The tail of an unexploded Japanese balloon bomb protrudes above the mossy forest floor near Lumby, British Columbia. This photograph is courtesy of Infonews.ca, which published a story about the bomb on October 10, 2014.
On November 3, 1944, the Imperial Japanese Army attacked North America, and they did it from three Honshu beachheads. It was on that date that the first of some 9,000 balloons, fitted with incendiary and high explosive bombs on a three-day timer, were lofted into the recently-discovered jet stream. The innovative form of aggression spread dangerous explosives across a huge swath of North American territory, from Alaska to Mexico, from the Pacific Coast to Detroit, Michigan. Fewer than 250 of these balloons have been accounted for, although an estimated 1,ooo balloons may have made it across the Pacific. While most of the 9,000 probably failed to reach American shores, those that made the crossing and went undiscovered might still pose risks to the unsuspecting.
Foresters working near Lumby, British Columbia, made the most recent discovery of unexploded Japanese bombs in October of last year. Hikers and people who work in wild places should be wary of undiscovered explosives from these balloons.
When Japanese balloon bombs, known as Fu-Go to their makers, first began to arrive in America, authorities mistakenly thought that the devices were being launched from submarines surfacing near our coasts or that they had been built in Prisoner-of-War camps along the coast. Continue reading
Posted in Balloons, Conflicts, Education, Geology, Hanford, Hanford Atomic Energy Reservation, History, Japan, Washington, World War II
Tagged Alaska, Archie Mitchell, Asotin, Atom Bomb, Ballast, Balloon envelopes, Balloons, Biological Warfare, Bly, Bombs, Bonneville Dam, British Columbia, California, Canada, Central Washington, Cold Creek, Debris, Detroit, Diatoms, Eastern Washington, Education, Elsie Mitchell, Ephrata, Forams, Foresters, Fossils, Fu-Go, Geologists, Geology, Hanford Reservation, Hawaii, Hiking, Hill Williams, History, Honshu, Hydrogen, Imperial Japanese Army, Infonews.ca, Intelligence, Jet Stream, Lt. Col. Franklin Matthias, Lumby, Manhattan Project, Mexico, Michigan, Montana, Moxee, Mulberry, North America, Northwest Territories, Oregon, Pacific, Pacific Coast, Planes, Plutonium, Port Angeles, Prisoner-of-War, Prosser, Reactor, San Pedro, Sand, Satus Pass, Scientists, Second World War, Silk, Spokane, Submarines, Sunday School, Tokyo, Toppenish, Walla Walla, Washington, World War II, Wyoming, Yukon
The Saddle Mountain Fault scenario envisions an 87-mile long failure of the fault.
There was a small earthquake centered on Frenchman Hill one day around 1972. When an earthquake scientist from the University of Washington called Othello High School to look for a reliable student to tend to a helicorder they were setting up at the epicenter, they ended up talking to my mother, the counselor. I was 16, and I had just gotten my driver’s license. She told them she had a perfect match for them.
So my second job off the home place (the first one was changing sprinklers for my neighbor) was visiting a tiny trailer parked next to a plowed field overlooking the Lower Crab Creek valley and the ancient massive slide on the north face of Saddle Mountain. Six seismographs fed streams of data to a series of heated needles that recorded every tremble of the earth around the trailer. I had to changed the waxed paper they burned their message onto once a day and then put in a phone call to Colorado to calibrate the clock with the National Bureau of Standards.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, this must have been a heady period for earthquake scientists in the Northwest. Endorsement of the theory of plate tectonics was in its infancy. Continue reading
Posted in Books, Bridges, Columbia Basin, Crab Creek, Disaster, Earthquake, Education, Family History, Frenchman Hill, Geology, Hanford, History, Natural Disaster, Railroads, Saddle Mountain, Science, Speculative History, Transportation, Washington
Tagged Bonnie Henderson, Boulder Creek, Cascadia Fault, Central Washington, Colorado, Crab Creek, Department of Natural Resources, Devil's Mountain Fault, Earthquake Scenarios, Earthquakes, Eastern Washington, Education, Family History, Frenchman Hill, Geology, Hanford Reservation, History, National Bureau of Standards, Nature, Nisqually, North American Plate, Olympia, Oregon, Othello High School, Plate Tectonics, Railroads, Saddle Mountain, Saddle Mountain Fault, Sandi Doughton, Seatac, Seattle, Seattle Fault, Seattle Times, Seismograph, Spokane, Tacoma, University of Washington, Washington, Whidbey Island, WPPSS
This Giant Palouse Earthworm was found on Paradise Ridge near Moscow, Idaho, on March 20, 2010. Photo by Karl Umiker of the University of Idaho. Courtesy of HistoryLink.org.
Soon after Washington State College opened at Pullman in 1892, the Washington State Agricultural Experiment Station kicked into gear under its auspices. Rennie Wilson Doane was appointed Assistant Zoologist. He began research on pests that were killing local sugar beets, gathering enough data that by 1900 he was able to publish a report identifying a new species of root lice, Pemphigus betae Doane, and he researched the use of large Atlantic oysters in the waters of Willapa Bay. His marriage in 1898 to Miss Elnora Cooper at McMinnville, Oregon, was front page news in the Pullman Herald.
Doane’s work kept him moving. As he followed country roads to farms and fields around Pullman, he began to notice what looked like the burrows of gigantic worms, sometimes fifteen to twenty feet down from the surface of hills sliced open by road cuts. Intrigued, he dug up several specimens of a huge earthworm, pickled them in alcohol and sent them to the nation’s leading earthworm expert, Frank Smith, a zoologist teaching at the University of Illinois. He assured Smith that the worms were abundant in the area.
While Smith admitted that Doane’s specimens seemed incomplete, he believed there was enough physical evidence to conclude that the giant earthworms represented a previously undiscovered creature, a giant earthworm. In a paper published in March of 1897 in The American Naturalist, Smith announced the discovery of the worm he named Megascolides americanus. The name was meant to establish a somewhat sketchy connection between the Giant Palouse Earthworm and some truly immense worms from Australia. Continue reading
Posted in Biology, Columbia Basin, Education, History, Science, Washington
Tagged Aphids, Australia, Central Washington, Crop Circle, DNA, Earthworms, Eastern Washington, Ellensburg, Endangered Species Act, Environment, Frank Smith, George W. Bush, Giant Palouse Earthworm, History, Idaho, Invasive Species, Lake Chelan, Nature, Oregon, Oysters, Palouse, Pullman, R.W.Doane, Science, Soil Science, Sugar Beets, UFO, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, University of Idaho, University of Illinois, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, Washington State, Washington State College, Willapa Bay, Yaniria Sanchez-de Leon, Zoology
The meteor explosion over Russia and the unrelated but equally awe-inspiring near miss of the earth by a huge asteroid remind us of the inevitability of space objects colliding with the earth. Disaster movies are a popular genre: one of the favorite video clips in my fifth grade science classroom is one animating the ancient collision between Earth and the planet Thea (but the throbbing, powerful new-age soundtrack clearly contributes to that popularity).
A journalist for the British newspaper The Guardian published a link to a Google map with data for every known meteor strike on Earth, from 2,300 BCE to the present. He erroneously credits the US Meteorological Society for the data…I’m sure it happens all the time. The link actually takes you to the US Meteoritical Society, where I wasn’t able to locate the same map, but there was a ton of information about meteors.
Ellis Hughes and his son pose on the heavy cart they constructed to move the fifteen and a half ton meteorite three quarters of a mile to their own land.
My favorite meteor has got to be the legendary Willamette Meteorite. At 32,000 pounds and composed mostly of iron, with a little nickel, cobalt and phosphorus, this ten-foot long, six-and-a-half foot wide, and four-and-a-quarter foot deep glob of metal balances a heat-polished oval exterior with deeply eroded chambers. But its girth isn’t the big draw. Continue reading
Posted in Astronomy, Bellingham, Education, History, Ice Age flood, Native Americans, Saddle Mountain, Science
Tagged American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), artifact, Canada, Central Washington, Columbia Plateau, Cordilleran Ice Sheet, Earth, Ellis Hughes, explosion, Google, Grande Ronde Tribe, Help End Willamette Meteor Absence Committee (HEWMAC), hematite, History, Ice Age, Impact Earth!, Iowa, Judge C. J. Wolverton, Lake Oswego, Lewis & Clark Exposition, Lime Kiln Park, Macovich Collection, Meteor, meteorite, Missoula Flood, Mrs. William E. Dodge, Myth, NAGPRA, Native Americans, Nature, New York City, North America, Oregon, Oregon Iron and Steel Company, Palouse River, Portland, Purdue University, Representative Les AuCoin, Russia, Sacred, San Juan Island, Senator Bob Packwood, Shrine, Supreme Court of Oregon, The Guardian, Thea, US Meteoritical Society, Vancouver, Washington, West Linn, Willamette Meteorite, Willamette Valley, William S. Ladd
The railroad tracks at Corfu, looking west. The photograph probably dates from around 1934
I did a Google search for Ben Hutchinson recently, and found out that he’s a sports figure of some repute in Europe. This must be a mistake, or I’m way out of touch with sports…which, come to think of it, I am! The man I’m thinking of passed on years ago.
I was a small boy when I first heard about Ben Hutchinson. My family liked to pile into a pickup or a station wagon and take a drive down what we called the Old Corfu Road, or in grandiose moments, the Old Corfu Highway. Along the way we would pass by the rear of the old Danielson Ranch near the banks of Crab Creek. My dad’s abandoned Model T truck was visible as a hunk of rusted machinery sticking up out of the sagebrush. Continue reading
Posted in Columbia Basin, Crab Creek, Education, Family History, Genealogy and Family History, History, Saddle Mountain, Washington
Tagged Adams County, Ben Hutchinson, Big Bend Country, British Columbia, California, Cape Horn, Columbia Plateau, Corfu, Cow Creek, Crab Creek, Dakotas, Douglas County, Ephrata, Fort Colville, Fraser River, George Lucas, Grant County, Grant County Historical Society, Hutchinson Lake, Illinois, Iowa, Kamloops, Kansas, Las Vegas, Lind, Marengo, Moses Lake, Mullan Road, Native Americans, New Mexico, Nez Perces, Northern Idaho, Oakesdale, Old Corfu Highway, Oregon, Oregon Trail, Paha, Palouse, Panama, Pleasant Valley Cemetery, R. J. Neergaard, Railroads, Ritzville, Robert M. Hutchinson, Saddle Mountain, Sam Hutchinson, San Francisco, San Jose, Sheep Springs, Spokane, St. Louis's College, St. Mary's College, Sunnyside, Victoria, Walla Walla, Washington, Yakima, Yakima County
Lower Crab Creek provided water. In Eastern Washington, that was a godsend. Temperatures on the Columbia Plateau routinely soar to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summertime, and rain is scarce. Cleaning irrigation ditches with a shovel west of Othello as a boy, many were the prayers I sent for even one scanty cloud to shield me from the overbearing sun.
The Sinkiuse Indians who lived there before me probably shared my distaste for the relentless sun. But they didn’t have the benefit of a well of cold water I could retire to, an air conditioner that cooled the house when I took a break. They were stuck with the weather the way it was: hot in the summertime, cold in the winter. They took a more basic approach to living on the Columbia Plateau: they stuck close to water, or if that weren’t possible, they found the shortest route from one water hole to the next.
Over centuries of migration and travel, humans developed routes that guided them along the most direct lines of travel from one pool or stream of potable water to the next. Continue reading
Posted in Anthropology, Archaeology, Books, Columbia Basin, Computer, Crab Creek, Family History, Hiking, History, Horses, Ice Age flood, Native Americans, Railroads, Saddle Mountain, Washington, World War II
Tagged Andrew Jackson Splawn, Anthropology, Archaeology, Astor Company, Ben Hutchinson, Beverly, Bridge, British Columbia, Bunchgrass, Burke Museum, Canada, Cariboo Trail, Celilo Falls, Central Washington, Cheat Grass, Chief Joseph, Chief Moses, Chinese, Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, Columbia Plateau, Columbia River, Colville Reservation, Corfu, Corfu Slide, Corfu Switchback, Cow Creek, Coyote Rapids, Crab Creek, Culture, Desert, Eastern Washington, Ellensburg, Environment, Family, Family History, Ferry, Frenchman Hill, Grand Coulee, Highway 26, History, Horses, Hutchinson's Hill, Ice Age, Ice Cave, Immigration, Indians, Kamiakin, Low Gap, Manashtash Ridge, Milwaukee Road, Missoula Flood, Model T, Moses Lake, Mount Adams, Nature, Nez Perce, Okanogan, Oregon, Othello, Perkins Murders, Plateau Indians, Quincy, Railroads, Ranchers, Rattlesnake Springs, Ross Cox, Rustlers, Saddle Gap, Saddle Mountain, Sagebrush, Sam Hutchinson, Seattle, Second World War, Sheriff, Similkameen, Sinkiuse, Taunton, Trails, Vantage, Wahluke, Wanapum, Warden, Washington, Washington State, Washington State Archives, Wenatchee, White Bluffs, World War II, Yakima, Yakima County, Yakima River
My son investigates the sandstone banks that have weathered out of the basalt cliffs on Saddle Mountain.
Rust coats the rails where electric trolleys once pulled passenger trains along Saddle Mountain.
My son enters the upper end of Column Crevice on Saddle Mountain.
This sportive predator was dashing to and fro across the ridge for quite a while.
It’s difficult to capture the scale of this landscape.
As the rest of the mountainside slumped into the flood, this point seems to have resisted.
My grandfather first climbed to the cliffs on Saddle Mountain in the 1920s. He was not the first visitor to a high ledge where soft sandstone is sandwiched between layers of black basalt. Names were carved into the soft rock, dated, gouged deeper on subsequent visits. My father, whose first visit to the cliffs must have been when he was a youngster in the 1920s, introduced the site to his children. Our first visits were made by motor vehicles. Rough trails still exist that can be followed by a truck with high suspension…not that I recommend the method of access. You miss so much when you’re trapped in metal.
My favorite route to the cliffs followed the Milwaukee Road tracks for a mile or so, then veered up the fenceline separating private cultivated land from the BLM sections. After you leave the railroad tracks you start a relentless climb, like going on foot up a mile-long stairway. First you traverse massive slopes of yellow clay, silt that precipitated out of the flood when the waters struck the mountain, slowed and diverted to the east and the west. These banks are composed of countless thin layers. In some places you can find petrified bones, usually blackened vertebrae of fish or small animals. We also found turtle shells and I keep a broken bison bone in my classroom, orange and yellow and imperfectly petrified. Continue reading
Posted in Anthropology, Archaeology, Biology, Columbia Basin, Crab Creek, Family History, Hiking, History, Ice Age flood, Native Americans, Natural Disaster, Philosophy, Railroads, Saddle Mountain, Science, Speculative History
Tagged Andrew Jackson Splawn, Anthropology, Ben Hutchinson, Bison, British Columbia, Canada, Cariboo, Cavalry, Chief Joseph, Chief Moses, Columbia River, Corfu, Coyote, Coyote Rapids, Crab Creek, Crab Creek National Wildlife Refuge, Custer, Desert, Eastern Washington, Education, Environment, Family, Family History, Flood, Fort Okanaga, Fossils, Frenchman Hill, Geology, Golden Eagle, Hanford Reservation, History, Hudsons Bay Company, Ice Age, Ka-Mi-Akin, Low Gap, Milwaukee Road, Native Americans, Nature, Nez Perce, Oregon, Petrified Wood, Railroads, Rattlesnake Springs, Saddle Mountain, Sam Hutchinson, Sincayuse Indians, Smyrna, Taunton, Trails, Trident Missiles, Wagon Roads, Wanapum Dam, Washington, Washington State, White Bluffs, World War II, Yakima, Yakima County, Yakima Firing Range
This article is full of mistaken assumptions, a lesson waiting for recovery beneath the ice of ignorance. For instance, I always assumed that Stevens Pass was named by good old George McClellan, as if he took time out from his trout fishing ever to really explore ways to get across the Cascades when Washington Territory’s first governor (and railroad route scout), Isaac Stevens, ordered him into them hills to locate a pass for a railroad to use. (By the way, if you’re interested in what the fishing was like around Yakima in the 1850s, McClellan’s journal will tell you. McClellan never got far. He glanced at the frowning cliffs above the Tieton River and turned around, reporting that a pass didn’t exist.) I started the article by claiming that a plaque memorialized the Reverend James M. Thomson in the basement Scout Room of St. James Presbyterian Church in Bellingham, Washington. But in a fact checking expedition this weekend, I discovered that I was mistaken: no such plaque exists. Now, I wonder why.
A grainy portrait of Reverend James M. Thomson was found in the 1909 history of the local Presbyterian Synod.
James Thomson was not a Boy Scout, and the Stevens for whom the pass was named was a railroad surveyor working for entrepreneur James J. Hill, whose Great Northern Railroad fearlessly scraped out a series of switchbacks on the faces of seemingly impassible peaks. A bit of fear might have been in order. Continue reading
Posted in Bellingham, History, Natural Disaster, Railroads, Washington, World War I
Tagged Alaska, Avalanche, Belfast, Bellingham, Bodies, Brownsville, Cascade Mountains, Church, Clearbrook, Disaster, Dogsled, Dorothy Koert, Education, Everett, Fairhaven, Fish Lake, Gary Krist, George McClellan, Great Northern Railroad, History, Irish, Isaac Stevens, James H. O'Neill, James J. Hill, Lake Wenatchee, Leavenworth, Lookout, Marcus Whitman, Mary McLeod, Missionary, Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, Oregon, Passengers, Presbyterian, Queen Anne Hill, Reverend James A. Laurie Jr., Reverend James M. Thomson, Reverend James Wilson, Rome, Ruby Hult, Sauk, Seattle, Skagway, Snow, St. James Presbyterian Church, Stevens Pass, Tall Timbers Ranch, Thunder, Tieton River, Trout, Tunnel, Tye, University of Washington, Washington, Washington Territory, Wellington, World War I, Wreckage, Yakima
If I can find the time, one of the things I like to do every evening is practice the fiddle. I’m not good, but I’m getting better. There’s definitely a calming effect from it, like a walk on a mountain trail. I follow a trace left by someone else, but I never see things exactly the way they did. Sometimes I only find cacophony, and other times the effect is ethereal. It’s something that a psychologist could probably analyze with dramatic and devastating results, but I try not to consider the implications of this habit. It is, at least, constructive and it keeps me from being a complete consumer.
While music has had a continuous influence in my own life, I believe it to have had influences throughout the generations since we became Jewish and before. (If you haven’t read my previous posts, you may not understand that comment: the BRCA gene is passed on through some Jewish family lines. Until my close relative was diagnosed with it, my family had no clue that we shared this Jewish heritage. Now we suspect that the gene was introduced through my great-grandmother, Amelie Von Marquet Kuhnhausen.)
The proud owner of a new piano, purchased from a piano wagon out of Portland, Oregon. Photographs of her wedding to Karl (Charles) Kuhnhausen grace the top of the piano. This piano sits in my music room.
In my music room sits an old piano, which joined our family before 1906 (I have a photograph of the Jewish great-grandmother sitting proudly before it, published on a custom postcard which once carried a postmark of that year). The piano doesn’t get much play now. My daughter had been taking lessons on it before she died, and her music sat on the piano for months before I finally cleared it off into the piano bag she used to carry it to town. Now that music stands by the abandoned piano, both of them artifacts of people who have completed their turns on earth. Continue reading
Posted in BRCA, Concertina or Squeezebox, Family History, Fiddle, Genealogy and Family History, Genetics, Germany, Health, History, Immigration, Music, Speculative History, Violin, Washington
Tagged America, Antone Wellenbrock, Argentina, Aunt Schneidler, Band, Baroque, BRCA, CD, Chemnitzer concertina, Chicago, Choir, Church, Concertina, Czech Republic, Dresden, East Europeans, Education, English Concertina, Entertainment, Erfurt, Europe, Family History, Fiddle, Genealogy, Genetics, Glenwood, Grossbreitenbach, Henry Frank Troh, History, Hopf, Hopfgarten, Immigration, Jewish, Johannes Georg Kühnhausen, Klingenthal, Klingenthaler, Kuhnhausens, Luthier, Maneukirchen, Mrs. Geisler, Music, Old Time Fiddlers Association, Oregon, Passion of St. Matthew, Pioneers, Pipe Organs, Psychology, Recordings, Saxony, Speculation, United States, Washington State