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Blue Dot: 1906: The Great Northern California Earthquake Pt. 1

1906 Damage to a home in San Francisco.
Grove Karl Gilbert USGS
1906 Damage to a home in San Francisco.

Host Dave Schlom teams up with scientists from the United States Geological Survey for part one of a two-part in-depth look at the massive earthquake that struck Northern California on April 18, 1906.

The magnitude 7.8 (estimated based on modern examination of seismograms and ground motion accounts) temblor struck in the early morning and coupled with major fires, destroyed 80 percent of the structures in San Francisco.

But the event also helped accelerate the modern science of seismology, which was in a relatively primitive state at the time. Over a century later, there are many lessons to be learned from the 1906 earthquake as well as some unresolved questions.

Dave is joined by USGS geophysicist Susan Hough to look at the historical accounts of the event and what we can glean from them now. Then Dave visits with research geologist Austin Elliott about the tectonics of the earthquake and our modern understanding of faulting on the landscape.

Finally, the aftershocks of major earthquakes like 1906 are discussed with Andrew Michael, a USGS seismologist who also created a unique piece of audio art/music titled "Earthquake Quartet #1."

Dave Schlom is the longtime host and creator of Blue Dot. From surfing to Voyager in interstellar space, rock guitar to orcas in our imperiled oceans, the topics on Blue Dot are as varied as the host’s interests and connections -- which are pretty limitless! An internationally respected space history journalist, Dave is also deeply fascinated by all aspects of the grand workings of nature’s awesome machinery on scales ranging from galactic to subatomic. And topics take in all aspects of the arts and sciences.
Matt Fidler is a producer and sound designer with over 15 years’ experience producing nationally distributed public radio programs. He has worked for shows such as Freakonomics Radio, Selected Shorts, Studio 360, The New Yorker Radio Hour and The Takeaway. In 2017, Matt launched the language podcast Very Bad Words, hitting the #28 spot in the iTunes podcast charts.