to find near it a Joseph Meeks laminated-rosewood chair, and an English silver porringer and stand, and an eight-lobed dish with birds in a flowering thicket. It is possible that you would not immediately think 1850, 1833, 1662, and 1620. It is possible that you would not envision the place in which each object was made or the milieu in which it was first used, and even more possible that you would not discern how or when any of these pieces moved through the world and came to be in this loft. You also see, lined up in close ranks, a Queen Anne maple side chair, a Federal mahogany shield-back side chair, a Chippendale shell-carved walnut side chair, and a William and Mary carved and caned American armchair. Stratigraphically, they are out of order. How did that happen? Why are they here? Only one thing is indisputable: this is some loft. Jammed to the trusses, it also contains a Queen Anne carved-mahogany block-front kneehole dressing table, a Hepplewhite mahogany-and-satinwood breakfront bookcase, a rosewood Neo-Gothic chair, an Empire mahogany step-back cupboard, and a Regency mahogany metamorphic library bergère. It contains a classical brass-mounted mahogany gilt wood-and-gesso bed with pressed-brass repoussé. It contains a Federal cherry-wood-and-bird’s-eye-maple bowfront chest of drawers, an early Victorian mahogany dining chair with a compressed balloon back, a Federal carved and inlaid curly-maple-and-walnut fall-front desk, a Windsor sackback writing armchair, and a Louis XV ormolu-mounted kingwood parquetry commode. There’s a temple bell dating to Auspicion Day of the fifth month of the first year of Tembrun. There’s a Federal carved-mahogany armchair with a cornucopian splat. Sort that out. Complete a title search for each piece. Tell each story backward through shifting space to differing points in time. Imagine the palace, the pavilion, the house, the hall for which each piece was fashioned, the climate and location of the country outside. Naturally, you can’t do that—not in a single reconnaissance. Don’t fret it. Don’t fret that you can’t see the story whole. You cannot tell whence each of these items has come, any more than its maker could have known where it would go. “Nature is messy, ” Moores remarked. “Don’t expect it to be uniform and consistent. ” I remembered the sedimentologist Karen Kleinspehn saying to me in these same mountains, “You can’t cope with this in an organized way, because the rocks aren’t organized. ” Gradually, though—outcrop to outcrop, roadcut to roadcut—Moores revived enough related scenes in the distinct origins of the random rock to frame a cohesive chronological story. That is what geologists do. “You spend a lot of time working over rocks and you have a lot of time to do nothing but think, ” he said. “These mountains, for example, are Tertiary normal faulted, confusing the topography with regard to structure. They show different levels of structure in different places. To see through the topography and see how the rocks lie in three dimensions beneath the topography is the hardest thing to get across to a student. ” After a mile of silence, he added cryptically, “Left-handed people do it better. ” I said nothing for a while, and then asked him, “Are you left-handed? ” He said, “I’m ambidextrous. ” As it happens, I am left-handed, but I kept it to myself. From the east, the climb is rapid to Donner Summit—less than thirty miles, and the road is not straight. Yet elsewhere along the Sierra front the rise is so much shorter and steeper that nothing on wheels could ever climb it. From the basin below (altitude four thousand feet), you bend your neck and look ten thousand feet up a granite mass that was lifted intact, whereas here, on the route above Reno, the “Tertiary normal faulting” that Moores referred to has tiered the escarpment and lowered the crestline as well. The early trappers found a native trail here. In all likelihood, the natives who made the trail were animals, followed, in time, by people. Under ponderosas and Western cedars at the Nevada-California line, the granite reveals itself and then is quickly gone, as the roadside rock becomes something like dark cordwood, fallen in columnar blocks. This is the caprock andesite, which cracks into columns as it cools. Another five miles, and the interstate moves through a long cut that is buff, gray, buff, gray, and buff again as lavaflows and mudflows intersperse. Perhaps a hundred thousand years separate the lavaflows, while the laminating muds come ten times as often. The volcanic cap over the granite is still a kilometre thick here. Among the trees are erratic boulders—granite boulders out of place on the andesite, transported a few thousand years ago by a descending ribbon of ice. Three miles before the summit, the granite reappears, not in ice-transported bits but in bedrock at the side of the road. And then more granite, under Jeffrey pines—weathered granite, light and sparkling sliced granite. It ends abruptly, at a contact with andesite. This particular granite had been sitting here eroding quietly for maybe ninety million years when the andesite lava flowed upon it, coating hills and filling valleys, plastering over the granitic terrain, concealing and preserving a Miocene landscape. Differentially, randomly, erosion has eaten through the cap rock. So the road encounters both formations. Granite reappears at the summit. Donner Summit, at seven thousand two hundred and thirty-nine feet, is half the height of the range. Locally, engineers found a way for the interstate which is considerably less precipitous than the trail used by the emigrants in the eighteen-forties. The place that came to be known as Donner Pass is a couple of miles south, on a relic stretch of U. 40. Moores and I once went over there and stood on a cliff edge, looking east. Tens of thousands of square miles of basin-and-range topography fanned out into Nevada, all of it aimed, within converging lines, at the pass. The drop to Donner Lake, more than a thousand feet below, was almost giddy. To get over the pass, everything on feet or wheels had to come up that grade. In a normal year, about seventy inches of water falls on the High Sierra, nearly all of it as snow. Seventy inches of water is roughly one and a half times what falls on New York City and twice what falls on Seattle. The snow on the Sierra Nevada can be forty feet deep. At the end of October, 1846, the Donner Party came up to this pass and were forced to retreat by a mountain of snow. The winter camp where they starved and died was by the shore of Donner Lake, in the cirque below the pass. In deep winter, I have stayed near Donner Lake in a ski condo where a previous guest left a peevish note: “The peace and beauty are marred by a noisy refrigerator and heating unit. ” Now, in midsummer, there were, around the pass, spreads of tenacious snow. A bicyclist, standing as he pumped but scarcely puffing, came up the route of the emigrants. Seating himself as he reached the zenith, he coasted on to the west. To the east, the deep gulf of scenery that he had come out of owed itself less to the finishing touches of ice than to large parallel north-south faults that had lowered a large piece of country—a crustal block, dropped between two other crustal blocks, and now a graben. Lake Tahoe, south across a partitioning ridge from Donner Lake, lies in the same graben. The small lake and the large one would be connected but for a recent pouring of andesite, which formed the ridge. Moores said to notice how the mechanical lowering of a large piece of the mountains had caused varying levels of the original structure to turn up in unexpected places. To try to sense a structure, he repeated, one must develop a talent for “seeing through the topography” and into the rock on which the topography was carved. When rocks in their variety arrive in a given place, like furniture going into storage, they hold within themselves their individual histories: their dates of solidification, their environments of deposition, or their metamorphic experience, as the case may be. Their unit-to-unit relationship—their stratigraphy and other juxtapositions—pondered as a whole is structure. Structure on the move is tectonics. When topography is as beautiful as at Donner Pass, it is not an easy matter to see through it, but if you’re looking for structure you might start with the granite. In all the country from Nevada to the pass, the volcanic cap makes its appearances, but always as veneer—eroding everywhere, opening windows, and ultimately suggesting the bewildering mass of the underlying granite. This is the Sierra batholith. Geologists reserve that term for the largest bodies of magmatic rock. A batholith, as defined in the science, has a surface of at least forty square miles and no known bottom. For the latter reason, it is also called an abyssolith. The one in California has a surface of about twenty-five thousand square miles. It lies inside the Sierra like a big zeppelin. Geologists in their field boots mapping outcrops may not have been able to find a bottom, but geophysicists can, or think they can, and they say it is six miles down. If so, the batholith weighs a quadrillion tons, and its volume is at least a hundred and fifty thousand cubic miles. It reminds me of a big rigid airship because the rigids contained, within their metal frames, rows of giant bags that resembled aerial balloons. Batholiths develop not as single chambers of magma but as contiguous balloons of molten rock called plutons. As red-hot rising fluid, the great Sierra batholith came into the country in successive pulses during a hundred and thirty million years between early Jurassic and latest Cretaceous time. There were three peak periods—the first nearly two hundred million years before the present, the second at a hundred and forty million years before the present, and the third at eighty. The most extensive is the “80 pulse. ” All this went on some ten to thirty kilometres below the earth’s surface, where continental crust and subducting ocean crust (coming under the continent) were melting. Through Maastrichtian time and nearly all the Cenozoic epochs, the cooled and cooling magma lay buried. The topography above changed and changed again, like a carrousel of slides. And eventually, recently, the batholith came up, to serve as the lithic medium for the erosive sculpting of Olancha Peak, of Wheeler Peak, of Mt. Whitney. Dark cliffs above Donner Pass were Pliocene volcanics, but the rock beside the trail was granite—poetically weathered organic billows of granite. There were small black shapes within it, like raisins. Thousands of them. Alien pebbles. These were bits of the country rock that the batholith intruded. They had fallen into the magma while it was still molten or, if cooler than that, sufficiently yielding to be receptive. They had been softened and rounded but not melted and destroyed. On Interstate 80 west of Donner Summit, we saw larger chips of such metasediment in the granite of the roadcuts. Another mile, and they were larger still. Moores referred to them as “abundant xenoliths—Jura-Triassic pieces of the wall or the roof. ” These were not the andesites and other outpourings that had been spread upon the granite in fairly recent times; these were parts of the intruding batholith’s containing walls or roof. They had fallen into the soft granite eighty million years ago, and, before that, had been crustal rock for something like a hundred million years. In the interstate median, under Jeffrey pines, were bedrock outcrops that had been scoured and polished by overriding ice eleven thousand years ago. There were plenty of erratic boulders. For eleven miles after Donner Summit, the xenoliths in the granite increased in volume until what we had first seen as pebbles were now the size of bears. To sense the implication of what was coming, a structural geologist would need no further sign. We were fast approaching the wall of the batholith—the magma’s contact with the country rock. That highway engineers would blast out a roadcut at just such a place is fortuitous, a matter of random chance, but when Ken Deffeyes and I had come into this same right-hand bend he had shouted, “Whoa! Whoa! Pullover! ” And a moment later he was saying, “This is the best outcrop on all of I-80. You can walk up and touch the wall of the great batholith. ” Moores now called it “about as classic and neat a contact as you’ll ever see. ” As cars shot past us like MIGs, he added, “Right here. Bang! ” The contact was essentially vertical. It ran on up the mountainside and vanished under the trees. It could not have been more distinct had it been the line between a granite building and a brick building adjacent in a city. The granite of the batholith looked almost white beside the reddish country rock, which Moores described as the metamorphosed remains of what had once been an island arc. The granite was customary, competent—a lot of salt and less pepper. The arc rock was flaky, slaty-like aged iron in a state of ulcerated rust. In the first yards after the contact, tongues of granite reached into the country rock, preserved in the act of eating xenoliths. Within a short distance, they gave up. As the rock ran on in the long continuous cut, it turned black, burgundy, buff, and green, in vertical stripes, in tight drape folds with long limbs. Obviously, it had been caught up—before the arrival of the batholith—not in some minor local slumpage but in a regional and pervasive tectonic event. With two more miles, the story again made a radical change, as we came to a roadcut of gabbro. Charcoal-gray and sparkling, it was perfect gabbro. There are rich, handsome houses on the Upper East Side of Manhattan that are made of less perfect gabbro. Gabbro, too, is cooled magma. Lacking quartz, it is at the dark end of a spectrum the light end of which is, for the most part, granite. Peridotite—the rock of the earth’s mantle—was in the roadcut as well, and Moores said that in his opinion these mafics and ultramafics (rocks low in silica and high in magnesium and iron) arrived after the event that had drapefolded the rock up the road and before the intrusion of the batholith. As we moved on, the gabbro-peridotite interdigitated with granite and then disappeared as the road once again descended into the Sierra batholith. After corridors of granite, there were more volcanics, in the topographic scramble of structure. When panoramic views came along, they showed the uniformity of the sixty-mile slope—the low-angle plane of the western Sierra. The great surface (the top of the trapdoor) was completed in the eye rather than the rock. It was deeply eaten out by river gorges. To the north and the south, the vistas were wide over deep valleys to tilting planar skylines. We came to Emigrant Gap, where the erosional dissection was particularly deep. Nineteen miles from Donner Pass, the scene demonstrated with emphasis that once emigrants were across the summit they were scarcely free of trouble. From Emigrant Gap into Bear Valley they lowered their wagons on ropes. We looked into the valley, where an alpine meadow was flanked with incense cedars. Above it to the north, under the smoothly sloping skyline, were west-dipping sediments that Moores described as mudflow breccias over Paleozoic sandstones. A deep gorge cut through this ridge. It contained the Yuba River, where the Yuba had captured the Bear. The two rivers, each eroding headward from opposite sides of the ridge, had struggled toward each other until the divide between them broke down, and the Bear, giving up its direction of flow, joined the Yuba and went the other way. To the northeast, under high white peaks, was a lake gouged in granite by an alpine glacier, which had left its moraines on the volcanic muds among the sharp shards and round pebbles that had caused Deffeyes to throw in his towel. Rocks between us and that lake, Moores said, were “lower Paleozoic quartz-rich sediments metamorphosed and folded at least twice. ” And the rocks in the peaks above the lake were remains of a Jurassic island arc. Moores spoke reflectively “of “the joy of being alone with the geology, ” of spending enough time walking such a scene to learn how some of it fits together, and then adding what you can to the scientific literature, “which is not like a solo but like an orchestral piece. ” To Moores, what had happened to create California where no surviving rock had been before was much in evidence in the scene around us, as it had been in the rocks we saw along the road. As terrane—a homonym that refers not merely to surface configurations but to a full three-dimensional piece of the earth’s crust—this region had become known in geology as Sonomia. It reached from the Sonoma Range in central Nevada to the Sierra foothills west of where we stood. As plate theorists reconstruct plate motions backward through time, they see landmasses converging to form superterranes and breaking apart to form new continents. Swept up in these great events are islands and island arcs—Newfoundlands, Madagascars, New Zealands, Sumatras, Japans—that slide in or collide in toward continental cores. They become the outermost laminations of new landscapes. When terranes coming via the ocean attach themselves to a continent, they are said to have “docked. ” Never shy about metaphors, geologists refer to the docking place as a “suture. ” At the end of Permian time, in the narrative according to present theory, Sonomia docked against western North America. The suture is on the longitude where Golconda, Nevada, is now. For a century or so before plate tectonics, the obviously overriding rock was known as the Golconda Thrust. It was an event that happened about two hundred and fifty million years before the present. Sonomia was an island arc. North to south, Moores said, it might have stretched two thousand miles. It brought with it those Paleozoic sandstones above Bear Valley and the quartz-rich sediments we could also see to the northeast. Volcanoes grew in the newly docked terrane. Bits of them would become the xenoliths in the granites of the summit. Along the western margin of Sonomia, where ocean crust was subducting in a trench, more volcanoes developed. Their rock was in peaks above us. Roughly where we stood, a coastal region of exceptional beauty had lain at the base of the volcanoes. Stratovolcanoes. Kilimanjaros and Fujis. Sonomia was actually the second terrane to attach itself to the western edge of ancestral North America. The first had arrived in latest Devonian time. It had thrust itself almost to Utah. At this latitude, a third terrane would follow Sonomia in the Mesozoic, smashing into it with crumpling, mountain-building effects that would propagate eastward through the whole of Sonomia, metamorphosing its sediments—turning siltstones into slates, sandstones into quartzites—and folding them at least twice: the multicolored drape folds we had seen beside the road. This was the country rock the batholith intruded. A granite batholith will not appear just anywhere. You will wait an eternity for one to develop under Kansas. A great tectonic event must come first. Then granite—or, rather, the magma that will cool and produce granite—comes in beneath the mountains. Volcanoes appear at the surface. Lava flows. To create the magma, you must in some way melt the bottom of the crust. Subduction—one plate sliding beneath another—will cause things to melt. And so will a collision that compresses and thickens terrane. After a continent-to-continent collision, the crust might double; a batholith will come up within thirty million years. In deep burial, the heat from such radioactive and universal elements as uranium, potassium, and thorium is trapped. The heat increases until the rocks melt themselves and their surroundings. Granite should be forming under Tibet at present, where India has hit the Eurasian Plate in a collision that is not yet over. Under California, both thickened crust and plate-under-plate subduction contributed to the making of the batholith, at first after Sonomia came in and sutured on and deformed itself, and again after Sonomia was hit from the west and further deformed. The Sierra batholith is melted crust of oceanic origin as well as continental. Most of the world’s great batholiths are not quite true granite but edge on down the darkening spectrum and, strictly speaking, are granodiorite. Too strictly for me. But that is the rock of the High Sierra, which almost everyone refers to as granite. After the batholith came nothing during the many millions of years of the Great Sierra Nevada Unconformity. At any rate, nothing from those years was left for us to see. The rock record jumps from the batholith to the andesite flows of recent time, patches of which Moores pointed out from the lookoff at Emigrant Gap. A few million years ago, when lands to the east of us began to stretch apart and break into blocks, producing the province of the Basin and Range, the Sierra Nevada was the westernmost block to rise, lifting within itself the folds and faults of the Mesozoic dockings, the roots of mountains that had long since disappeared. The chronology at Emigrant Gap ends with the signatures of glaciation on the new mountains—the bestrewn boulders and dumped tills, the horns, the arêtes, the deep wide U of the Bear Valley. I remarked that geologists are like dermatologists: they study, for the most part, the outermost two per cent of the earth. They crawl around like fleas on the world’s tough hide, exploring every wrinkle and crease, and try to figure out what makes the animal move. Moores said he begged to differ. He said the whole earth is involved in plate tectonics. The earthquake slips of subducting plates could be read as deep as five hundred miles, and seismic data were now indicating that the plates’ cold ocean-crustal slabs descend all the way to the core-mantle boundary. Bumps on the core may be related to the activity of hot spots like Hawaii, Yellowstone, and Iceland. He said he wouldn’t call that dermatology. Since Moores had learned geology in the late nineteen-fifties and early nineteen-sixties, when the theory of plate tectonics was still in a formative unheralded stage, I asked him what he had been taught. How had his teachers at the California Institute of Technology explained—in what is now known as “the old geology”—the building of mountains, the rise of volcanoes, the construction of North America west of Salt Lake? Geologists used to accept the idea that the earth’s skin contracted, he said—“shrivelled up like the skin of an apple” was the favorite simile—and the wrinkles were mountains. This was said to have happened in different places at differing times, and the wrinkling process was known as an orogeny. The rise of the mountains in Utah and Nevada, where that first exotic terrane came in, was known in the old geology as the Antler Orogeny. The next wrinkling of the regional skin was the Sonoma Orogeny. The Appalachians were built in the Avalonian, Taconic, Acadian, and Alleghenian Orogenies. The Rockies were built in the Laramide Orogeny. Mountain-building mechanisms have been restyled, but these terms for them survive. If wrinkling was the force that lifted mountain belts, it did not explain their great volume. In the second half of the nineteenth century, James Hall, the state geologist of New York, theoretically resolved that question when he conceived of what came to be called the geosynclinal cycle, and so put in place the geology that prevailed until 1968, when plate tectonics was nailed to the church door. Since mountain belts tended to rise at the margins of continents and to contain, among other things, folded marine sediments and intruding batholiths, Hall imagined a long wide seafloor trough, a deep dimple, in which vast amounts of sediment would pile up and where magmas would intrude. After a sufficient amount of material had collected, it was ready to rise, to wrinkle as mountains. Wary of the apple-skin hypothesis, many geologists preferred to think that as a geosyncline gained weight it would press down on the mantle until its volume was so great that it would rebound isostatically, like a huge buoyant log coming up from underwater. Wary of isostasy as well, many more geologists would not venture further than to say (indisputably) that “earth forces” or “orogenic forces” had lifted the geosynclines, and that these forces were “not well understood. ” The geosyncline, like any admirable and serviceable fiction, contained a lot of truth. From stratigraphy to structure, geology was understood in terms of geosynclines for about a hundred years. You found gold with your knowledge of geosynclines. You found silver, antimony, and oil. You started conceptually with a geosyncline and projected events forward in time until you saw the geosyncline shuffled up in the mountains before you. Or you started with the mountains, disassembled them in your mind, and made palinspastic reconstructions, backward in time, as far as the geosyncline. The entire procedure—from the making of rock to the making of mountains to the destruction of mountains to the making of fresh formations of rock—was the geosynclinal cycle. Inevitably, the concept was improved, refined, unsimplified. The archetypical geosyncline was deep in the middle and shallow at the sides, and grew different kinds of rocks in various places. The German tectonicist Hans Stille proposed the names miogeosyncline and eugeosyncline for the shallows and the deeps. The vocabulary was universally accepted. Miogeosynclines were the source of shallow-water sediments (limestone, for example) and no volcanics. In the eugeosynclines, volcanism occurred, and deep-water sediments, like chert, collected. In the twentieth century, as the science matured and thickened, mio- and eu- became inadequate to prefix all the differing synclinal scenes that new generations of geonovelists were describing. The germinant term was soon popping like corn. The professional conversation came to include parageosynclines, orthogeosynclines, taphrogeosynclines, leptogeosynclines, zeugogeosynclines, paraliageosynclines, and epieugeosynclines. Moores had entered Caltech in 1955. “In the old geology, one learned of the eugeosyncline and miogeosyncline of western North America, which started in the late Precambrian and went through the Cretaceous, ” he said, in recapitulation. “Rock deformed by orogeny—folding and thrusting—from the center of the eugeosyncline out toward the continental shelf. The mechanism was ‘orogenic forces. ’ Here in the Sierra, for example, you had a eugeosyncline and a miogeosyncline, and the eugeosyncline was thrust on the miogeosyncline. And that was the Golconda Thrust. No one knew how this orogeny happened. If California rock was disassembled on paper and palinspastically reassembled as the original geosyncline, there were shallow-water sediments followed by deep-water material, but there was no other side. “That was never explained, ” Moores went on. “Also, the geosynclinal cycle was said to be about two hundred million years. In the Overthrust Belt in Montana, forty thousand feet of Precambrian sediment had been thrust over Cretaceous sediment. As students, we wondered why all that Precambrian was still there. What had the source geosyncline been doing sitting there for a billion years when the cycle was two hundred million? There was no answer. ” Hall’s idea was not preposterous. It was incomplete. There was, after all, marine rock in mountains. Between the geosyncline and the mountains, though, something was missing, and what was missing was plate tectonics. We continued west from Emigrant Gap through cuts in unsorted glacial till, buff and bouldery, and past the many blue doors of the pink garage of the Transportation Department’s mountain center for snowplows and road maintenance, situated, with its cavalry of trucks, within a slowly moving earthflow, a creeping descent of unstable moraine, a sedate landslide. “The engineers strike again, ” Moores said, but in scarcely three miles his contempt went into a subduction zone, melted, and came back up as appreciation for a long high competent roadcut that exposed bright beds of rhyolite tuff. Twenty-nine million years ago, this air-fall ash came out of a volcano in what is now Nevada, he said, as he pulled over to the side of the road, got out, and put his nose on the engineered outcrop. While he examined the tuff through his hand lens, an eighteen-wheeler that had also come from Nevada was smoking down the mountain grade. Its brakes were furiously burning, and emitted a dark cloud. Long after the truck had gone, the cloud hung stinking in the air. The ash had been launched in several eruptive episodes. Blown west, it had landed hot, and had welded solid in successive bands. Here, more than sixty miles from the source volcano, a single ashfall was more than a metre thick. The ash had settled, of course, horizontally. Having risen with the Sierra, it was now tilting west. We descended past the four-thousand-foot contour, moving on among volcanic rocks five times older than the tuff and of more proximate origin: rock of the Sonomia Terrane altered in the heat and pressure of the assembly of California and weathered along the interstate into an abstract medley of red and orange and buff and white. Now thirty miles west of Donner Summit, we were well into the country rock of California gold—the rock that was there when, in various ways, the gold itself arrived. The most obvious place to look for it was in fluviatile placers—the rubble of running streams. In such a setting it had been discovered. Placer, which is pronounced like Nasser and Vassar, was a Spanish nautical term meaning “sandbank. ” More commonly, it meant “pleasure. ” Both meanings seem relevant in the term “placer mining, ” for to separate free gold from loose sand is a good deal easier than to crack it out of hard rock. Some of the gold in the running streams of the western Sierra was traceable to the host formations from which it had eroded—traceable, for example, to nearby quartz veins that had grouted ancient fissures. Within two years of the discovery of gold in river gravel, gunpowder was blasting the hard-rock fissures. Into the quiet country of the low Sierra—between the elevations of one thousand and four thousand feet—gold seekers spread more rapidly than an explosion of moles. Their technology was as rampant as they were, and in its swift development anticipated the century to come. In 1848, the primary instrument for mining gold was a sheath knife. You pried yellow metal out of crevices. Within a year or two, successively, came the pan, the rocker, the long tom, and the sluice—variously invented, reinvented, and introduced. There was also a third source of gold. It was found in dry gravel far above existing streams—on high slopes, sometimes even on ridges. The gravel lay in discontinuous pods. Geologists, with their dotted lines, would eventually connect them. In cross-section, they were hull-shaped or V-shaped, and in some places the deposits were more than a mile wide. They had the colors of American bunting: they were red to the point of rutilance, and white as well, and, in their lowest places, navy blue. They were the beds of fossil rivers, and the rivers were very much larger than the largest of the living streams of the Sierra. They were Yukons, Eocene in age. Fifty million years before the present, they had come down from the east off a very high plateau to cross low country that is now California and leave their sorted bedloads on a tropical coastal plain. Forty million years later, when the Sierra Nevada rose as a block tilting westward, it lifted what was left of that coastal plain. It included the beds of the Eocene rivers, which were fated to become so celebrated that they would be known in world geology less often as “the Eocene riverbeds of California” than as, simply, “the auriferous gravels. ” Fore-set, bottom-set, point bar to cutbank, under the suction eddies—gold in varying assay was everywhere you looked within the auriferous gravels: ten cents a ton in the high stuff, dollars a ton somewhat lower, concentrated riches in the deep “blue lead. ” To separate gold from gravel, you wash it. But you don’t wash a bone-dry enlofted Yukon with the flow of little streams bearing names like Shirt Tail Creek. Mining the auriferous gravels was the technological challenge of the eighteen-fifties. The miners impounded water in the high country, then brought it to the gravels in ditches and flumes. In five years, they built five thousand miles of ditches and flumes. From a ditch about four hundred feet above the bed of a fossil river, water would come down through a hose to a nozzle, from which it emerged as a jet at a hundred and twenty miles an hour. The jet had the diameter of a dinner plate and felt as hard. If you touched the water near the nozzle, your fingers were burned. This was hydraulic artillery. Turned against gravel slopes, it brought them down. In a contemporary account, it was described as “washing down the auriferous hills of the gravel range” and mining “the dead rivers of the Sierra Nevada. ” A hundred and six million ounces of gold—a third of all the gold that has ever been mined in the United States—came from the Sierra Nevada. A quarter of that was flushed out by hydraulic mining. The dry bed of an Eocene river carries Interstate 80 past Gold Run. The roadside records the abrupt change. As if you were swinging off a riverbank and dropping into the water, you go out of the metavolcanic rock and into the auriferous gravels. We stopped, stood on the shoulder, and looked about a hundred feet up an escarpment that resembled an excavated roadcut but had not been excavated by highway engineers. It was capped by a mat of forest floor, raggedly overhanging. The forest, if you could call it that, was a narrow stand of ponderosas, above an understory of manzanita with round fleshy leaves and dark-red bark. The auriferous gravels were russet, and were full of cobbles the size of tomatoes—large stones of long transport by a most impressive river. To the south, across the highway, the scene dropped off into a deep mountain valley. The near end of the valley was three hundred feet below the trees above us. The far end of the valley was nearly twice as deep. A mile wide, this was a valley that had not been a valley when wagons first crossed the Sierra. All of it had been water-dug by high-pressure hoses. It was man-made landscape on a Biblical scale. The stand of ponderosas at the northern rim was on the level of original ground. The interstate was on a bench more than halfway up the gravel. Above us, behind the trees, were the tracks of the Southern Pacific. In the eighteen-sixties, when the railroad (then known as the Central Pacific) was about to work its way eastward across the mountains, it secured the rights to this ground before the nozzles reached it. Moores and I made our way up to the tracks, where the view to the north was over a hosed-out valley nearly as large as the one to the south, and bordered by white hydraulic cliffs. The railroad, with the interstate clinging to its hip, ran across a septum of the old terrain, an isthmus in the excavation, an unmined causeway hundreds of feet high made of gravel and gold. This was the country of Iowa Hill, Lowell Hill, Poverty Hill, Poker Flat, Dutch Flat, Red Dog, You Bet, Yankee Jim’s, Gouge Eye, Michigan Bluff, and Humbug City. It was the country of five hundred camps that sprang up for many dozens of miles to the north and south of the present route of I-80. For a year or two, it had been a center of world news, and for some decades had clanged with industry. Now, in the dry air, nothing was stirring, not even a transcontinental freight. But looking down the two sides into the artificial valleys you could almost hear the waterjets and the caving slide of gravel. Poverty Hill yielded four million dollars’ worth of gold. You Bet yielded three. Humbug City got its name from a lack of confidence in the claims there, but when five million dollars came out of forty million cubic yards of flushed-away ground the name was changed to North Bloomfield. The water-dug valleys below the ground where we stood had yielded six million dollars in gold. Yankee Jim was an Australian. A red-dog bank was a savings-and-loan ahead of its time. It issued notes in excess of its ability to redeem them. Across most of the Sierra, Interstate 80 runs close by the line of two counties—Placer and Nevada—whIch together produced five hundred and sixty million dollars in gold. Translated into modern values, that would be five billion. Yankee Jim was hanged in his eponymous town. The ancient riverbed beneath us evidently passed through Gold Run, picked up a fossil tributary coming in through Dutch Flat, and went off to the northwest via Red Dog and You Bet. Before human beings appeared on earth, glacial ice and modern streams and other geologic agents had obliterated large parts of the Eocene river system. People had come near eliminating the rest. “Man is a geologic agent, ” Moores said, with a glance that swept the centennial valleys. Erosion occurs, for the most part, in what geologists call catastrophic events—hurricanes, rockslides, raging floods—and in that category full credentials belonged to hydraulic mining, for scouring out and taking away thirteen thousand million cubic yards of the Sierra. I remember Moores rapping his geologic hammer on an outcrop of olivine in northern Greece. He was drawn to the rock for academic reasons, but he remarked that it might be gone before long, because of its use in a brick that is resistant to very high temperatures. I asked him how he felt about being in a profession that calls attention to the olivine that people tear up mountainsides to take away. He said, “Schizophrenic. I grew up in a mining family, a mining town, and when I got out of there I had had it with mining. Now I am a member of the Sierra Club. But you have to face the fact that if you are going to have an industrial society you must have places that will look terrible. Other places you set aside—to say, ‘This is the way it was. ’ ” I remember him referring to the same disease in response to my asking him, one day in Davis, what effect his professionally developed sense of geologic time had had upon him. He said, “It makes you schizophrenic. The two time scales—the one human and emotional, the other geologic—are so disparate. But a sense of geologic time is the most important thing to get across to the non-geologist: the slow rate of geologic processes—centimetres per year—with huge effects if continued for enough years. A million years is a small number on the geologic time scale, while human experience is truly fleeting—all human experience, from its beginning, not just one lifetime. Only occasionally do the two time scales coincide. ” When they do, the effects can be as lasting as they are pronounced. The human and the geologic time scales intersect each time an earthquake is felt by people. They intersect when mining, of any kind, begins. After 1848, when the two time scales intersected in the gold zone of the western Sierra, California was populated so rapidly that it became a state without ever being a territory. As the attraction diminished, newcomers ricocheted eastward, in sunburst pattern—to Idaho, to Arizona, to Nevada, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado—finding zinc, lead, copper, silver, and gold, and transmogrifying the West in a manner more pervasive than the storied transition from bison to cattle. The event of 1848 in California led directly to the discovery of gold in Australia (after an Australian miner who rushed to the Sierra saw auriferous facsimiles of New South Wales). By 1865, at the end of the American Civil War, seven hundred and eighty-five million dollars had come out of the ground in California, making a difference—possibly the difference—in the Civil War. The early Californian John Bidwell, an emigrant of 1841, expressed this in his memoirs: It is a question whether the United States could have stood the shock of the great rebellion of 1861 had the California gold discovery not been made. Bankers and business men of New York in 1864 did not hesitate to admit that but for the gold of California, which monthly poured its five or six millions into that financial center, the bottom would have dropped out of everything. These timely arrivals so strengthened the nerves of trade and stimulated business as to enable the government to sell its bonds at a time when its credit was its life-blood and the main reliance by which to feed, clothe, and maintain its armies. Once our bonds went down to thirty-eight cents on the dollar. California gold averted a total collapse and enabled a preserved Union to come forth from the great conflict. Moores and I returned to the shoulder of the interstate and walked along the auriferous escarpment. The stream-rounded gravels, asparkle with quartz, are so compactly assembled there that they suggest the pebbly surface of a wide-wide screen. One does not need a director, a film, or rear projection to look into the bright stones and see the miners in motion: the four thousand who are in the region by the end of ’48, the hundred and fifty thousand who follow in the years to 1884. With the obvious exception of the natives, no one is as sharply stricken by the convergences of time as Johann Augustus Sutter. He has come into a scene in which gold is unsuspected—this blue-eyed, blond and ruddy, bankrupt Swiss drygoods merchant, with his broad-brimmed hat and his broader belly and his exceptionally creative dream. He is thirty-six years old. He envisions a wilderness fiefdom—less than a kingdom but more than a colony—with himself as a kind of duke. On a ship called Clementine, he arrives in Monterey in 1839, accompanied by ten Hawaiians and an Indian boy once owned by Kit Carson and sold to Sutter for a hundred dollars. The Mexican government, which seeks some sort of buffer between coastal California and the encroaching United States, grants him, on an incremental schedule, a hundred thousand acres of land. Sailing around San Francisco Bay, he spends a week hunting for the mouth of the Sacramento River. Soon after he finds it, there is a collection of Hawaiian grass huts on what is now Twenty-seventh Street, in a section of downtown Sacramento still called New Helvetia. He has cannons. He builds a fort, with walls three feet thick. He does not overlook a dungeon. A roof slopes in above peripheral chambers to frame a parade ground of two acres. Sutter’s goal is to develop an independent agricultural economy, and he prospers. He has a gristmill. He brings in cattle and builds a tannery. He hires weavers and makes textiles. He widens his fields of grain, and draws plans for a second gristmill. He attracts many people. He issues passports. One of the attracted people is James Wilson Marshall, of Lambertville, New Jersey, a mechanic-carpenter-wheelwright-coachmaker who is experienced as a sawyer. Sutter sees possibilities in cutting lumber and floating it to San Francisco. Meanwhile, he needs boards for the new gristmill. He sends Marshall up the American River to a small valley framed in canyons and backed by a mountainside of sugar pines. Like many handsome moments in Western scenery, this one is prized by the natives, who think it is theirs. A bend in the river touches the mountains. Marshall lays a millrace across the bend. He sees “blossom” in the stream gravel and remarks that he suspects the presence of metal. A sawyer asks him, “What do you mean by ‘blossom’? ” Marshall says, “Quartz. ” As the sawmill nears completion, its wheel is too low. Water is ponding around it. The best correction is to deepen the tailrace down through the gravel to bedrock. Yalesumni tribesmen help dig out the tailrace, where, early in the morning of January 24, 1848, Marshall picks up small light chips that may not be stone. Having some general knowledge of minerals, I could not call to mind more than two which in any way resembled this— sulphuret of iron, very bright and brittle; and gold, bright, yet malleable; I then tried it between two rocks, and found that it could be beaten into a different shape, but not broken. He sets it on glowing coals, and he boils it in lye. The substance shows no change. Carrying a folded cloth containing flakes the size of lentils, Marshall journeys to New Helvetia, and insists that he and Sutter talk behind a locked door. Sutter pours aquafortis on the flakes. They are unaffected. Sutter gets out his Encyclopedia Americana and looks under G. Using an apothecary’s scales, he and Marshall are soon balancing the flakes with an equal weight of silver. Now they lower the scales into water. If the flakes are gold, their specific gravity will exceed the specific gravity of the silver. Underwater, the scales tip, and Marshall’s flakes go down. Sutter at once can see the future and is dismayed by the look of it. Who will work in his sawmill if gold lies in the stream beside it? Who will complete the gristmill? What will become of his New Helvetia, his field-and-forest canton, his discrete world, his agrarian dream? He and Marshall agree to urge others to keep the discovery a local if not total secret until the mills are finished. Coincidentally in Mexico (that is, only five days after Marshall’s visit to Sutter), Nicholas P. Trist, American special agent, who has defied orders recalling him to Washington and pressed on with negotiations, successfully concludes the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. For fifteen million dollars, Mexico, defeated in battle, turns over to the United States three hundred and thirty-four million acres of land, including California. Sutter writes a twenty-year lease with the Yalesumni for the land around the sawmill. He agrees to grind their grain for them and to pay them, in clothing and tools, a hundred and fifty dollars a year. Seeking a validation of the lease, Sutter sends an envoy to Monterey—to Colonel Richard Mason, USA, military governor of California. The envoy sets on a table a number of yellow samples. Mason calls in Lieutenant William Sherman, West Point ’40, his acting assistant adjutant general. Mason: “What is that? ” Sherman: “Is it gold? ” Mason: “Have you ever seen native gold? ” Sherman: “In Georgia. ” Sherman bites a sample. Then he asks a soldier to bring him an axe and a hatchet. With these he beats on another sample until—malleable, unbreakable—it is airy and thin. Sherman learned these tests in 1844, when he was twenty-four, on an investigative assignment in Georgia having to do with a military crime. Mason sends a message to Sutter to the effect that the Indians, having no rights to the land, therefore have no right to lease it. In an April memorandum, the editor of the California Star says, in large letters, “ Humbug ” to the idea that gold in any quantity lies in the Sierra. Six weeks later, the Star ceases publication, because there is no one left in the shop to print it. Thousands come through Sutter’s Mill and spread into the country. On the American River at the discovery site, Marshall tries to charge tithes, but the forty-eighters ignore him and overrun his claims. They stand hip to hip like trout fishermen, crowding the stream. Like fishermen, too, they move on, restlessly, from cavern to canyon to flat to ravine, always imagining something big lying in the next pool. Indians using willow baskets wash sixteen thousand dollars. People are finding nuggets the size of eggs. “There is a chance now for every white man now in the country to make a fortune, ” says a letter written to the New York Herald on May 27, 1848. One white man, in some likelihood Scottish, is driven insane by the gold he finds, and wanders around shouting all day, “I am rich! I am rich! ” Two miners in seven days take seventeen thousand dollars from a small gully. In June, Colonel Mason travels from Monterey to San Francisco and on to New Helvetia to see for himself what is happening in the foothills. He takes Sherman with him. They find San Francisco “almost deserted, ” its harbors full of abandoned ships. Ministers have abandoned their churches, teachers their students, lawyers their victims. Shops are closed. Jobs of all kinds have been left unfinished. As Mason and Sherman cross the Coast Ranges and the Great Central Valley, they see gristmills and sawmills standing idle, loose livestock grazing in fields of ripe untended grain, “houses vacant, and farms going to waste. ” It is as if a devastating army had traversed a wide swath on its way to the foothills from the sea. Sutter, in the shadow of his broad-brimmed hat—his silver-headed cane tucked under his arm—warmly greets the military officers. It is scarcely their fault that two thousand hides are rotting in the vats of his abandoned tannery, that forty thousand bushels of standing wheat are disintegrating on the stem, that work has ceased on the half-finished gristmill, that the weavers have abandoned their looms, that strangers without passports—here today, gone tomorrow—have turned his fort into a boarding house and taken his horses and killed his cattle. To short-term profit but long-term disaster his canton is doomed. His dream is drifting away like so much yellow smoke. We could follow him to his destitute farm on the Feather River and on to the East, where he dies insolvent in 1880, but better to leave him on July 4, 1848, sitting at the head of his table in the storehouse of his fort, host of a party he is giving to celebrate—for the first time in California—the independence of the United States. He has fifty guests. With toasts, entertainment, oratory, beef, fowl, champagne, Sauternes, sherry, Madeira, and brandy, he presents a dinner that costs him the equivalent of sixty thousand dollars (in the foothills’ suddenly inflated prices converted into modern figures). In no way has he shown resentment that rejection has met his appeal to secure his claims in a discovery of sufficient magnitude to pay for a civil war. Seated on his right is Richard Barnes Mason. Seated on his left is William Tecumseh Sherman. By the end of 1848, a few thousand people, spread out over a hundred and fifty miles, have removed from modern stream placers ten million dollars in gold. The forty-eighters have the best of it in 1849, because the forty-niners are travelling most of that season, at the end of which fifty thousand miners are in the country. There are a hundred and twenty thousand by the end of 1855. The lone miner all but disappears. To stay abreast of the sophisticating technologies, individuals necessarily form groups. Groups are crowded out by corporations. More and more miners make less and less money, until many independents are living hand-to-mouth and their way of life is called subsistence mining. Watching companions die of disease in Central American jungles or drown in Cape storms, they have travelled thousands of miles in pursuit of a golden goal that has now turned into “mining for beans. ” Always, though, there are fresh stories going east—stories that would cause almost anyone to start thinking about trying the overland route, the isthmus, the Horn. Growlersburg is so named because of the sound of nuggets swirling in pans. In a deep remote canyon on the east branch of the north fork of the Feather River, two Germans roll a boulder aside and under it find lump gold. Another couple of arriving miners wash four hundred ounces there in eight hours. A single pan yields fifteen hundred dollars. The ground is so rich that claims are limited to forty-eight inches square. In one week, the population grows from two to five hundred. The place is named Rich Bar. At Goodyears Bar, on the Yuba, one wheelbarrow-load of placer is worth two thousand dollars. From hard rock above Carson Creek comes a single piece of gold weighing a hundred and twelve pounds. After black powder is packed in a nearby crack, the blast throws out a hundred and ten thousand dollars in gold. A miner is buried in Rough and Ready. As shovels move, gold appears in his grave. Services continue while mourners stake claims. So goes the story, dust to dust. From the auriferous gravels of Iowa Hill two men remove thirty thousand dollars in a single day. A nugget weighing only a little less than Leland Stanford comes out of hard rock in Carson Hill. Size of a shoebox and nearly pure gold, it weighs just under two hundred pounds (troy)—the largest piece ever found in California. Carson Hill, in Calaveras County, is in the belt of the Mother Lode—an elongate swarm of gold-bearing quartz veins, running north-south for a hundred and fifty miles at about a thousand feet of altitude. There are Mother Lode quartz veins as much as fifty metres wide. Some of the early gold camps are so deep in ravines, gulches, caverns, and canyons that the light of the winter sun never reaches the miners’ tents. If you have no tent, you live in a hole in the ground. Your backpack includes a blanket roll, a pick, a shovel, a gold pan, maybe a small rocker in which to sift gravel, a coffeepot, a tobacco tin, saleratus bread, dried apples, and salt pork. You sleep beside your fire. When you get up, you “shake yourself and you are dressed. ” You wear a flannel shirt, probably red. You wear wool trousers, heavy leather boots, and a soft hat with a wide and flexible brim. You carry a pistol. Not everyone resembles you. There are miners in top hats, miners in panama hats, miners in sombreros, and French miners in berets, who have raised the tricolor over their claims. Chinese miners wear outsize boots and blue cotton. Their packs are light. They live on rice and dried fish. Their brothels thrive. They are the greatest gamblers in the Sierra. They make Caucasian gambling look like penny ante. There are miners working in formal topcoats. There are miners in fringed buckskin, miners in brocaded vests, miners working claims in dress pumps (because their boots have worn out). There are numerous Indians, who are essentially naked. There are many black miners, all of them free. As individual prospecting gives way to gang labor, this could be a place for slaves, but in the nascent State of California slavery is forbidden. On Sundays, while you drink your tanglefoot whiskey, you can watch a dog kill a dog, a chicken kill a chicken, a man kill a man, a bull kill a bear. You can watch Shakespeare. You can visit a “public woman. ” The Hydraulic Press for October 30, 1858, says, “Nowhere do young men look so old as in California. ” They build white wooden churches with steeples. In four months in Mokelumne Hill, there is a murder every week. In the absence of law, lynching is common. The camp that will be named Placerville is earlier called Hangtown. When a mob forgets to tie the hands of a condemned man and he clutches the rope above him, someone beats his hands with a pistol until he lets go. A Chinese miner wounds a white youth and is jailed. With a proffered gift of tobacco, lynchers lure the “Chinee” to his cell window, grab his head, slip a rope around his neck, and pull until he is dead. A young miner in Bear River kills an older man. A tribunal offers him death or banishment. He selects death, explaining that he is from Kentucky. In Kentucky, that would be the honorable thing to do. Some miners’ wives take in washing and make more money than their husbands do. In every gold rush from this one to the Klondike, the suppliers and service industries will gather up the dust while ninety-nine per cent of the miners go home with empty pokes. In 1853, Leland Stanford, twenty-nine years old, opens a general store in Michigan Bluff, about ten miles from Gold Run. John Studebaker makes wheelbarrows in Hangtown. Stanford moves to Sacramento, where he sells “provisions, groceries, wines, liquors, cigars, oils & camphene, flour, grain & produce, mining implements, miners’ supplies. ” Credit is not in Stanford’s vocabulary. Miners must “come down with the dust. ” They come down with the dust to Mark Hopkins, a greengrocer who, sensing greater profit in picks, shovels, and pans, goes out of produce and into partnership at Collis P. Huntington, Hardware. They come down with the dust to Charles Crocker, Mining Supplies. When the engineer Theodore Judah comes down from a reconnaissance of the Sierra with the opinion that a railroad can be built across the mountains, these merchants of Sacramento have the imagination to believe him, and they form a corporation to construct the Central Pacific. The geologic time scale, rising out of the ground in the form of Cretaceous gold, has virtually conjured a transcontinental railroad. It leaves Sacramento in 1863, and not a minute too soon, for in a sense—which is only a little fictive—it is racing the technology of mining. As the railroad advances toward Donner Summit at the rate of about twenty miles a year, the miners are doing what they can to remove the intervening landscape. Their ability to do so has been much accelerated in scarcely a dozen years. This is the evolution of technique: Prospectors find the fossil rivers within two years of James Wilson Marshall’s discovery, and soon afterward vast acreages are full of holes that seem to have been made by very large coyotes. In the early form of mining that becomes known as coyoting, you dig a deep hole through the overburden and lower yourself into it with a windlass. You hope that your mine will not become your grave. You dig through the gravel to bedrock, then drift to the side. Some coyote shafts go down a hundred feet. One goes down six hundred. When water first arrives by ditch and flume, it not only washes excavated pay dirt but is allowed to spill downslope, gullying the gravel mountainsides and washing out resident gold. This is known as ground-sluicing, gouging, booming, or “picking down the bank. ” So far, the technology is not new. From high reservoirs and dug canals, the Romans ground-sluiced for gold, as did Colombian Indians before 1500, and people in the eighteenth century in the region known as the Brazils. California’s momentous innovation in placer mining comes in 1853, after Edward E. Matteson, a ground-sluicer, is nearly killed when saturated ground slides down upon him and knocks his pick from his hand. Matteson thinks of a way to dismantle a slope from a safe distance. With his colleagues Eli Miller and A. Chabot, he attaches a sheet-brass nozzle to a rawhide hose and bombards a hill near Red Dog with a shaped hydraulic charge. That first nozzle is only three feet long and its jet at origin three-quarters of an inch in diameter. Soon the nozzles are sixteen feet long, and are called dictators, monitors, or giants. They require ever more ditches and flumes. In the words of Hutchings’ California Magazine, “The time may come when the whole of the water from our mountain streams will be needed for mining and manufacturing purposes, and will be sold at a price within the reach of all. ” Where two men working a rocker can wash a cubic yard a day, two men working a mountainside with a dictator can bring down and drive through a sluice box fifteen hundred tons in twelve hours, and this is the technology that the railroad is racing to the ground at Gold Run. Although the nozzle has the appearance of a naval cannon, it is mounted on a ball socket and is so delicately counterbalanced with a “jockey box” full of small boulders that, for all its power, it can be controlled with one hand. Every vestige of what has lain before it—forest, soil, gravel—is driven asunder, washed over, piled high, and flushed away. At a hundred and twenty-five pounds of pressure per square inch, the column of shooting water seems to subdivide into braided pulses hypnotic to the eye, and where it crashes at the end of its parabola it sounds like a storm sea hammering a beach. In one year, the North Bloomfield Gravel Company uses fifteen thousand million gallons of water. Through the big nine-inch nozzles go thirty thousand gallons a minute. Benjamin Silliman, Jr., a founding professor of the Sheffield Scientific School, at Yale, writes in 1865, “Man has, in the hydraulic process, taken command of nature’s agencies, employing them for his own benefit, compelling her to surrender the treasure locked up in the auriferous gravel by the use of the same forces which she employed in distributing it! ” To get at the deepest richest gravels, which lie in the hollows of bedrock channels, the miners dig tunnels under the beds of the fossil rivers. When they reach a point directly below the blue lead, they go straight up into the auriferous gravel, where they set up their nozzles and flush out the mountain from the inside. At Port Wine Ridge, Chinese miners make a tunnel in the gravel fifteen miles long. Surface excavations meanwhile deepen. Twelve million cubic yards of gravel are washed out of Scotts Flat, forty-seven million cubic yards of gravel out of You Bet and Red Dog, a hundred and five million cubic yards out of Dutch Flat, a hundred and twenty-eight million out of Gold Run. After a visit to Gold Run and Dutch Flat in 1868, W. Skidmore, of San Francisco, writes, “We will soon have deserted towns and a waste of country torn up by hydraulic washings, far more cheerless in appearance than the primitive wilderness of 1848. ” In the middle eighteen-sixties, hydraulic miners find it profitable to get thirty-four cents’ worth of gold from a cubic yard of gravel. In a five-year period in the eighteen-seventies, the North Bloomfield Gravel Company washes down three and a quarter million yards to get $94, 250. Soon the company is moving twelve million parts of gravel to get one part of gold. As the mine tailings travel in floods, they thicken streambeds and fill valleys with hundreds of feet of gravel. In their blanched whiteness, spread wide, these gravels will appear to be lithic glaciers for a length of time on the human scale that might as well be forever. In a year and a half, hydraulic mining washes enough material into the Yuba River to fill the Erie Canal. By 1878 along the Yuba alone, eighteen thousand acres of farmland are covered. Mud, sand, cobbles—Yuba tailings and Feather River tailings spew ten miles into the Great Central Valley. Tailings of the American River reach farther than that. Broad moonscapes of unvegetated stream-rounded rubble conceal the original land. Before hydraulic mining, the normal elevation of the Sacramento River in the Great Valley was sea level. As more and more hydraulic detritus comes out of the mountains, the normal elevation of the river rises seven feet. In 1880, hydraulic mining puts forty-six million cubic yards into the Sacramento and the San Joaquin. The muds keep going toward San Francisco, where, ultimately, eleven hundred and forty-six million cubic yards are added to the bays. Navigation is impaired above Carquinez Strait. The ocean is brown at the Golden Gate. In the early eighteen-eighties, a citizens’ group called the Anti-Debris Association is formed to combat the hydraulic miners. On June 18, 1883, a dam built by the miners fails high in the mountains—apparently because it was insufficiently engineered to withstand the pressure of high explosives. Six hundred and fifty million cubic feet of water suddenly go down the Yuba, killing six people and creating a wasteland much like the miners’. On January 9, 1884, a United States Circuit Court bans the flushing of debris into streams and rivers. Although the future holds some hydraulic mining—with debris dams, catch basins, and the like—it is essentially over, and miners in California from this point forward will be delving into hard rock. Edward E. Matteson—of whom the Nevada City Transcript said in 1860, “His labors, like the magic of Aladdin’s lamp, have broken into the innermost caves of the gnomes, snatched their imprisoned treasures, and poured them, in golden showers, into the lap of civilized humanity”—spends the last days of his life at Gold Flat, near Nevada City, working as a nighttime mine watchman and a daytime bookseller. Even in the high years of his invention, he never applied for a patent. From 1848 onward, James Wilson Marshall has been literally haunted by the fact of his being the discoverer of California gold. William Tecumseh Sherman will remember him as “a half-crazy man at best, ” an impression that Marshall confirms across the years as he claims to consult with spirits, asking them where he might again find gold. Newcomers to California in mid-century believe that Marshall really does have some sort of divine intuition, and—to his bitter annoyance—follow him wherever he goes. With respect to further gold strikes, nowhere is where he goes. Drinking himself to Heaven, he drips tobacco juice through his beard. It stains his shirt and dungarees. Looking so, he makes a visit home. From his family’s house, on Bridge Street in Lambertville, he goes up into the country toward Marshall’s Corner and the farmhouse where he was born, prospecting outcrops of New Jersey diabase, hoping to discover gold. He picks up rock samples. He carries them to a sister’s house and roasts them in the oven. At the end of the twentieth century, the small farmhouse where he was born is still standing. Part fieldstone, part frame, it has long since been divided into three apartments, enveloped in a parklike shopping center called Pennytown. A boldly lettered sign on a screen door indirectly recalls Marshall’s compact with Sutter. It says, “Don’t Let the Cat Out. ” Beside I-80, Moores inserted a knife in the auriferous gravels and pried loose a few rounded stones. He carved them to demonstrate their softness, and said, “They are practically clay. They have weathered so much they could be in Georgia. ” In the nineteenth century, some of the nuggets found in the auriferous gravels were electrum—a natural pale-yellow alloy of gold and silver. Other nuggets were full of mothy cavities, where something had been eaten away—quite possibly silver. This was some of the first evidence that California enjoyed a coincidence of golds, for electrum was not characteristic of the hard-rock gold of the Sierra. The gravels had brought those nuggets from somewhere else. Rock soft enough to carve with a knife would disintegrate if it were tumbling in the bed of a stream; therefore, it had softened after it arrived. Because gold changes shape so easily, the mothy pitting of nuggets necessarily occurred after transport, too. That the auriferous deposits were Eocene was affirmed by the fossil plants among them. The gravels themselves, with channel deposits six hundred feet deep and stones the size of basketballs, described the power of the river that brought them, the Himalayan loft of its headwaters. Fossils of subalpine Eocene vegetation have since been found in central Nevada. “There is gold in the Carson Range, east of the Sierra, that is like the nuggets that were found in these gravels, ” Moores said. “The source of some California gold is probably under Nevada now. ” If something as crazy-sounding as that had been said to miners in the eighteen-fifties, the miners in all likelihood would not have been surprised, for they were familiar with geologists, and geologists were not their heroes. In 1852, at Indian Bar, a miner remarked to a doctor’s wife, “I maintain that science is the blindest guide that one could have on a gold-finding expedition. Those men, who judge by the appearance of the soil, and depend upon geological calculations, are invariably disappointed, while the ignorant adventurer, who digs just for the sake of digging, is almost sure to be successful. ” The doctor’s wife, Louisa Amelia Knapp Smith Clappe, is probably the most interesting writer who was on the scene in the early days of the gold rush. Indian Bar was close by Rich Bar, where the two Germans in the deep canyon rolled a boulder and found lump gold. The doctor and his wife became resident there in 1851. She wrote letters to a sister in Amherst, Massachusetts, which have been preserved in publication under her pseudonym, Dame Shirley. At times, she may be even more purple than the interior of the Rich Bar saloon, but when she speaks of “the make-shift ways which some people fancy essential to California life, ” she is hitting for distance. She speaks of “red-shirted miners... reclining gracefully... in that transcendental state of intoxication, when a man is compelled to hold on to the earth for fear of falling off. ” She speaks of “the Irishman’s famous down couch, which consisted of a single feather laid upon a rock. ” And she has thoughts to add about geologists: Wherever Geology has said that gold must be, there, perversely enough, it lies not; and wherever [geology] has declared that it could not be, there has it oftenest garnered up in miraculous profusion the yellow splendor of its virgin beauty. It is certainly very painful to a well-regulated mind to see the irreverent contempt, shown by this beautiful mineral, to the dictates of science; but what better can one expect from the “root of all evil”? There were prospectors in the Sierra who wore over their hearts a device they called a gold magnet, explaining that in the presence of gold the magnet tingled and shocked. There were prospectors who carried forked hazelwood rods that were said to point to gold as if it were water. The miners had as much respect for them as they had for the geologists. Over their shoulders as they took off up the canyons the miners liked to say, “Gold is where you find it. ” As early as 1849, the Sacramento Placer Times remarked: The mines of California have baffled all science, and rendered the application of philosophy entirely nugatory. Bone and sinew philosophy, with a sprinkling of good luck, can alone render success certain. We have met with many geologists and practical scientific men in the mines, and have invariably seen them beaten by unskilled men, soldiers and sailors, and the like. All that notwithstanding, the legislature of the new State of California created in 1860 a state geological survey, and recruited the Yale-trained and already distinguished Josiah D. Whitney to be the state geologist. Nearly everybody imagined that Whitney would investigate and catalogue places in California where the earth could be turned for a profit. Instead, he gave them paleontology, historical geology, igneous petrology, stratigraphy, structure, tectonics. He gave them the minutest points of mineralogy, and he gave them the global setting. He gave them academic geology in the form that can least be turned into capital—the disciplines that lead to understanding of the history and composition of the planet. California fired him. They fired him in the modern sense that after a few years he was defunded. His name rests on the highest mountain in the Sierra Nevada. By the erosive scenes at Iowa Hill, Poverty Hill, Forest Hill, North Bloomfield, Michigan Bluff, Gold Run, You Bet, Dutch Flat, Poker Flat, Downieville, and Smartville—the major Eocene-river deposits—Josiah Whitney was not appalled. He liked the hydraulic diggings. They flushed away the soft stuff and exposed solid rock, the better for geologists to see. Moores cast a final glance over the man-made valley by Gold Run, and said, “It’s not all that bad. Some places like this do not look bad. They are spaced out. They are not the English industrial Midlands. I like to drive cars. I like to move rapidly from place to place. There is a price we pay. If people wish to eschew all that, let them walk. When they get rid of their cars and their hi-fi sets, their credibility will rise. ” He lingered long enough for a change of mood. His voice resumed at a lower and softer register. “In a couple of hundred years we are doing a good job of extracting minerals deposited over billions of years. High-grade gold deposits are just gone. Ditto copper. The U. has had it. There just won’t be any more until we go through a few million more years of erosion, allowing the geologic processes of secondary enrichment to take place. Meanwhile, technology must extract lower and lower-grade resources. We don’t realize what we’re doing. ” I said I thought that we knew what we were doing and didn’t give a damn. He said, “Americans look upon water as an inexhaustible resource. It’s not, if you’re mining it. Arizona is mining groundwater. ” Soon we were dropping toward two thousand feet, among deeply weathered walls of phyllite, in color cherry and claret—the preserved soils of the subtropics when the unrisen mountains were a coastal plain. Geologists call it lateritic soil, in homage to the Latin word for brick. All around the Sierra, between two and three thousand feet of altitude, is a band of red soil, its color deepened by rainfall that leaches out competing colors and intensifies the iron oxide. Not only phyllites but also mica schists, shales, tuffs, and sandstones in the roadcuts were red. When the road dipped far below the rooflike plane of the western Sierra Nevada, the dissected inclines around us had the appearance of red mountains covered with manzanita. At Weimar, a little off the highway and close to the two-thousand-foot contour, was a narrow band of serpentine, the California state rock. Moores said, “Worldwide, there is an association between serpentine and gold-bearing quartz, as there is here, in the belt of the Mother Lode. Gold-quartz deposits and serpentines just go together. Where there’s a hard-rock mine, serpentine will not be far away. The relationship between serpentine and quartz-vein gold is not well understood, but the miners talked about it. It was a fact of their life. ” On the geologic map, the serpentines showed up as strings and pods in a rich wisteria blue, like some sort of paisley print, trending north-south, signing the Mother Lode. Also accompanying the Mother Lode was a family of major faults, confined to a zone that was scarcely fifteen miles wide but extended, both to the north and to the south of Interstate 80, more than a hundred miles. Three of the faults crossed the highway in and close to Auburn, about twenty miles below Gold Run and thirty-five above Sacramento. In Auburn Ravine, a couple of hundred yards below the railroad overpass and exactly twelve hundred feet above sea level, the interstate had been cut through charcoal-gray rock that had very evidently been damaged by a great deal more than human engineering. We pulled over as soon as the shoulder was wide enough, and walked back to have a look. We walked past talc schists and sheared serpentines and integral blocks of volcanic rock separated by shear zones. The cut that had caught Moores’ attention was ten feet high and nondescript, below gray pines and trees of heaven. It was tight to the interstate, and tandem trailers were screaming past us. A billboard across the road said, “Placer Savings, It’s the Extras That Count. ” Picking and prying at the Sierra Nevada a roadcut at a time, Moores had crossed the mountains showing all levels of absorption and excitement. In the presence of unusual rock, he variously fizzes and clicks. Now, as he leaned into this outcrop with his lens, he began to do both. It was fine-grained diabase, in magnification asparkle with crystals—free-form, asymmetrical, improvisational plagioclase crystals bestrewn against a field of dark pyroxene. It was a much finer diabase than you would find in, say, the Palisades Sill, across the Hudson River from Manhattan. It had cooled and frozen more rapidly, but it derived from a chemically identical magma—that is to say, essentially identical, there being no exact copy in geology except a Xerox of your last mistake. Had this magma been extruded into air or water it would have become basalt, but—like granite, diorite, gabbro—it had chilled and formed its crystals in the absence of both. There was a signal difference, however—far beyond cooling rates or chemical composition—between this diabase and the rock of the Palisades Sill or any magma that intrudes and then hardens as a single body. To see the difference, you did not need to make a thin section—a tiny slice of rock for a microscope slide. You did not even need the hand lens. This rock had been assembled in vertical laminations like successive layers of wallboard. It had frozen not all in one piece but in continual fashion, layer after layer—a history that could be read from one lamination to the next, like bar codes indefinitely extended. Moores, ebullient, said, “We’re in Fat City. ” Lens to eye and leaning into the outcrop, this professed and practicing agnostic said, “God, it’s fantastic! God Almighty! This is a jackpot, a tremendous bit of serendipity. We’ve struck gold. ” Given the fact that we were at twelve hundred feet in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada and in close proximity to serpentine and quartz, I could be forgiven if at first I took him literally. Yet all that glistered in this outcrop was pyroxene. Gold is where you find it, though, and for Eldridge Moores this indeed was gold. Unlike all the other rock we had seen as we traversed the mountains, or were likely to see in most of the aerial world, this rock in its origin was not of any continent. It was not from slope, not from shelf, not from lake, stream, or land. It had no genetic relationship to continental rock. Like a blue-water fish on a farmhouse platter, it had been moved a great distance. Only a meteorite could have been more out of place. Nineteenth-century geologists would have called this rock augite porphyrite; the miners would have called it blue diorite or slate. It was rock of the ocean crust. Formed at spreading centers, ocean crust gradually turns cold as it travels away from the hot rift of its beginnings toward the deep trenches where nearly a hundred per cent of it is consumed. Down the vertical column from salt water to mantle rock, ocean crust has varying components, of which these laminations are the clearest record of lateral movement. A layer at a time, the fluid rock is driven upward in the spreading center, solidifies, and takes its place in the long march. Most of this happens in the mid-oceans, in the world system of separating boundaries of plates. It also happens in the short, isolated, and slice-like spreading centers that develop near island arcs. In all geology where rock forms in successive layers, the layers are initially horizontal—with this one exception. The laminations of the ocean crust form vertically, and remain vertical as they move to become the floors of abyssal plains and until they disappear into trenches. In Moores’ words, “This is the only situation where age progression goes sideways. ” Although the rock in this outcrop had obviously been shattered by a very great tectonic force—and although it had to some extent been recrystallized as well in the attendant heat and pressure—neither its disfigurement nor its metamorphosis had masked its structure. The laminations—known in geology as sheeted dikes—were as narrow as ten centimetres and as wide as eighty. By looking closely at their edges, you could all but see the spreading center that the accumulating rock had slowly moved away from. Layer after layer was glassy along its right-hand edge. The magma had cooled quickly there after touching solidified rock. The spreading center, therefore, had been to the left. After a new lamination of magma touched hard rock and turned marginally to glass, the rest of the lamination froze more slowly, forming the fine crystals. Some layers had glassy margins on both sides. They had split the weak center of previous and still-cooling layers. In a minor and local way, they corrupted the chronology. When seismology first revealed the dimensions of the ocean crust, it proved to be surprisingly thin—about fifteen thousand feet thin—with remarkable uniformity all over the world. The sediments upon it, generally speaking, are not much more than a veneer. Rock of the ocean crust—departing from spreading centers with bilateral symmetry, ultimately disappearing in the subduction zones—is everywhere younger than most rock of the continents. The oldest known continental rock was discovered about halfway between Great Slave Lake and Great Bear Lake, in the Canadian Northwest Territories, in 1989, and has an argon-argon age of 3. 96 billion years. The earth itself, according to radiometrics, is six hundred million years older than that. The oldest ocean-crustal rock that has yet been found in any seafloor in the world is early-middle Jurassic—a hundred and eighty-five million years old. That is less than one-twentieth the age of the oldest continental rock and one-twenty-fifth the age of the earth itself. From spreading to subduction, from creation to extinction, the ocean crust completely cleans house in fewer than two hundred million years. A lithospheric plate will typically include both continental rock and ocean crust, but trenches get rid of the ocean crust while the continents stay afloat. Since rock of the sort that Moores and I were looking at does not form on continents and will not be found under a Hudson Bay, a Sea of Okhotsk, or any epicontinental sea, what was it doing in Auburn, California, more than five hundred miles from the nearest abyssal floor? Moores did not have to be asked, for if he had a tectonic and petrologic specialty this was it. He had travelled the earth to see this kind of rock. Where you found it up on dry land, it proclaimed an event in the making of new country, in the mobile history of plates. It was not a signature after a fact but a precursory signing in. In its transportation from the deep and its emplacement on a continent, it was not merely a clue but an absolute statement that scenery had been shifted in an operatic manner. Toward the end of the middle Jurassic—in the high noon of dinosaurs, about a hundred and sixty-five million years ago—an island arc like the Aleutians or Japan had moved in from the western ocean and docked here. This was the third terrane at this latitude: the one that followed Sonomia and smashed into it with crumpling, mountain-building effects that propagated eastward turning soils into phyllites, sandstones into quartzites, siltstones into slates—the metamorphics we had seen up the road. In aggregate, the three terranes extended the continent by at least four hundred miles. The third one, suturing here, had doubled the width of what is now California. The sheeted diabase that we found in Auburn—shattered so grossly in the collision—was a part of the ocean crust at the leading edge of the third terrane. As the island arc drifted eastward and the continent westward, nearly all the intervening ocean crust was consumed, but some broke off and came to rest on the continental margin, announcing the collision. North-south, the third terrane probably came near to being a thousand miles long. What remains of it is closer to a hundred. Its width, including the part that is under the Great Valley, is about a hundred miles, too. This ten-thousand-square-mile piece of ground, named for a gold camp some twenty-five miles north of Auburn, is known in geology as the Smartville Block. If you look at a map of the Mother Lode—its narrow band, north-south, lying under Grass Valley, Auburn, Angels Camp, French Gulch, Confidence, and Plymouth—you are, for practical purposes, looking at a map of the Smartville suture. As a geologically immediate result of the collision, the nearby rock developed the numerous high-angle faults that now appear on the geologic map along the Mother Lode. The voluminous magmas of the batholith came into the country. Water moving down through the faults would have circulated close to—or actually in—the magma. Gold, which loves itself and strongly resists combination with other elements, will go into compounds at very high temperatures. The gold that is among magmatic fluids (or in the adjacent country rock) may be combined, for example, with chlorine or sulphur. The gold compounds are “modestly” soluble, and will dissolve in the water, which picks up many other elements, too, including silicon. The hot solution rises into fissures in hard crust rock, where the cooling gold breaks away from the compounds and falls out of the water as metal. Silicon precipitates, too, filling up the fissures and enveloping the gold with veins of silicon dioxide, which is quartz. In this manner, the Smartville Block, docking in the Jurassic, not only doubled the size of central California but created its Mother Lode. If you could pull up an acre of abyssal plain anywhere in the world—lift into view a complete column of the ocean floor, from the accumulated sediments at the top to mantle rock at the base—you would find the sheeted dikes about halfway down. In contrast to the rock columns you find allover the continents—giddy with time gaps among lithologies of miscellaneous origin and age—this totem assemblage from the oceans tells a generally consistent story. At its low end is peridotite, the rock of the mantle, tectonically altered in several ways on departure from the spreading center. Above the mantle rock lie the cooled remains of the great magma chamber that released flowing red rock into the spreading center. The chamber, in cooling, tends to form strata, as developing crystals settle within it like snow—olivine, plagioclase, pyroxene snow—but above these cumulate bands it becomes essentially a massive gabbro shading upward into plagiogranite as the magmatic juices chemically differentiate themselves in ways that relate to temperature. Just above the granites are the sheeted dikes of diabase, which kept filling the rift between the diverging plates. Above the sheeted dikes, where the fluid rock actually entered the sea, the suddenly chilled extrusions are piled high, like logs outside a sawmill. Because these extrusions have convex ends that bulge smoothly and resemble pillows, they are known in geology as pillow lavas. Above the pillows are the various sediments that have drifted downward through the deep sea: umbers, ochres, cherts, chalk. Unlike the rest of the crust-and-mantle package, the sediments may hint at the surrounding world. Water that gets down through all this and into the mantle rock—at the spreading center or anywhere else will change the nature and appearance of that rock. Through an alteration of minerals, the rock takes on a silky lustre and a very smooth texture, becomes fibrous, and develops color—occasional streaks and spots of white, but mainly chrome green, myrtle green, Nile green, in patterned shapes within the mantle black. Because the patterns strongly suggest the skin of a snake, this rock has been known—for nearly six hundred years in the English language—as serpentine. Geologists—in their strange, synecdochical way—have named the entire oceanic assemblage for this one component rock. But not directly. In their acute sense of time, they were not content to settle for a term of Latin derivation. Instead, they extracted from a deeper stratum ὄφις — ophis —the Greek word for snake. From the mantle upward, the complete column of ocean-floor rock is collectively known in geology as an ophiolite. The generally consistent differences within it are the ophiolitic sequence. On the American River under the bluffs of Auburn, in 1852, a single pan of gravel might be worth a hundred dollars. In 1857, after the lone miners had worked the place over, the American River Ditch Company built a dam there, to impound water for hydraulic mining. The dam eventually crumbled. The dam site did not. As environmentalists have discovered to their eternal chagrin, a dam site is a dam site forever, no matter what the state or the nation may decide to do about it in any given era. On present road maps of California, that part of the American River is marked “Auburn Dam and Reservoir (Under Construction). ” The dam site is scarcely a mile from the shattered ophiolite of Interstate 80, so Moores and I went to see how the dam might relate to the Smartville collision, and we have returned there since. The river’s deep canyon is walled with sheared foliated rock—broken, disrupted, deformed lithologies, Bruchgeitrochen, tortured rocks—as one would expect of a place where an oceanic island arc had sutured onto the continent. There were sheeted dikes, serpentines, plagiogranites, gabbros, and other items from the ocean suite. The type of dam chosen in 1967 by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation was a thin arch of concrete rising six hundred and eighty-five feet from channel to crest. Its purpose was to store winter runoff for use in summer, supplementing the storage behind Folsom Dam, fifteen miles downstream. The new reservoir, Lake Auburn, would reach twenty miles into the Sierra, filling two forks of the river—up the North Fork past Codfish Creek and Shirt Tail Creek beyond Yankee Jim’s almost to Iowa Hill, and up the Middle Fork over New York Bar and Murderers Bar and the Ruck-a-Chucky Rapids to Volcanoville. The lake would cover ten thousand acres and be twice as deep as the Yellow Sea. When Moores and I first visited the site, in 1978, it resembled one of the huge excavations flushed out by the hoses of hydraulic mining. Benched roadways descended switchbacks a thousand feet down the canyon walls. A cofferdam had tucked the river to one side. Reaching eleven hundred and fifty feet across the canyon floor lay the white concrete of the dam’s base. From the outset, the construction project had had to deal with the inconvenience of the faulting that had followed the arrival of the Smartville Block. The dam site was squarely in the suture zone. Under the dam’s foundation ran a fracture known to engineers as the F-1 Fault. A tectonic event on the scale of an arc-to-continent docking will not result in every fissure’s being filled with quartz and gold. Countless empty cracks remain. In order to secure the dam’s basement, the Reclamation engineers had performed what they described as “dental work, ” a “root canal. ” They had sealed in the Smartville fault zone with three hundred and thirty thousand cubic yards of grout. Moores remarked, “If you want to find a fault in California, look for a dam. ” Scarcely had the dental work been completed when, in 1975, an earthquake struck near Oroville, forty-five miles up the Smartville Block. Its Richter magnitude was 5. 7. Near Oroville on the Feather River was the eighth-largest dam in the world. It had been completed in 1968, only seven years before the earthquake, and gradually its reservoir had impounded forty-six hundred million tons of water, or enough to put a lot of pressure on the rocks below. It was a gravity dam, broad and squat, an earth-fill dam, and what it had been filled with was seventy-eight million cubic yards of hydraulic-gold-mine tailings. Absorbing the earthquake, the dam just sat there, holding its lake. However, the United States Geological Survey (a sibling agency of Reclamation within the Department of the Interior) quietly noted that twenty-five per cent of reservoirs of comparable depth had, by their sheer weight, triggered earthquakes. The earthquake at Oroville had been five times larger than the maximum earthquake that the dam at Auburn was designed to withstand. This collection of facts soon assembled itself in the editorial offices of the Sacramento Bee. On its front page the Bee envisioned an earthquake that would knock out Auburn Dam, releasing water that would in less than two hours stand in Sacramento twenty feet deep. In the words of a former Assistant Secretary of the Interior, this would be “the worst peacetime disaster in American history. ” Estimates were that a quarter of a million people would drown. The federal government considers faults inactive if they haven’t jumped for a hundred thousand years. The latest known movement along the F-1 Fault in Auburn was in the Jurassic—a hundred and forty million years before the present—but that did not soothe Sacramento. Work on Auburn Dam was suspended. In 1978, Moores and I found the site silent, dry, reliquary. It looked that way eleven years later, when we went there again. Geologic time and human time seemed to have met and parted. Mountain lions go through the dam site. Bears. Feral goats. The project is dormant and appears dead, or vice versa, depending on how the beholder eyes it. The bureau keeps a skeleton crew there, each of whom speaks of the dam in the future positive. You ask at what altitude the lake level was to be. Response: “The lake level will be eleven hundred and thirty feet. ” You ask if the boat ramp would have been paved. Response: “Yes, that will be paved. ” The gravel boat ramp, several hundred yards long, descends a steep slope and ends high and nowhere, a dangling cul-de-sac. The skeletons call it “the largest and highest unused boat ramp in California. ” Houses that cling to the canyon sides look into the empty pit. They were built around the future lakeshore under the promise of rising water. You can almost see their boat docks projecting into the air. Thirty-three hundred quarter-acre lots were platted in a subdivision called Auburn Lake Trails. Moores wanted to know if a geology student from Davis might be permitted to study the rocks that had been exposed during construction. “Fine, but we would not want the student’s conclusions to inconvenience the dam. ” The dam has cost three hundred million dollars so far. The bureau spends a million dollars a year maintaining the site while nothing happens. We looked for a cup of coffee in Cool, California, after crossing the American River on a seven-hundred-foot-high bridge. Not particularly long, the bridge was built so high in order to clear the lake that wasn’t there. From houses in Cool, picture windows framed the lake air. There were numerous for-sale signs. Mother Lode Realty. Cool was a placer-mining camp of the eighteen-fifties. In Cool Quarry, marine limestone is mined now—a lenticular pod, a third of a cubic mile, shoved into California by the arriving Smartville Block. If you had lived on the moon then, as a full earth came into the sky you would have seen two large continents, one above the other, surrounded and divided by ocean. West to east, the dividing seas were the incipient Caribbean (Central America was not there), the incipient Atlantic, and—from Gibraltar through China—the long water known in geology as Tethys. Worldwide, fossils from that time are described as Tethyan. Tethys, mother of rivers, was the consort of Oceanus. Cool was named for Aaron Cool. In the limestone pod in Cool, California, caught up in the docking of the Smartville Block, are Tethyan fusulinids and Tethyan corals. As an overriding plate scrapes the plate below, it acts like the blade of a bulldozer and piles up sand, seashells, cherts, phyllites—whatever happens to be there. Impressive amounts of material can be accreted in this manner. As the Philippine Plate has scraped westward, overlapping the Eurasian Plate, an accretionary wedge has risen as Taiwan. In an arc-to-continent collision that is reducing the distance between Taipei and Beijing, Taiwan is the first piece of the West Luzon Island Arc to reach the Eurasian slope. In the mélange of rocks in the Taiwan accretionary wedge are not only sands, seashells, cherts, and phyllites but enough scraped-up ocean-floor debris—sheeted dikes, pillow lavas, gabbros, serpentines—to be known as the East Taiwan Ophiolite. A large and intact package of ocean crust-and-mantle can be expected to follow, as one did when Smartville began to close with North America. The Smartville Block pushed before it not only the limestone of Cool and the schists and serpentines of Auburn Dam but also the red-weathered phyllites and the argillites and cherts we had seen along the Interstate as we descended toward Auburn. These and a great miscellany of additional rocks were Smartville’s mélange, its accretionary prism—highly foliated, sheared, broken, disrupted, deformed—caught up in the Smartville suture, the docking of arc and continent. There was, of course, a subduction zone—a trench-between the arc and the continent as they drew together, and in the collision it disappeared. It was actually stuffed shut, according to present theory. First, ocean crust-and-mantle of the North American Plate went down the trench. Eventually, the continental rock itself reached the trench and jammed it, like a bagel in a toaster. Continents are too light and thick to be subducted, and where they arrive at trenches the trenches cease to function. Australia has jammed the trench to the north of it with such force that it has produced New Guinea. As Moores envisions the Jurassic event in California, a large overlap of Smartville ocean crust (the upper plate) was left lying on the North American continental slope after subduction stopped. The region cooled in the post-collisional stillness. The lower, west-moving plate was no longer descending, dragging everything downward. Isostasy, the force that lifts light objects when other forces cease to hold them down, began to work on the combined terranes. Lifting them, it broke off a large piece of the Smartville ocean crust-and-mantle and carried it into the air in what would eventually become the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. As a geological and geophysical specialty, the study of ophiolites is only a few years old, and therefore provokes argument on almost any question raised—from the environment of the origin of the rock itself to the putative method by which it made its way from extracontinental depths to dry land. The emplacement story for the Smartville Block was worked out by Eldridge Moores. Descending westward, just below Auburn, you cross the thousand-foot contour, and the Great Central Valley comes into view, running flat out of sight to the horizon. Sacramento is down there, and, fifteen miles farther, Davis. It is an abrupt, absolute change of physiographic worlds, where the mountains hinge. The Smartville Block extends under the valley and ends beneath the Coast Ranges. After the trench at Auburn disappeared, another one had to develop, as the trailing edge of Smartville became the new front of the North American Plate, moving west. To balance the earth’s books by consuming an amount of ocean crust comparable to what is made at spreading centers, subduction zones develop when and where they are needed. Across geologic time, subduction zones have come and gone quite often. On one side of the Smartville Block the new subduction must have been developing even while the old subduction died on the other. “For sure, ” Moores said. “You’ve got to produce that convergence somewhere. You don’t cut things off. The subduction here at Auburn was Permian to early Jurassic. The new subduction zone to the west was operating by the late Jurassic, and it operated all through Cretaceous and into Tertiary time. The volcanoes came up in the Sierra, and the main batholith formed. I think the geology is really neat. The new plate margins produced their own accretionary prism, piling up out there to the west of us to become the rest of California. ” ♦ (This is the first part of a three-part article. ).

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