Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A story of the ground beneath our feet.

Lake Tahoe is a sublimely beautiful place, comparable to the fjords of Arctic Norway where I spent seven weeks during early 1998. Unlike those gentle bays and valleys, Tahoe is in many ways the product of violent and spectacularly far-reaching geologic forces that continue to reshape the Western Untied States

Seventeen million years ago the West Coast ran in a straight south-easterly line. Then a sticky collision with the northwest-moving Pacific Ocean plate began along a boundary that grew into the San Andreas Fault, deforming the continent's western edge and interior.

The results of that, along with some ice-age glacial sculpting, are rather spectacular.

Someday we'll pay a price for this beauty as the ground beneath us continues to pivot and fault blocks twist and rise, or sink like the one below the lake. However, such motion takes place on a time scale that civilizations can grow and die in several times over, and even after the next major quake humans will rebuild and continue to come here to enjoy what nature has made.

A paddlewheeler having a bad day. The Tahoe Queen looking very much like it was run aground by high winds.

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