Transcript: Simon Winchester on A Crack in the Edge of the World | Feb 04, 2006

Simon Winchester stands at a wooden lectern in a church and addresses a crowd of about 100 people. A picture of his book "A crack in the edge of the world" appears briefly on screen.
Simon is in his fifties, balding and clean-shaven. He's wearing a beige coat over a blue checkered shirt.

He says I WANTED
TO, I'M TALKING TONIGHT ABOUT
THE SAN FRANCISCO EARTHQUAKE OF
1906.
BUT I THINK I HAVE TO MENTION
THE AWFUL TOPICALITY OF THE
STORY, BECAUSE OF THE DREADFUL
EVENTS IN KASHMIR IN, IN THE
LAST MONTH.
MY PUBLICISTS IN NEW YORK OF
COURSE ARE VERY WELL AWARE OF
THE, OF THE EVENTS IN KASHMIR,
AS THEY WERE OF THE EVENTS THAT
HAPPENED A YEAR AFTER I WROTE
THE "KRAKATOA" BOOK, WHICH
FEATURES A TSUNAMI IN IT.
SO THEY'RE NOT DOWN IN NEW YORK
TOTALLY APPALLED WHEN THESE
DREADFUL EVENTS OCCUR, BECAUSE
IT DOES FOCUS PEOPLE'S
ATTENTION ON THEM.
BUT SOMEONE DID SAY TO ME THE
OTHER DAY OR DID, A MEETING AT
HARPER COLLINS.
THEY SAID YOU KNOW WINCHESTER
WRITES ABOUT KRAKATOA AND
THERE IS A TSUNAMI.
HE WRITES ABOUT THE SAN
FRANCISCO EVENT OF 1906 AND
THERE IS AN EARTHQUAKE IN
KASHMIR.
SO NEXT TIME WINCHESTER WRITES
A BOOK, STAY INDOORS.

[Audience laughs]

Simon continues AND I'M,
I'M JUST DELIGHTED THAT YOU
HAVE DECIDED TONIGHT NOT TO DO SO...

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Simon Winchester. Author 'A crack in the edge of the world: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906.' Saint Barnabas Church, Toronto. November 10, 2005."

Simon says AND TO,
AND TO RISK COMING OUT.
BUT I THINK EVERYTHING WILL BE
OKAY TONIGHT...

[Audience laughs]

Simon continues HERE, HERE
IN TORONTO.
UM, SAN FRANCISCO.
SAN FRANCISCO FROM THE
PERSPECTIVE CERTAINLY OF A
EUROPEAN...
AND FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF MOST
AMERICANS IS AN EXTREMELY,
YOUNG CITY.
IT WAS FOUNDED IN, WELL THE
FIRST SETTLER WAS AN ENGLISHMAN
CALLED WILLIAM RICHARDSON WHO
SETTLED THERE IN 1833.
AND LIVED THERE ENTIRELY ALONE
FOR FIVE YEARS, DOING WHAT MUST
HAVE BEEN THE MOST BORING WORK
IN THE WORLD, WHICH WAS BUYING
AND SELLING TALLOW, FROM THE
LOCAL COAST MIWOK INDIANS.
I JUST THINK THE IDEA OF BEING
ALONE IN ALL THAT FOG, I'VE NO
REAL IDEA WHAT TALLOW IS.
BUT ANYWAY BUYING AND SELLING
IT FOR FIVE YEARS WITH NO
COMPANY AT ALL.
BUT THEN IN 1838 SOMEONE JOINED
HIM.
SO THEY WERE ABLE TO DISCUSS
TALLOW AND THINGS LIKE THAT.

[Audience laughing]

Simon continues SO I THINK
THAT THINGS GOT MARGINALLY
BETTER.
AND THE COMMUNITY NEVER REALLY
TOOK OFF.
IT WAS BY THE MID 1840S IT HAD
A NAME.
IT WAS CALLED YERBA BUENA,
WHICH WAS THE NAME OF A WILD
MINT THAT GREW ON THE EASTERN
SIDE OF THIS THUMB SHAPED
PENINSULA, WHICH JUTS NORTH.
ON THE WEST OF IT IS THE
PACIFIC OCEAN AND ON THE EAST
SIDE IS SAN FRANCISCO BAY.
THERE WAS A SMALL, SPANISH
MISSION AND THERE WAS A SMALL
GROUP OF SPANISH AND THEN LATER
MEXICAN SOLDIERS, AND THEN THIS
TINY COMMUNITY OF, OF TALLOW
PEOPLE.

[Audience laughs]

Simon continues AND
EVERYTHING WOULD HAVE PROBABLY
REMAINED MORE OR LESS LIKE
THAT, EXCEPT FOR THE EVENT,
WHICH APPEARED IN JANUARY 1848,
AND WHICH EVERY AMERICAN
SCHOOLCHILD KNOWS ONLY TOO
WELL, IN WHICH CHANGED
EVERYTHING AND THAT WAS THE
DISCOVERY OF GOLD AT SUTTER'S
MILL IN, NEAR SACRAMENTO.
AND WHEN THAT HAPPENED,
SUDDENLY SAN FRANCISCO TOOK
OFF.
PEOPLE CAME FROM ALL OVER THE
WORLD, PRINCIPALLY THE, THE
EAST AND THEY EITHER WENT THE
LONG SEA ROUTE AROUND CAPE
HORN.
OR THEY WENT TO THE ISTHMUS OF
PANAMA AND TOOK MULE TRAINS
ACROSS, AND THEN WENT UP THE
WEST COAST BY BOAT.
OR MOST ARDUOUSLY OF ALL, THEY
CAME BY LAND ACROSS THE
CONTINENTAL UNITED STATES AND
ARRIVED IN SAN FRANCISCO.
AND SUDDENLY THIS VILLAGE TOOK
OFF.
IT EXPANDED WITHIN A YEAR FROM
40 PEOPLE TO 50,000 AND BY
1855, IT WAS, IT WAS 150,000.
BY 1860, 200,000.
BY THE TIME OF THIS TRAGEDY IT
WAS 450,000.
IT WAS AN, AN ESTABLISHED CITY.
BUT IT WAS A CITY, WHICH IS
PEOPLE OF, REMARKED MANY TIMES,
IT WAS A CITY THAT WAS NEVER A
TOWN.
IT WENT STRAIGHT FROM BEING A
TINY VILLAGE INTO BEING A, A
MAJOR METROPOLIS.
AND IT HAD MANY PECULIARITIES,
IT WAS INITIALLY SETTLED ALMOST
ENTIRELY BY MEN.
THESE WERE THE MINERS WHO WOULD
GO UP INTO THE HILLS NEAR
SACRAMENTO TO LOOK FOR GOLD,
IN, IN MOST CASES OF COURSE NOT
FIND IT.
SO THIS COMMUNITY OF MEN WAS,
THEY DIDN'T BRING THEIR
FAMILIES, BUT THEY WERE RAPIDLY
JOINED BY THOUSANDS UPON
THOUSANDS OF WOMEN FROM ALL
OVER THE AMERICAS.
WOMEN OF, I THINK ONE CAN BEST
SAY SOMEWHAT FLEXIBLE MORAL
STANDARDS.

[Audience laughing]

Simon continues I MEAN
FLEXIBLE IN ALL KINDS OF WAYS I
IMAGINE.

[Audience laughs]

Simon continues AND THE,
THE CITY WAS KNOWN IN ITS EARLY
DAYS FOR BEING A NON-STOP
BACCHANALIA.
IT WAS JUST ENORMOUSLY, GOOD
FUN.
IT WAS VERY DIRTY.
THEY BURNED A VERY, CHEAP TYPE
OF COAL, WHICH CAME FROM OREGON
AND WASHINGTON.
SO IT WAS VERY GRITTY, AND IT
WAS VERY MUDDY BECAUSE IT WAS
DUCKBOARDS IN THE STREETS AND
THE SHANTIES WERE VERY SORT OF
UNPLEASANT AND, AND HAULED UP
VERY QUICKLY, AND IT WAS ALL
BROTHELS.
THERE WERE SO MANY BROTHELS.
MY FAVOURITE WAS A, A THOUSAND
ROOM HOTEL, HUGE ESTABLISHED
BUILDING IN NORTH BEACH CALLED
THE HOTEL NYMPHOMANIA.

[Audience laughing]

Simon continues I'VE NO
DOUBT AT ALL ABOUT WHAT WENT ON
THERE.

[Audience laughs]

Simon continues BUT ODDLY
ENOUGH WHAT I LEARNED ON, ON
THE BOOK TOUR, WAS I'VE JUST
BEEN IN SAN FRANCISCO, WAS THAT
THE OWNERS OF THE HOTEL
NYMPHOMANIA, THEIR DESCENDANTS
ARE NOW ON THE BOARD OF THE DE
YOUNG MUSEUM IN SAN FRANCISCO,
WHICH IS THIS INCREDIBLY,
RESPECTABLE, YOU KNOW SILK
STOCKING, HIGH ART MUSEUM.
SO OUT OF BASE DESIRE, CAME
VERY EVIDENT ON THE NIGHT
BEFORE THE EARTHQUAKE, WHICH
WAS TUESDAY THE 17TH OF APRIL,
1906.
AND ON THAT NIGHT...

[Audience laughs]

Simon continues NOTHING
LIKE THAT HAPPENED.
I CAN ASSURE YOU.

[Audience laughing]

Simon continues CARUSO WAS
IN TOWN, SO THERE WAS HIGH
CULTURE.
HE WAS THERE WITH, AS HE CAME,
HE HAD COME FOR THE PREVIOUS
THREE OR FOUR YEARS WITH THE
NEW YORK OPERA.
HE WAS SINGING A VARIETY OF
OPERAS.
"CARMEN" WAS THE ONE THAT WAS
ACTUALLY BEING SUNG ON THE
NIGHT OF THE 17TH.

Simon says JOHN
BARRYMORE WAS IN TOWN.
THE, THE GREAT PROFILE HE WAS
KNOWN.
HE ACTUALLY WASN'T THERE
PERFORMING IN A PLAY.
HE WAS, AND IT'S SORT OF
ILLUSTRATIVE OF THE DICHOTOMY -
ON HIS WAY
TO AUSTRALIA, AND HE STOPPED
OFF IN SAN FRANCISCO
SPECIFICALLY TO PICK UP CHORUS
GIRLS WHO HE LIKED SLEEPING
WITH, AND HE KNEW THERE'D BE A
LOT OF THEM AROUND IN SAN
FRANCISCO.
SO HE WAS THERE FOR FUN.
CARUSO WAS THERE FOR HIGH
CULTURE.
AND THERE WAS A ROLLER DERBY
AND THERE WAS AN ICE SKATING
RINK AND THE, YOU KNOW THE
VAUDEVILLE AND THE BROTHELS
WERE HEAVING THAT PARTICULAR
NIGHT.

[Audience laughs]

Simon continues AND IN, IN
ALL SORTS OF WAYS I IMAGINE.

[Audience laughing]

Simon continues AND, AND
THE RESTAURANTS WERE INCREDIBLY
BUSY.
BUT BECAUSE IT WAS A TUESDAY
NIGHT, THINGS BEGAN TO CALM
DOWN AT ABOUT ONE-THIRTY OR TWO
O'CLOCK.
I THINK CARUSO HIMSELF CALLED
IT A DAY AT ABOUT TWO-FIFTEEN.
HE HAD BEEN AT DELMONICO'S
RESTAURANT I THINK WITH FRIENDS
AND THEN HE HAD GONE BACK TO
THE PALACE HOTEL, WHICH WAS
ANOTHER OF THESE VERY GRAND
SORT OF IMPERIAL STRUCTURES
EQUIPPED WITH WHAT WERE CALLED
RISING ROOMS.
THEY HAD JUST BEEN INVENTED.
THE ELEVATOR JUST TOOK HIM UP
TO HIS SUITE AND HE WAS TUCKED
UP IN HIS LITTLE BED AT ABOUT
THREE O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING.
AND BY THAT TIME THE CITY
REALLY DID QUIETEN DOWN.
THERE WERE TWO OR THREE FIRES
THAT NIGHT AND THE FIRE CHIEF
WHO WAS A MAN CALLED DENNIS
SULLIVAN, PUT OUT THE LAST FIRE
AT ABOUT, JUST AFTER THREE
O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING.
IT WAS A SMALL FIRE IN
CHINATOWN.
AND AS HE GOT INTO BED WITH HIS
WIFE, HE SLEPT IN THE
FIRE STATION ON BUSH STREET HE
REMARKS THAT HE WAS IRRITATED
AT HAVING BEEN KEPT UP SO LATE.
BUT HE DIDN'T LIKE THE FACT
THAT THE WIND WAS SETTING FROM
THE WEST.
WESTERLY WINDS APPARENTLY ARE
NOT GOOD IF THERE ARE ANY
LIKELIHOOD OF FIRES BECAUSE THE
CITY THEN WAS LARGELY BUILT OF
REDWOOD AND PINE, VERY
RESINOUS, VERY FLAMMABLE
MATERIALS.
AND HE JUST DIDN'T LIKE
WESTERLY WINDS.
ANYWAY HE WENT TO BED AND THE
CITY THEN QUIETED DOWN.
NOW I'M NOT GONNA READ YOU A
GREAT DEAL FROM THE BOOK.
BUT I'M GOING TO READ YOU TWO,
LITTLE PASSAGES.
ONE NOW, WHICH I THINK SORT OF
FURTHER EXEMPLIFIES THE MOOD ON
THAT TUESDAY NIGHT.
IT SAID THAT SOME OF THOSE WHO
WALKED HOME LATE OR ROSE
UNUSUALLY EARLY NOTICED THAT A
NUMBER OF ANIMALS IN THE CITY
BEHAVED A LITTLE ODDLY THAT
NIGHT.
THE HORSES IN A LIVERY STABLE
ON POWELL STREET FOR EXAMPLE
SEEMED SKITTISH.
AND IN FIRE STATIONS MEN COULD
BE HEARD BEHIND THE STABLE
DOORS SOOTHING ANIMALS THAT
APPEARED UNDULY RESTLESS.
ONE OF THE BETTER KNOWN FIRST
PERSON ACCOUNTS OF THE
EARTHQUAKE WAS IN THE JUNE 1906
ISSUE OF EVERYBODY'S MAGAZINE,
BY A YOUNG, PARIS BORN AMERICAN
WRITER NAM JAMES MARIE
HOPPER.
HE WROTE OF PASSING A LIVERY
STABLE ON POST STREET, AND OF
HEARING THE OBVIOUSLY UNHAPPY
HORSES INSIDE.
HE ASKED THE STABLE BOY IDLING
AT THE ENTRANCE ABOUT IT.
RESTLESS TONIGHT?
THE YOUNGSTER IS SAID TO HAVE
REPLIED, DON'T KNOW WHY.
THE SUN WAS DUE TO COME UP THAT
WEDNESDAY AT 5:31 A.M. PACIFIC
STANDARD TIME.
THE SKY HAD BEGUN TO LIGHTEN
ABOUT 15 MINUTES BEFORE FIVE,
AND BY THE TIME THE BELLS OF
OLD ST. MARY'S CHURCH IN
CHINATOWN HAD PEELED THE HOUR,
ALL OF THE SKY BEYOND THE HILLS
OF OAKLAND AND LIVERMORE WAS
LIGHTENING FAST, LIMBED WITH
THE PALEST, CLEAREST, EGGSHELL
BLUE.
THE GASLIGHTS THAT HAD
ILLUMINATED THE DESERTED
STREETS DIMMED AND WERE SNUFFED
OUT WITH FAINT, POPPING SOUNDS
AT EIGHT MINUTES PAST FIVE.
AT ABOUT THE SAME TIME AN
UNSEEN, HAND IN A FARAWAY
ENGINE HOUSE, TURNED A CRANK
AND THREW A GIANT LEVER AND
HUGE DRUMS BEGAN TO ROLL.
AND SO BEGAN THE CLANKING GRIND
OF STEEL, STEEL ROPE AND EVER
TURNING STEEL WHEELS, THAT WAS
THEN AND IS NOW ONE OF SAN
FRANCISCO'S MOST HAUNTING AND
EVOCATIVE SOUNDS.
THE CABLE CAR LINES WERE
RUNNING.
ONE BY ONE THEIR CARRIAGES
RUMBLED OUT OF THEIR BARNS,
READY TO HAUL PASSENGERS UP AND
OVER THE CITY'S INNUMERABLE
HILLS.
AND ALSO ONE BY ONE, PEOPLE,
MEN BY AND LARGE BEGAN TO
APPEAR IN THE STILL, HALF, DARK
STREETS.
THESE RATHER EARLY STARTERS
IDLING THEIR SLEEPY WAY TO
THEIR OFFICES OR SHOPS OR
NIGHTSHIFT WORKERS HEADING
WEARILY BACK HOME.
THE SMELL OF BAKING BREAD
MINGLED WITH COFFEE WAS IN THE
AIR, AS WAS THE SMOKE OF EARLY,
COOKING FIRES.
THE BLUE UNIFORMED POLICEMEN
SLOW AND IMPERTURBABLE
PATROLLED THEIR ALLOTTED BEATS.
THE BREEZE WAS WESTERLY BUT
LIGHT.
DAWN WAS UNFOLDING QUIETLY,
SERENELY, ALL WAS PERFECT
PEACE.
WELL THAT PEACE WAS SAVAGELY
INTERRUPTED AT EXACTLY 12
MINUTES PAST FIVE, WHEN FOR
SOME REASON THERE WAS AN
ENORMOUS RUPTURE AT SOME MILES
DOWN BELOW THE SURFACE OF THE
EARTH UNDER THE SEA OF SAN
FRANCISCO.
AND FROM THIS RUPTURE,
SHOCKWAVES SHOT NORTH AND SOUTH
AT SOME THOUSANDS OF MILES AN
HOUR BRINGING DOWN BUILDINGS
AND DOING TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE
DAMAGE TO SAN FRANCISCO.
THE FIRST PERSON THAT WE KNOW -
ACTUALLY
FELT THE QUAKE WAS A LABOURER
CALLED CLARENCE JUDSON, WHO WAS
SWIMMING.
HE SWAM EVERY MORNING.
HE GOT UP AT FIVE O'CLOCK.
HE LIVED ON 47TH STREET...
IN THE
VERY, FAR WEST.
AND HE WOULD GO DOWN TO OCEAN
BEACH, TO THE PACIFIC AND SWIM
AND HE SAID, ALTHOUGH MEMORY
PLAYS TRICKS AFTER CATAS, YOU
KNOW CATASTROPHES LIKE THIS.
HE SAID THAT THE SEA LOOKED
VERY DIFFERENT THAT MORNING.
NORMALLY THE PACIFIC ROLLERS
COME IN WITH A SORT OF
REGULARITY.
BUT ON THIS MORNING THERE WAS A
STRANGE, SORT OF BROKEN, CHOPPY
APPEARANCE TO THE SEA.
ANYWAY, IT DIDN'T STOP HIM
GETTING AND HE STARTED SWIMMING
AROUND, AND THEN SUDDENLY HE
WAS KNOCKED OVER BY AN ENORMOUS
WAVE, WHICH JUST CAME OUT OF
NOWHERE.
AND AS HE TRIED TO PUT HIS FEET
ON THE SAND BELOW IT HAD
DISAPPEARED.
SUDDENLY THE WATER WAS
INCREDIBLY DEEP AND HE WAS
BRIEFLY FRIGHTENED.
HE WAS QUITE A STRONG SWIMMER
THOUGH AND HE TRIED TO SWIM FOR
SHORE.
EVERY TIME HE, HIS FEET TOUCHED
THE BOTTOM, THE BOTTOM SEEMED
TO BE SPIRITED AWAY FROM HIM.
SO HE WAS ALWAYS IN DEEP WATER
AND IT WAS REALLY MOST
PECULIAR, BECAUSE HE WAS COMING
IN TOWARDS THE LAND.
ANYWAY, FINALLY HE, HE GOT ON
HIS HANDS AND KNEES INTO
REALLY, SHALLOW WATER AND
STRUGGLED ASHORE, BEING TOTALLY
BEWILDERED AND TERRIFIED BY
WHAT WAS HAPPENING.
AND AS HE GOT OUT OF THE WATER,
TRIED TO STAND UP BUT HE
COULDN'T, HE SAW THE, UNUSUALLY
IT HAD NEVER HAPPENED TO HIM
BEFORE, HIS BODY WAS COMPLETELY
COVERED WITH PHOSPHORESCENT,
AND WHEN HE THREW THE WATER OFF
HIS FINGERS, PHOSPHORESCENT
TRAILS WOULD APPEAR.
ANYWAY, HE STILL COULDN'T STAND
UP BUT HE TRIED TO MAKE IT TO
WHERE HIS DRESSING GOWN AND HIS
TOWEL AND HIS SLIPPERS WERE.
THEN HE FINALLY MADE IT THERE,
AND EVERYTHING WAS STILL MOVING
AND ROCKING.
AND HE JUST STAYED, STOCK
STILL, COMPLETELY BEWILDERED
UNTIL, UNTIL AFTER A MINUTE AND
A HALF OR SO EVERYTHING QUIETED
DOWN.
BUT MUCH THE SAME KIND OF THING
HAPPENED ALL OVER THE CITY.
AT THE VERY, OTHER SIDE, ON THE
EASTERN SIDE OF THAT PENINSULA,
HE WAS ON THE WESTERN SIDE.
THERE WAS A POLICEMAN.
I THINK HIS OFFICER PLUME AND
HE WAS JUST YOU KNOW ON THE
EMBARCADERO, CHECKING ON
WAREHOUSES, THAT THE LOCKS WERE
ALL CLOSED AND SO FORTH WHEN
SUDDENLY HE HEARD FROM THE
WEST, FROM IN OTHER WORDS WHERE
CLARENCE JUDSON WAS SWIMMING,
AN ENORMOUS, VERY DEEP ROARING
SOUND, AND IT CAUSED HIM TO
LOOK OUT OF COURSE.
AND HE FOUND HE WAS AT THE END
OF WASHINGTON STREET, WHICH IS
ONE OF THE VERY FEW, EAST, WEST
STREETS, WHICH GOES ALMOST ALL
THE WAY FROM THE EMBARCADERO TO
THE OCEAN.
AND HE CLIMBS OVER THE HILLS,
KNOB HILL AND RUSSIAN, AND
PACIFIC HILL, HEIGHTS AND
RUSSIAN HILL.
AND AS HE LOOKED UP THE STREET
IT SEEMED TO HIM, AS IF IT WAS,
AS IF IT HAD BECOME THE SEA
ITSELF.
IT HAD TURNED INTO A GREAT
WAVE.
A GREAT TSUNAMI AS IT WAS OF,
OF, OF CONCRETE.
AND IT WAS GOING UP AND DOWN
AND UP AND DOWN, AND THE
BUILDINGS, THERE WERE A LOT OF
SKYSCRAPERS ON IT, AS PART OF
THIS MAKING SAN FRANCISCO LOOK
RESPECTABLE.
AND THEY WERE TIPPING TOWARDS
HIM AND THEN TIPPING AWAY FROM
HIM AND THEN TIPPING TOWARDS
HIM AGAIN.
AND AS THEY DID SO, BITS OF
THEM, ENORMOUS BITS OF THEM
STARTED CRACKING AND FALLING
OFF, DOMES AND CUPOLAS AND
BELLS AND PIECES OF MARBLE AND
COLUMNS.
AND THEN THE BUILDINGS
THEMSELVES WOULD COLLAPSE, AND
START FALLING INTO THE STREET.
AND THEN CHIMNEYS, THERE'S
HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS OF
CHIMNEYS ALL OVER THE PLACE.
THEY, BECAUSE THEY WERE MADE OF
BRICK STARTED WOBBLING AND THEN
COLLAPSING INTO THE STREETS.
AND THERE WAS A NOISE LIKE AN
ENORMOUS TEARING SOUND, AND HE
LOOKED TO HIS HORROR AND SAW
ALL THE PAVING STONES, ALL THE
COBBLESTONES OF WASHINGTON
STREET WERE JUST RIPPED OPEN.
AND A HUGE GASH STARTED
TRAVELLING ALL THE WAY UP THE
STREET.
AND AT THE SAME TIME ALL THE
UTILITY POLES, SAN FRANCISCO AT
THIS TIME WAS FESTOONED WITH
ELECTRIC WIRES, THEY STARTED
SNAPPING AND THE WIRES FELL TO
THE GROUND.
AND THEY WERE ALIVE WITH
ELECTRICITY OF COURSE, AND HE
SAID THEY LOOKED LIKE SERPENTS
COILING AND UNCURLING, COILING
ON THE GROUND.
AND EVERY TIME THEY TOUCHED
THEY WOULD SET OFF GREAT
VOLCANIC CANNONADES OF SPARKS.
AND THEN FROM THESE, THE RENT
IN THE STREET, THE GAS PIPES
WOULD BREAK, THE GAS PIPES THAT
HAD SUPPLIED THE GAS TO THE
STREETLAMPS.
AND ONCE THESE SPARKS GOT IN
TOUCH WITH THE GAS, SO THE GAS
WOULD SET ON FIRE.
AND FIRES STARTED BREAKING OUT
ALL THE WAY UP THE STREET AND
THEN ALL THE SIDE STREETS,
DOZENS AND DOZENS OF FIRES
ALMOST SIMULTANEOUSLY BROKE OUT
AND THEY COALESCED INTO LARGER
AND LARGER FIRES.
AND EVENTUALLY THEY COALESCED
INTO FIRESTORMS, WHICH GATHER
IN THEIR OWN OXYGEN AND BECOME
SELF-PERPETUATING.
BUT WHEN HE SAW IT, THERE WERE
JUST LOTS OF LITTLE FIRES.
AND THEN THE WATER MAINS ALL
BROKE, AND THERE WERE HUGE SORT
OF GEYSERS OF WATER COMING OUT
OF THE STREETS.
BUT THE OMINOUS THING ABOUT
THOSE IS THAT THE WATER AFTER A
MINUTE OR SO, GUSHING STARTED
TO DIE AWAY, AND HE REALIZED
VERY QUICKLY INDEED, WHAT ALL
OF SAN FRANCISCO WOULD SOON
REALIZE, WHICH IS THAT THE
WATER MAINS HAD RUN DRY.
AND SO THERE WAS NOTHING TO
FIGHT THESE FIRES WITH.
AND THERE'S BEEN A BIT OF A
CONTROVERSY ABOUT WHETHER SAN
FRANCISCO WOULD HAVE BEEN
CAPABLE OF FIGHTING THE FIRES
THAT BROKE OUT AND WHICH RAGED
FOR THE NEXT THREE AND A HALF
DAYS, AND DID A FEARSOME AMOUNT
OF DAMAGE TO THE CITY.
THE CONTROVERSY RAGES OVER WHAT
WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF THE FIRE
DEPARTMENT HAD, HAD A LEADER,
BECAUSE DENNIS SULLIVAN, THE
MAN THAT WENT TO BED WITH HIS
WIFE AT THREE O'CLOCK IN THE
MORNING, HE WAS ONE OF THE
EARLY VICTIMS.
WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM WAS THEY
WERE ASLEEP IN THE THIRD FLOOR
OF THE BUSH STREET FIRE STATION.
NEXT DOOR TO THEM WAS THE
CALIFORNIA HOTEL, WHICH WAS ONE
OF THESE GRAND AND GAUDY
PLACES, COVERED WITH DOMES AND
SPIRES AND CURLICUES AND
THINGS, IT ALL COLLAPSED.
MUCH OF IT FELL ONTO THE ROOF
OF THE FIRE STATION, DRIVING THE
ROOF DOWN ONTO WHERE MR. AND
MRS. SULLIVAN WERE ASLEEP.
DROVE THEM IN THEIR BED THROUGH
TO THE SECOND FLOOR, THE FIRST
FLOOR.
THEN DOWN INTO THE BASEMENT.
HE CRADLED HER IN HIS ARMS, BUT
UNFORTUNATELY WHEN THEY GOT TO
THE BASEMENT THEY FRACTURED A
STEAM PIPE IN THE RADIATOR AND
HE WAS SCALDED TO DEATH WITH
STEAM.
SO, ALL OF A SUDDEN SAN
FRANCISCO'S FIRE DEPARTMENT WAS
LEADERLESS AND SOME PEOPLE HAVE
SAID, THAT HAD THAT NOT
HAPPENED...
SAN
FRANCISCO WOULD HAVE BEEN WELL,
ABLE TO DEAL WITH ITS FIRES.
BUT THE FACT OF THE MATTER IS
THAT SAN FRANCISCO'S FIRE
DEPARTMENT HAD NO WATER, AND
LEADERLESS OR NOT...
A
WATERLESS FIRE DEPARTMENT IS
POWERLESS TO PUT OUT FIRES.
AND THERE IS A POINT TO MAKE
ABOUT THESE FIRES, BECAUSE FOR
MANY YEARS AFTER THE EVENT, AND
IT'S, IT'S SLIGHTLY GETTING
AHEAD OF MYSELF HERE, THE BIG,
COMMERCIAL INTERESTS IN SAN
FRANCISCO TRIED TO ASSERT THAT
WHAT HAD DESTROYED THE CITY WAS
NOT THE EARTHQUAKE.
THAT WAS JUST A MINOR TREMOR.
THE SOUTHERN PACIFIC RAILROAD
COMPANY IS THE PARTICULAR
VILLAIN IN THIS STORY.
IT SAID IT WASN'T AN ACT OF
NATURE THAT HAD CAUSED THIS
CATASTROPHE.
IT WAS A FIRE, WHICH RAGED,
RAGED FOR THREE AND A HALF
DAYS.
AND AS A FIRE IS IN THE GIFT OF
MANKIND TO DEAL WITH, SO SAN
FRANCISCO WAS NOT A RISKY CITY
FOR INVESTORS TO COME BACK TO.
GEOLOGISTS OF COURSE WERE
FURIOUS ABOUT THIS, BUT IT TOOK
A FULL 20 YEARS BEFORE THE
GEOLOGICAL MESSAGE WAS ABLE TO
GET THROUGH THAT THE ULTIMATE
CAUSE OF THE, OF THE DISASTER
IN SAN FRANCISCO WAS NOT THE
FIRE.
THAT WAS SIMPLY ONE OF, ONE OF
THE THINGS THAT HAPPENED AS A
CONSEQUENCE.
THE ULTIMATE CAUSE WAS THE
EARTHQUAKE.
WELL, WHAT I REALLY WANT TO
TALK ABOUT NOW IS, IS THE
REACTION AND AS I SHALL EXPLAIN
IN A MOMENT IT'S REALLY THE
REACTION TO SAN FRANCISCO,
WHICH MAKES IT SO UNUSUALLY
IMPORTANT IN, IN THE HISTORY.
BUT BEFORE TALKING ABOUT THAT
ASPECT OF IT, I WANT TO TALK
ABOUT THE IMMEDIATE REACTION
AND COMPARE IT TO WHAT HAPPENED
AFTER THE DISASTER IN THE GULF
THIS YEAR, WHEN HURRICANE
KATRINA OCCURRED.
AND THE EXTRAORDINARY THING IS
THAT 1906, WHICH WAS A YEAR
LONG BEFORE THE BENEFIT OF CNN,
OR THE WEATHER CHANNEL OR
SATELLITE TELEVISION OR CELL
PHONES AND ALL THAT SORT OF
THING.
THE REACTION WAS MUCH, MUCH
QUICKER, AND MUCH, MUCH MORE
EFFECTIVE THEN THE SHAMBLES
THAT WAS, WHAT DOMINATED THE
EVENTS OF THIS YEAR.
LET ME TRY AND EXPLAIN.
THE, THE ARMY COMMANDER IN SAN
FRANCISCO IN 1906 WAS A, A MAN
I WAS LONG FASCINATED BY AND
INDEED WANTED TO WRITE A BOOK
ABOUT.
HE WAS CALLED ADOLPHOUS
WASHINGTON GREELY, AND THE
REASON I WANTED TO WRITE ABOUT
HIM WAS THAT HE TOOK A BIG
EXPEDITION IN THE 1880S TO
ELLESMERE ISLAND UP IN THESE
PARTS.
THERE WAS, IT WAS A COMPLETE
DISASTER.
THERE WERE ACCUSATIONS OF
CANNIBALISM AND SO FORTH.
BUT HE OVERCAME THEM, HE
SURVIVED.
HE CAME BACK TO AMERICA.
HE FOUND, ONE OF THE FOUNDERS
OF THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
MAGAZINE AND HE DID LOTS OF
EXTRAORDINARY, HEROIC THINGS.
HOWEVER, I SHOULDN'T MENTION
HIM BECAUSE HE'S COMPLETELY
IRRELEVANT TO THIS STORY,
BECAUSE AT THE TIME OF THE
EARTHQUAKE HE WAS AT HIS
DAUGHTER'S WEDDING IN CHICAGO.
AND WHATEVER HAPPENED WAS THE
WORK OF HIS DEPUTY, WHO WAS NOT
A NICE MAN AT ALL.
HE WAS A DREADFUL, DREADFUL MAN
CALLED FREDERICK FUNSTON.
FUNSTON HAD BEEN A COMMANDER
WITH THE AMERICAN ARMY IN THE
PHILIPPINES, AND HE HAD BEEN
BROUGHT BACK AFTER ALL SORTS OF
ALLEGATIONS OF TORTURE AND ILL,
TREATMENT OF PRISONERS, AND IN
FACT A TAKE NO PRISONERS
POLICY.
AND HE WAS BROUGHT BACK UNDER A
TERRIBLE CLOUD OF SCANDAL TO
WASHINGTON, D.C., WHERE HE
ARRIVED IN 1905 AND THOUGHT
THAT HE MIGHT GO IN FOR A
CAREER IN POLITICS, WHICH SEEMS
A SORT OF I SUPPOSE LOGICAL
SORT OF PROG-PROGRESSION...

[Audience laughing]

Simon continues
THOROUGHLY, BAD BEHAVIOUR.
BUT INSTEAD HE WAS DEMOTED AND
SENT OFF TO BE NUMBER TWO IN
SAN FRANCISCO.
BUT HE, WHEN THE TRAGEDY
OCCURRED HE REALLY ROSE TO THE
OCCASION.
HE'S A CLASSIC EXAMPLE OF THAT
YOU KNOW THE, THE ADAGE ABOUT
THERE COMES AN AFFAIR, A TIDE
IN THE AFFAIRS OF MEN, WHICH
TAKING ON THE FLOOD LEADS TO
GREATNESS, BECAUSE HE PERFORMED
INCREDIBLY ABLY.
HE LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE, WAS
WOKEN UP, TOSSED OUT OF BED AT
12 MINUTES PAST FIVE IN THE
MORNING.
REALIZED THAT HE WAS IN CHARGE
BECAUSE THE GENERAL WAS IN
CHICAGO, REALIZED HE WAS IN
COMMAND OF A VERY, LARGE NUMBER
OF SOLDIERS AND SOLDIERS WOULD
PROBABLY BE THE KEY.
SO HE WROTE A NOTE TO HIS
ADJUTANT DOWN AT THE PRESIDIO,
SAYING I NEED SOLDIERS IN LARGE
NUMBERS IN FULL BATTLE GEAR.
HE FOUND A MAN ON A HORSE.
HE SAID TAKE THIS NOTE, RIDE
LIKE THE WIND DOWN TO THE
PRESIDIO AND GIVE, GIVE IT TO
THE ADJUTANT.
WELL, 153 MINUTES AFTER THAT
FIRST SHOCK, TWO COMPANIES OF
AMERICAN FEDERAL SOLDIERS WERE
MARCHING IN FULL BATTLE GEAR
WITH BAYONETS, FIXED WITH
AMMUNITION IN THEIR POUCHES ON
THEIR BELTS.
THERE'S AN INCREDIBLE DISPLAY
OF CONFIDENCE TO A BEWILDERED
AND FRIGHTENED PEOPLE.
THEY MARCHED ROUND ALL THE
FIRES, THROUGH ALL THE RUINS
AND PRESENTED THEMSELVES TO THE
MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO.
THIS ORDER WAS HIGHLY ILLEGAL.
YOU CAN'T JUST CASUALLY TAKE
AMERICAN FEDERAL TROOPS AND
JUST GAYLY GIVE THEM INTO THE
CUSTODY OF THE MAYOR.
BUT THAT'S WHAT FUNSTON THOUGHT
WAS NECESSARY AND HE DID IT,
WITHOUT ASKING ANYBODY FOR
PERMISSION.
WELL, THE MAYOR WHO HE GAVE
THEM TO WAS, AN EQUALLY
UNPREPOSSESSING CHARACTER.
AN ASTONISHINGLY CORRUPT MAN
CALLED EUGENE SCHMITZ.
I MEAN SAN FRANCISCO WAS A SINK
OF CORRUPTION IN THOSE DAYS.
SCHMITZ WAS WHAT WAS HE?
HE WAS A VIOLINIST IN THE CITY
JAZZ BAND.
HE WAS THE PRESIDENT OF THE SAN
FRANCISCO MUSICIANS UNION.
NOT AT ALL THE SORT OF PERSON
YOU'D THINK WOULD RISE TO THE
OCCASION.
BUT LIKE FUNSTON HE DID.
HE SAW THESE SOLDIERS.
HE REALIZED THAT LAW AND ORDER
WAS BEGINNING TO BREAK DOWN AND
HE ISSUED AN ORDER, JUST AS
ILLEGAL AS FUNSTON'S HAD BEEN,
SAYING THANK YOU FOR THE
TROOPS.
AND NOW THEY'RE, THEY'RE AT MY
DISPOSAL SO THEY WILL SHOOT
AND WILL KILL ANY LOOTER
WITHOUT QUESTIONS BEING ASKED.
LOOTING STOPPED IN A MATTER OF
SECONDS.
HE ALSO
SAID, AND HOW HE REALIZED THIS
ONE STILL IS, MARVELS AT.
HE SAID THESE FIRES ARE
COMPLETELY OUT OF CONTROL.
THE ONLY
WAY WE CAN DEAL WITH THEM IS TO
BLOW UP BUILDINGS TO CREATE
FIRE BREAKS, SO I NEED
DYNAMITE.
AND SOLDIERS TEND TO HAVE
THINGS THAT EXPLODE.

[Audience laughs]

Simon continues SO GO, GO
BACK AND GET ME LOTS AND LOTS
OF DYNAMITE.
BUT ALSO WE NEED TO COMMANDEER
A BOAT AND SEND IT OVER TO
OAKLAND ON THE OTHER SIDE OF
THE BAY, WHERE I SUSPECT AND HE
WAS RIGHT, THE CABLES, THE
TELEGRAPH CABLES WOULD STILL BE
WORKING.
THEY WERE ALL DESTROYED IN SAN
FRANCISCO, AND SEND A MESSAGE
OUT TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD SAYING
THIS GREAT CITY HAS BEEN BADLY
HURT IN AN EARTHQUAKE AND LOTS
OF PEOPLE ARE DEAD AND DYING.
AND THAT MESSAGE WAS SENT OUT
AT ABOUT ELEVEN O'CLOCK IN THE
MORNING.
TWO O'CLOCK IN THE AFTERNOON IN
WASHINGTON, WHERE IT WAS
RECEIVED BY THE WHITE HOUSE.
TEDDY ROOSEVELT WAS THE
PRESIDENT, WILLIAM TAFT WAS HIS
SECRETARY OF WAR AND THEY ACTED
JUST LIKE THAT.
THEY SWUNG INTO ACTION, THEY
PERSUADED CONGRESS TO CONVENE
AT FOUR A.M. THE FOLLOWING
MORNING TO PASS ALL THE
NECESSARY ENABLING LEGISLATION
FOR THE FINANCE.
THEY ORDERED HUNDREDS OF
THOUSANDS OF RATIONS TO BE SENT
BY WAGONTRAIN DOWN FROM THE
DAKOTA TERRITORY ARMY BASES.
THEY SENT RELIEF TRAINS.
ONE OF THEM THE LONGEST
HOSPITAL TRAIN EVER ASSEMBLED
IN AMERICA TO BE SENT POUNDING
WESTWARDS OVER THE ROCKY
MOUNTAINS FROM AMERICAN BASES
THAT SAME DAY.
THE FIRST RELIEF TRAIN ACTUALLY
ARRIVED IN SAN FRANCISCO AT
ELEVEN O'CLOCK ON THE NIGHT OF
THE EARTHQUAKE, HAVING COME
DOWN, UP FROM SOUTHERN
CALIFORNIA BUT ON, ON
WASHINGTON'S ORDERS.
WITHIN A WEEK, EVERY SINGLE
TENT THAT WAS IN THE POSSESSION
OF THE AMERICAN ARMY WAS
PITCHED IN SAN FRANCISCO,
PROVIDING EMERGENCY TEMPORARY
HOUSING FOR THE 250,000 PEOPLE
THAT HAD BEEN MADE HOMELESS BY
THIS DISASTER.
WITHIN TWO WEEKS ONE IN TEN OF
THE ENTIRE AMERICAN STANDING
ARMY WAS ON DUTY IN SAN
FRANCISCO.
SO IT WAS AN ASTONISHINGLY,
RAPID RESPONSE AND A HIGHLY
EFFICIENT ONE.
AND TO THE MAJOR ORGANS OF
STATE I SUPPOSE GOES THE CUDOS
IN HISTORY.
BUT I PREFER THE, THE SMALLER,
THE LOWER LEVEL BUREAUCRATS WHO
TOOK ALSO BOLD, DECISIVE
DECISIONS OF THEIR OWN
RECOGNIZANCE, WITHOUT WORRYING
ABOUT THE LEGAL IMPLICATIONS OR
THE BUREAUCRATIC IMPLICATIONS.
MY FAVOURITE WAS A, THE
POSTMASTER GENERAL AT SAN
FRANCISCO WHO WAS A MAN CALLED
ARTHUR FISK, AND HE REALIZED
THAT THE VICTIMS OF THIS
EARTHQUAKE NEEDED MORE THEN
ANYTHING, OR NEEDED AMONG OTHER
ONES TO TELL THEIR LOVED ONES
OF THEIR CONDITION, AND TO DO
SO BY POST.
BUT MANY OF THEM EITHER
COULDN'T AFFORD POSTAGE STAMPS
OR BECAUSE MOST, MANY OF THE
POST OFFICES HAD BEEN DESTROYED
COULDN'T ACTUALLY GET THEM.
AND SO HE ISSUED AN ORDER AND
SENT IT TO ALL THE POSTMASTERS
THROUGHOUT THE SAN FRANCISCO
REGION SAYING QUITE SIMPLY, ANY
LETTER OR CARD MAILED INTO THE
SAN FRANCISCO POSTAL SYSTEM,
CLEARLY COMING FROM THE HAND OF
A VICTIM, AND WHICH DOES NOT
BEAR A STAMP SHALL NOT PASS
UNDELIVERED FOR WANT OF FEE.
IT SEEMED TO ME A WONDERFUL
ILLUSTRATION OF SOMEONE JUST
TAKING THE INITIATIVE.
I MEAN LIKE FUNSTON'S ORDER,
LIKE SCHMITZ' ORDER, ARTHUR
FISK'S ORDER ALSO WAS...
TECHNICALLY ILLEGAL.
BUT HE DIDN'T CARE.
IT WAS THE RIGHT THING TO DO.
AND HOW MUCH BETTER WAS THE
RESPONSE AND RECOVERY IN SAN
FRANCISCO COMPARED TO WHAT
HAPPENED IN KATRINA THIS YEAR,
BECAUSE THE RIGHT PEOPLE
HAPPENED TO BE...
BY
EXTRAORDINARY CHANCE THERE, AND
ABLE TO TAKE THE RIGHT
DECISIONS.
UNLIKE THE MR. BROWN, WHATEVER
HIS NAME WAS WHOSE PREVIOUS
EXPERIENCES I'M SURE YOU ALL
KNOW WAS MANAGING THE
INTERNATIONAL ARABIAN HORSE
ASSOCIATION OR SOMETHING.

[Audience laughs]

Simon continues AND DID
NOT RISE TO THE OCCASION, WAS
MUCH MORE CONCERNED WITH, WITH
ORDERING HIS DINNER AND THAT
SORT OF THING.
THAT HOWEVER IS, IS THE, THE
SHORT TERM REACTION TO WHAT
HAPPENED.
BUT WHAT MADE ME REALLY
INTERESTED IN THIS EVENT AS A,
AS A HISTORICAL EVENT IS THE
WAY THAT HUMANKIND IN GENERAL
REACTED TO MAJOR, NATURAL
CATASTROPHES.
AND SAN FRANCISCO WAS A TIPPING
POINT BECAUSE EVERYTHING
CHANGED.
UP UNTIL SAN FRANCISCO THE
DOMINANT REACTION OF HUMANKIND
TO GREAT, NATURAL CATASTROPHES
WAS THAT THIS MUST HAVE BEEN AN
ACT OF AN ANGRY DEITY.
IT WAS THE WORK OF GOD.
THE CLASSIC EXAMPLE OF THIS IS
THE BIG EARTHQUAKE THAT
DESTROYED LISBON IN 1755.
ALMOST UNIVERSALLY, IN FACT
VOLTAIRE IN "CANDIDE" WAS THE
ONLY PERSON THAT DISAGREED AND
OFFERED A RATIONAL EXPLANATION
FOR WHAT HAD HAPPENED.
EVERYONE THOUGHT THAT THE
DESTRUCTION OF LISBON WAS THE
WORK OF AN ANGRY GOD.
AND SO THE CLASSIC REACTION
THEN OCCURRED, WHICH IS THAT
THE LOCAL ADMINISTRATION
ROUNDED UP ALL THE LOCAL
HERETICS AND, AND BURNED THEM
ALL.
AND IT HAS TO BE SAID THAT
THERE HASN'T BEEN AN EARTHQUAKE
IN LISBON SINCE.

[Audience laughing]

Simon continues AND AS I'M
ENTIRELY IN FAVOUR OF BURNING
HERETICS.
IT OBVIOUSLY IS A, A YOU KNOW
AN ANSWER TO HUMANKIND'S
SEISMIC PROBLEMS.
WELL, MUCH THE SAME KIND OF
THING HAPPENED 130 YEARS LATER,
WITH THE ERUPTION OF KRAKATOA,
WHICH WAS A SUBJECT THAT I
COVERED IN AN EARLIER BOOK.
DIFFERENT DEITY, THIS IS AN
ISLAMIC PART OF THE WORLD,
SUMATRA AND JAVA.
BUT MUCH THE SAME EXPLANATION
WAS OFFERED.
THIS CATASTROPHIC ERUPTION,
WHICH LAID WASTE TO MUCH OF
WESTERN JAVA AND EASTERN
SUMATRA, HAD KILLED 40,000
PEOPLE WAS CLEARLY THE WORK OF
AN ANGRY ALLAH.
AND TO PLACATE HIM SAID THE
LOCAL MULLAHS WHAT YOU HAVE GOT
TO DO IS TO GO OUT AND KILL
DUTCHMEN.
DUTCH, CHRISTIAN, INFIDEL
WESTERNERS WHO WERE RUNNING
JAVA AND SUMATRA AS A COLONY.
AND INDEED THERE WAS SUCH A
REACTION.
THERE WAS A, AT FIRST THERE WAS
A PIECEMEAL REACTION BUT THE
LOCAL MULLAHS SAID NO.
UNDER THE BANNER OF KRAKATOA
LET'S GO AND STAGE A REBELLION,
AND SO A REBELLION BROKE OUT IN
THE 18, 1888.
LOTS AND LOTS OF DUTCH PEOPLE
WERE KILLED, AND THIS WAS
REALLY THE BEGINNING OF THE END
OF DUTCH RULE IN WHAT IS NOW
THE MOST POPULACE ISLAMIC
NATION ON EARTH, THE REPUBLIC
OF INDONESIA.
SO IT IS POSSIBLE TO LINK
THESE, THE RELIGIOUS REACTION
TO A MAJOR, NATURAL
CATASTROPHE, WITH A VERY,
SIGNIFICANT, POLITICAL EVENT,
IN THIS CASE 70 YEARS LATER.
AND ODDLY ENOUGH, ONE CAN DRAW
A SIMILAR PARALLEL WITH SAN
FRANCISCO, EVEN AS I SHALL TRY
AND EXPLAIN, SAN FRANCISCO WAS
THE MOMENT WHEN EVERYTHING
TIPPED, BECAUSE THERE WAS A
RELIGIOUS REACTION TO SAN
FRANCISCO.
AND IF ONE WANTS TO BE
MISCHIEVOUS, AND IT HELPS IF
ONE IS A FOREIGNER TO BE ABLE
TO DO THIS IN AMERICA.
YOU CAN DRAW POLITICAL
CONCLUSIONS FROM WHAT HAPPENED
IN SAN FRANCISCO, IF I CAN
EXPLAIN THE RELIGIOUS REACTION.
IN ABOUT 1904 THERE WAS A
SUDDEN UPSURGE IN KANSAS AND
WEST TEXAS OF A NEW KIND OF
CHARISMATIC, VERY ENTHUSIASTIC
CHRISTIANITY, IN WHICH IT WAS
SAID THAT GOD MANIFESTED HIM
SELF BY THE EXTRAORDINARY
REACTION OF MEMBERS OF THE
CONGREGATION.
PEOPLE WOULD LOSE CONTROL OF
THEIR MUSCLES, WOULD FOAM AT
THE MOUTH, WOULD ROLL ABOUT,
HOLY ROLLERS, THAT'S WHERE IT
ALL, ALL CAME FROM.
OR WOULD MOST SIGNIFICANTLY
SUDDENLY START SPEAKING IN
TONGUES.
THEY WOULD EITHER START
UTTERING GIBBERISH, WHICH IS
CALLED GLOSSANALIA, OR SPEAK
PERFECTLY FLUENTLY, LANGUAGES
OF WHICH THEY HAD LITTLE TO NO
KNOWLEDGE AND THAT'S CALLED
XENALALIA.
AND THERE WERE A LOT OF THESE
OUTBREAKS IN PLACES LIKE
TOPEKA, AND AMARILLO AND
LAREDO, OF PEOPLE IN CHURCHES
UNDER THE GUIDANCE OF THESE
PASTORS SUDDENLY SPEAKING
FLUENT ROMANIAN OR PUTON,
CHINESE OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT
AND THIS WAS TAKEN AS SELF-
EVIDENTLY A DEMONSTRATION THAT
THE LORD WAS VERY ACTIVE, AND
THESE CHURCHES BECAME HUGELY
POPULAR.
THEY DIDN'T TEND TO SPREAD VERY
MUCH TO THE SOMEWHAT MORE
SKEPTICAL EAST, BUT THEY DID
START SPREADING WEST, AND THEY
IN 1905, YOU GET INDICATIONS OF
THESE CHURCHES SPRINGING UP IN
SOUTHERN UTAH AND SOUTHERN
COLORADO, NEW MEXICO, ARIZONA.
AND IN EARLY 1906 THE FIRST OF
THESE CHURCHES OPENED IN
CALIFORNIA, IN AND I SUPPOSE
ONE WOULDN'T BE SURPRISED TO
REALIZE IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA.
IT WAS SPECIFICALLY IN LOS
ANGELES, WHICH BY THEN WAS A
CITY OF ABOUT 40,000 PEOPLE AND
MOST SPECIFICALLY IN A LITTLE
STREET, WHICH TO STUDENTS OF
THIS PARTICULAR TYPE OF
RELIGION HAS BECOME ENORMOUSLY
IMPORTANT.
THE STREET IS CALLED AZUSA
STREET, AND THE AZUSA STREET
REVIVAL IS TAKEN AMONG
AMERICANS FUNDAMENTALIST
CHRISTIANS AS BEING A VERY,
VERY IMPORTANT MOMENT.
WHAT HAPPENED WAS THIS.
THE CHURCH ESSENTIALLY OPENED
ON SUNDAY THE 15TH OF APRIL,
1906.
THE PASTOR WHO CAME, IT WAS A
MAN CALLED PARUM WHO CAME FROM
WEST TEXAS, STOOD UP AT A
LECTERN MUCH LIKE THIS.
THIS IS RATHER PECULIAR.
IN SORT OF A RERUN PLEASE NO
ONE BEHAVE AS, AS...

[Audience laughs]

Simon continues I'M GOING
TO DESCRIBE.
AND HE TALKED ABOUT THIS CHURCH
AND ON CUE, PEOPLE STARTED
FLAILING ABOUT...
AND
FOAMING AT THE MOUTH AND
SPEAKING BULGARIAN AND THINGS,
AND THIS WAS TAKEN AS A SIGN
THAT CLEARLY YOU KNOW THE LORD
WAS, WAS WORKING.
BUT HE SAID...
BUT THERE
IS GOING TO BE A MAJOR
MANIFESTATION IN THE NEXT FEW
DAYS.
I CAN'T TELL YOU WHAT IT IS,
BUT I KNOW THE LORD IS GOING TO
SEND THE SIGN.
THERE WAS A REPORTER THERE FROM
THE LOS ANGELES TIMES AND IN
THE MONDAY'S PAPER, MONDAY THE
16TH OF APRIL, 1906, THERE WAS
A SMALL REPORT SAYING PASTOR
PREDICTS SIGN FROM GOD IN NEW
CHURCH IN AZUSA STREET.
TWO DAYS LATER, THE MOST SINFUL
CITY IN ALL OF AMERICA WAS
DESTROYED IN A MINUTE AND A
HALF OF GROUND SHAKING AND THE
OUTBREAK OF A FIRE, WHICH RAZED
FOR THE NEXT, RAGED FOR THE
NEXT THREE AND A HALF DAYS.
THE FOLLOWING SUNDAY, 10,000
PEOPLE TURNED UP AT THAT
CHURCH.

[Audience laughing]

Simon continues AZUSA
STREET WAS A RIOT.
POLICE HORSES HAD TO BE BROUGHT
IN TO CONTROL THE CROWDS.
THE CHURCH ITSELF WAS NEARLY
DESTROYED, SO MANY PEOPLE
CLIMBING UP ON THE VERANDA TO
HEAR THE PASTOR, THE REVEREND
PARUM WITH AN OBVIOUSLY
SOMEWHAT SMUG EXPRESSION ON HIS
FACE...

[Audience laughs]

Simon continues SAY
ESSENTIALLY, THERE, I TOLD YOU
SO.

[Audience laughs]

Simon continues AND WITH
THAT IN ESSENCE, IT'S NOT
ENTIRELY ACCURATE.
I MEAN IT'S A MUCH MORE
COMPLICATED STORY THEN THIS.
BUT IN ESSENCE WAS BORN THE
PENTECOSTALIST MOVEMENT IN THE
UNITED STATES.
AND THE PENTECOSTAL MOVEMENT
HAS BEEN THE, THE SPINE OF THE
FUNDAMENTALIST CHRISTIAN
MOVEMENT, WHICH STILL EXISTS OF
COURSE IN AMERICA TO THIS DAY
AND HAS GIVEN US SUCH
INTELLECTUAL GIANTS AS JIMMY
SWAGGART AND TAMMY FAYE BAKER -


[Audience laughing]

Simon continues AND PAT
ROBERTSON AND THE 700 CLUB.
AND OF COURSE, AND THIS IS
WHERE ONE CAN GET MISCHIEVOUS
ABOUT IT, AND THESE WERE THE
PEOPLE WHO KARL ROVE MANAGED TO
WINKLE 4,000,000 OF THEM OUT OF
THEIR CHURCH BASEMENTS A YEAR
AND A HALF AGO, TO GIVE US THE
SECOND GEORGE BUSH
ADMINISTRATION.

[Audience laughing]

Simon continues SO ONE CAN
SAY, NOW THAT I'VE GOT MY GREEN
CARD IT'S EASIER TO SAY IT.

[Audience laughing]

Simon continues ONE CAN
SAY THAT SAN FRANCISCO AND THE
RELIGIOUS REACTION TO THE
EARTHQUAKE LED TO THE BUSH
ADMINISTRATION.

[Audience laughing]

Simon continues HOWEVER,
HOWEVER AND IT'S A VERY
IMPORTANT HOWEVER, THE
RELIGIOUS REACTION TO SAN
FRANCISCO FOR THE FIRST TIME
EVER IN WORLD HISTORY WAS NOT
THE MAJOR REACTION.
THE MAJOR REACTION WAS A
RATIONAL REACTION.
IT WAS DECIDED THAT THIS WASN'T
AN ACT OF GOD.
THIS WAS AN ACT OF NATURE AND
WE HAVE TO FIND OUT WHAT IT WAS
THAT OCCURRED BELOW THE SURFACE
OF THE EARTH, THAT CAUSED THIS
DISASTER.
AND INSTEAD OF UNLEASHING THE
CLERGY ON THE PROBLEM, WE WILL
UNLEASH THE SCIENTISTS.
AND SO SPECIFICALLY, WITHIN 48
HOURS THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
APPOINTED THE CALIFORNIA
EARTHQUAKE COMMISSION UNDER THE
LEADERSHIP OF A VERY,
DISTINGUISHED GEOPHYSICIST
CALLED ANDREW LAWSON AND HE
BEGAN TO INQUIRE INTO THE
EVENT.
AND ONE OF THE THINGS HE
DISCOVERED THAT'S SORT OF
TERRIBLY IMPORTANT IN THE
STORY.
HE WENT LOOKING FOR THOSE
PLACES IN AND AROUND SAN
FRANCISCO THAT HAD SUFFERED THE
GREATEST AMOUNT OF GROUND
DISPLACEMENT.
PERHAPS MANY OF YOU AS TOURISTS
OR VISITORS HAVE GONE TO THAT
LITTLE TOWN CALLED OLEMA, NORTH
OF SAN FRANCISCO WHERE THERE'S
A FARMER FENCE THAT HAS BEEN
DISPLACED 21 FEET BY THE EVENT
OF 1906.
THE EARTH SHIFTED HUGE AMOUNTS
IN CERTAIN PLACES DUE TO THAT
EARTHQUAKE.
AND HE NOTICED THAT THE PLACES
WHERE THE GROUND SHIFTED MOST
DRAMATICALLY TENDED IN THE
SOUTH OF SAN FRANCISCO, TO BE
CONCENTRATED IN A VALLEY.
A VALLEY, WHICH HAS A LAKE IN
IT CALLED THE CRYSTAL SPRINGS
LAKE, AND A VALLEY, WHICH IS
UNCANNILY STRAIGHT.
INSIDE THAT VALLEY THE
DISPLACEMENT OF THE GROUND WAS
EXTREMELY LARGE.
THIS VALLEY WAS DISCOVERED IN
1757 BY A SPANISH EXPLORER WHO
NAMED IT ON THE 30TH OF
NOVEMBER THAT YEAR, AND HE
NAMED IT AFTER THE FEAST DAY OF
THE SAINT WHOSE DAY IS
CELEBRATED ON THE 30TH OF
NOVEMBER, SAINT ANDREW.
IT'S THE VALLEY THE SAN
ANDREAS.
ANDREW LAWSON PLOTTED THOSE
DISTORTIONS ALONG THAT LINE,
THROUGH SAN FRANCISCO CITY
ITSELF AND UP NORTH, IN AN
EVENTUALLY STRAIGHT LINE.
THROUGH OLEMA WHERE THE
FARMER'S FIELD, FENCE WAS
DISORTED, THROUGH BOLINAS AND
BODEGA BAY AND UP NORTH TO, ALL
THE WAY THROUGH FORT BRAGG TO
MENDOCINO.
AND THE LINE ALMOST STRAIGHT,
WHICH WENT DOWN THE COAST OF
CALIFORNIA AND THEN TURNED INTO
THE EAST OF LOS ANGELES, HE
DECIDED WAS A FORT, AND THAT HE
WOULD NAME IT AFTER THE VALLEY
THE SAN ANDREAS FAULT.
SO THAT IS THE CRUCIAL ENGINE
WORK THAT DRIVES ALL
ESSENTIALLY OF THE MISCHIEF
THAT OCCURS, THE SEISMIC
MISCHIEF THAT OCCURS IN
CALIFORNIA.
AND IT SET PEOPLE THINKING.
WHY DO THESE FAULTS OCCUR?
WHAT ARE THEY?
WHAT LIES BEHIND THEM?
AND IT TOOK UNDER THE GUIDANCE
OF ORGANIZATIONS LIKE THE
SEISMOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF
AMERICA, WHICH WAS SET UP IN
1906 AFTER THE EARTHQUAKE, IT
TOOK ABOUT 60 YEARS.
AND AS I'M SURE ALL OF YOU IN
THIS HALL KNOW ONLY TOO WELL
THE PERSON THAT FINALLY CAME UP
WITH THE ANSWER AS TO WHAT
THESE THINGS ARE AND WHY
EARTHQUAKES HAPPEN AND WHY
VOLCANOES OCCUR WAS A CANADIAN,
AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO,
JAY TOUSSEAU WILSON.
A MAN WHO MORE THEN ANYBODY
ELSE IN THE HISTORY OF THIS
SCIENCE DESERVES A BIOGRAPHY,
DESERVES ACCOLADES, DESERVES TO
BE REMEMBERED.
TOUSSEAU
WILSON REALLY IS THE FATHER OF
THE SCIENCE THAT EVERYONE NOW
KNOWS ANSWERS ALL THESE
QUESTIONS, THE SCIENCE OF PLATE
TECTONICS.
1965, IT'S
A VERY, MODERN SCIENCE AND
YOU'RE ALL GONNA BE RELIEVED.
I'M NOT GONNA GIVE YOU A
LECTURE ON PLATE TECTONICS.

[Audience laughs]

Simon continues BUT I AM
GOING TO MENTION FOUR THINGS,
OR JUST VERY, VERY BASIC
THINGS.
THE WORLD IS MOLTEN IN ITS CORE
AND IT SENDS OFF MUCH LIKE
OATMEAL BUBBLING IN A POT, ONLY
THE POT IS CYLINDRICAL AND THE
WORLD IS SPHERICAL, CONVECTION
CURRENTS, WHICH RISE AND FALL.
ON THE SURFACE OF THE EARTH,
THIS THIN CRUST, THERE ARE
BETWEEN 20 AND 30 ENORMOUS
PLATES, WHICH UNDERLIE THE
CONTINENTS OR WHICH UNDERLIE
THE OCEANS.
AND UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF
THESE CONVECTION CURRENTS
THEY'RE ALL MOVING LIKE ICE
FLOES, JOSTLING AGAINST EACH
OTHER.
AND THEY DO THINGS, THEY
INTERACT WITH EACH OTHER IN
FOUR DISTINCT WAYS.
EITHER THEY COLLIDE WITH EACH
OTHER HEAD ON, WHEN THAT
HAPPENS AND THAT'S WHAT
HAPPENING AT THE MOMENT IN
KASHMIR.
WE HAVE THE INDIA PLATE, WHICH
IS MOVING NORTHWARDS AS IT HAS
BEEN DOING FOR THE LAST
200,000,000 YEARS AT 46
MILLIMETRES A YEAR.
IT'S SLIGHTLY TWISTING ITSELF
ANTI-CLOCKWISE AS IT DOES SO,
BUT IT IS MOVING NORTHWARDS,
AND FOR THE LAST 50,000,000
YEARS IT HAS BEEN HITTING THE
EURASIAN PLATE.
AND RATHER LIKE TWO FREIGHT
TRAINS ON A SINGLE LINE HITTING
EACH OTHER, EVERYTHING RISES UP
IN THE MIDDLE.
AND WHAT'S RISING UP WHERE THE
INDIA PLATE HITS THE EURASIAN
PLATE IN THE MOUNTAIN CHAINS,
THE HIMALAYAS, THE KARAKORUM,
THE HINDU KUSH, THE PANEAS.
AND EVERY TIME THEY ARE CREATED
A LITTLE BIT MORE THERE'S AN
EARTHQUAKE.
THIS IS A CLASSIC, PLATE
BOUNDARY.
A VERY, VERY DANGEROUS PART OF
THE WORLD IN WHICH TO LIVE AND
PEOPLE WHO LIVE THERE DIE
BECAUSE THEY ARE UTTERLY,
INSIGNIFICANT TO THE COOL
INDIFFERENCE OF THE EARTH,
WHICH KEEPS ON MOVING NO MATTER
WHAT.
ANOTHER THING THAT PLATES CAN
DO IS THAT ONE CAN DIVE UNDER
ANOTHER ONE, RATHER LIKE IF
THEY ARE DIFFERENT WEIGHTS.
RATHER LIKE AN SUV COLLIDING
WITH A VOLKSWAGEN IN A FREEWAY
COLLISION, ONE SMOOCHES ITSELF
UNDERNEATH THE OTHER.
WHERE THAT OCCURS, AND IT'S
OCCURRING OFF THE STATES OF
WASHINGTON AND OREGON.
IT'S OCCURRING OFF JAVA AND
SUMATRA YOU GET WHAT'S CALLED A
SUBDUCTION ZONE AND YOU GET
VOLCANOES.
WHERE PLATES ARE PULLING APART
FROM ONE AND OTHER, YOU GET A
SORT OF GENIAL OOZING OF THE
EARTH'S INTERIOR COMING OUT TO
THE SURFACE.
YOU GET HYDROTHERMAL POWER
STATIONS.
YOU GET GEOTHERMAL WELLS, YOU
GET ICELAND IN SHORT.
ICELAND IS A CLASSIC EXAMPLE OF
A PART OF THE WORLD WHERE
PLATES ARE PULLING APART FROM
ONE AND OTHER.
AND IN THE FOURTH MANIFESTATION
YOU GET PLATES THAT ARE GIVING
EACH OTHER SIDE, SWIPE LIKE
THAT.
MOVING THE ONE PAST TO ANOTHER
AND GRINDING ONE AGAINST THE
OTHER ONE.
THAT IS WHAT IS HAPPENING IN
CALIFORNIA.
WE ALL LIVE HERE ON THE NORTH
AMERICA PLATE.
THE SAN ANDREAS FAULT MARKS THE
DIVISION, THE BOUNDARY BETWEEN
THE NORTH AMERICA PLATE AND ITS
WESTERN NEIGHBOUR, WHICH IS THE
PACIFIC PLATE, WHICH UNDERLIES
ALL OF THE PACIFIC OCEAN,
JAPAN, NEW ZEALAND, HAWAII, ALL
THE REST OF IT, THAT PLATE MUCH
LIKE THE INDIA PLATE IS MOVING.
IT IS MOVING NORTHWARDS AT AN
INCH AND A HALF EVERY YEAR,
SCRAPING PAST THE NORTH AMERICA
PLATE, EXCEPT IN NORTHERN
CALIFORNIA AND UNIQUELY IN
NORTHERN CALIFORNIA BECAUSE THE
TWO PLATES ARE PRESSED SO
TIGHTLY TOGETHER, THAT DESPITE
ALL THE EFFORT TO MOVE AN INCH
AND A HALF A YEAR NORTHWARDS,
IT CAN'T.
IT'S RATHER LIKE A RUST ON A
CAR'S BRAKE PAD.
IT CAN'T MOVE, IT CAN'T MOVE,
UNTIL SUDDENLY AFTER MAYBE 100
YEARS OR SO WHEN THE
ACCUMULATED STRESS BECOMES JUST
INTOLERABLY GREAT, IT GIVES.
THAT MOMENT OF GIVING IS THE
EARTHQUAKE.
THAT'S WHY YOU GET EARTHQUAKES
IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA.
NOW, THE HOLY GRAIL OF ALL THE
PEOPLE THAT ARE STUDYING PLATE
TEC-TECTONICS AND HAVE BEEN
STUDYING EARTHQUAKES SINCE
ANDREW LAWSON BEGAN IN 1906, IS
CAN WE PREDICT THESE THINGS?
CAN WE WARN HUMANKIND THAT
THESE ARE LIKELY TO HAPPEN?
SCIENCE NOW ALLOWS US TO
PREDICT, AS WE KNOW ONLY TOO
WELL AFTER THIS SUMMER,
HURRICANES, THESE, MAJOR,
CLIMATIC EPISODES.
TO A VERY, LARGE EXTENT WE CAN
PREDICT VOLCANOES.
I MEAN YOU REMEMBER GOVERNOR
DIXIE LEE RAY IN WASHINGTON,
CLEARING OUT THE AREA AROUND
MOUNT ST. HELEN'S.
SO THAT WHEN ULTIMATELY IT DID
ERUPT ON THE 18TH OF MAY, 1980,
IT KILLED ONLY 60 PEOPLE.
IT WOULD HAVE BEEN CATASTROPHIC
IF WE HADN'T HAD WARNING.
BUT EARTHQUAKES WERE A
DIFFERENT MATTER.
STILL NOTHING HAS HAPPENED,
DESPITE EXTRAVAGANT CLAIMS FROM
PEOPLE ALL OVER THE WORLD THAT
THEY CAN, NOTHING SO FAR IS
INDICATIVE OF AN EARTHQUAKE
ABOUT TO HAPPEN.
EXCEPT, CERTAIN YEARS IT TURNS
OUT SEEM TO BE MUCH MORE
SEISMICALLY ACTIVE THEN OTHERS.
AND THIS IS GIVING RISE TO A
FIELD OF INTEREST, WHICH IS
BROADLY KNOWN AS TRIGGER
SEISMICITY.
IF I CAN GIVE YOU AN
EXPLANATION OF WHAT'S HAPPENING
TODAY, WE'RE LIVING SO IT SEEMS
IN A VERY, VERY ACTIVE SEISMIC
TIME IN PLANETARY HISTORY.
IT BEGAN ON THE 26TH OF
DECEMBER, 2-DOUBLE-O-3.
IF YOU REMEMBER BOXING DAY, 2-
DOUBLE-O-3 THERE WAS AN
ENORMOUS EARTHQUAKE, WHICH
DESTROYED A CITY IN WESTERN
IRAN CALLED BAM.
THAT OCCURRED ONE YEAR LATER TO
ALMOST AN HOUR, TO 57 MINUTES
SHY OF AN HOUR ON THE 26TH OF
DECEMBER, 2-DOUBLE-0-4, THERE
WAS THE SUBMARINE EVENT
FANDACE, WHICH CAUSED WHAT IS
ALMOST CERTAINLY GOING TO BE
THE LARGEST CATASTROPHE THAT
ANY OF US WILL KNOW IN ANY OF
OUR LIFETIMES.
285,000 PEOPLE DIED IN THE
TSUNAMIS THAT WERE GENERATED BY
THAT.
BETWEEN
THOSE TWO BOOKENDS OF CALAMITY,
IF ONE CAN CALL THEM THAT,
THERE WERE AN ENORMOUS NUMBER
OF EVENTS.
THERE WERE EARTHQUAKES IN
CHINA, JAPAN, NEW ZEALAND,
SOUTH AMERICA, MOUNT ST.
HELEN'S WAS ACTIVE.
THERE WAS
A 6.0 IN CALIFORNIA AND IT'S
STILL GOING ON TODAY.
I THINK ONE CAN SAY THAT WHAT
HAPPENED KASHMIR A MONTH AGO IS
PART OF THIS PATTERN.
WE DON'T KNOW WHAT CAUSED THE
INITIAL EARTHQUAKE THAT
DESTROYED THE CITY OF BAM.
BUT IT SEEMS AS IF IT WAS
RATHER LIKE HITTING A GREAT,
BIG, BRASS BELL WITH AN
ENORMOUS CLAPPER.
AS IF THE WORLD TURNED INTO
THAT BRASS BELL AND IT'S BEEN
VIBRATING EVER SINCE.
AND ALL ALONG THE PLATE
BOUNDARIES, ALL OVER THE
PLANET, OTHER EARTHQUAKES OCCUR
SYMPATHETICALLY, MAYBE
THOUSANDS, TEN, 15,000, MILES
AWAY.
SOMEHOW SYMPATHETIC, BECAUSE
THE WORLD IT'S BEGINNING TO
SEEM IS MUCH MORE INTIMATELY
CONNECTED, THE ONE PART WITH
ANOTHER, TECTONICALLY THEN WE
EVER SUPPOSED.
AND THIS SAME THING SEEMS TO
HAVE HAPPENED IN 1906.
IF WE THINK OF 1906 AT ALL, WE
THINK OF THE SAN FRANCISCO
EVENT.
BUT IN FACT THAT TOO, WAS A
VERY, VERY ACTIVE TIME
SEISMICALLY.
IT BEGAN DECEMBER 1905, WITH A
BIG SERIES OF EARTHQUAKES IN
KASHMIR JUST LIKE TODAY'S.
THEN THERE WAS AN EARTHQUAKE,
WHICH KILLED TWO AND A HALF
THOUSAND PEOPLE ON THE
COLOMBIA, ECUADORIAN BORDER IN
JANUARY.
THEN THERE WAS AN EARTHQUAKE IN
SALUCIA, IN THE CARIBBEAN.
THEN ONE IN A PLACE CALLED
SHAMAKA IN THE CORCOSES.
THEN 8,000 PEOPLE DIED IN
FORMOSA, TAIWAN TODAY.
THEN VESUVIUS BEGAN ERUPTING TO
CARUSO'S GREAT CONSTERNATION,
HE NEARLY WENT BACK THERE.
IT STOPPED ERUPTING ON THE 17TH
OF APRIL THAT TUESDAY.
THE NEXT DAY CAME THE SAN
FRANCISCO EVENT AND THEN AS IF
THAT WASN'T ENOUGH, 21,000
PEOPLE DIED WHEN VALPARAISO IN
CHILE WAS DESTROYED IN AUGUST.
SO ONCE AGAIN WE'RE NOT SURE
WHY THAT INITIAL EVENT OCCURRED
IN KASHMIR IN CHRISTMAS TIME,
1905.
BUT IT SEEMS POSSIBLE THAT IT
SET THE WHOLE WORLD RINGING,
AND THAT IN PLATE BOUNDARIES
ALL OVER THE WORLD THERE WERE
SYMPATHETIC EVENTS.
SO THAT IS NO WAY TO SUGGEST
THAT WE'RE BECOMING ABLE TO
PREDICT THINGS.
BUT AT LEAST IT'S GIVING AN
INDICATION THAT, THAT FIRST
EARTHQUAKE MIGHT AT LEAST SAVE
THE PEOPLE WHO WERE INCAUTIOUS
ENOUGH TO LIVE ON PLATE
BOUNDARIES, WATCH OUT FOR THE
NEXT YEAR OR SO BECAUSE YOU MAY
BE NEXT.
BUT I WANT TO RIP, WRAP THIS UP
BY JUST OFFERING TWO THOUGHTS.
THE FIRST IS AND I DON'T MEAN
TO SAY THIS IN WHAT ANY SENSE,
A, A CONDESCENDING SENSE.
BUT IN MATURE COUNTRIES IN THE
WORLD, IN THE OLD COUNTRIES OF
EUROPE AND ASIA, OUR BIG CITIES
ARE GENERALLY SPEAKING WHERE
THEY ARE BECAUSE THEY WERE
BUILT IN THE RIGHT PLACES.
AND SO LONDON, PARIS, BERLIN,
MOSCOW, CAIRO, PEKING, THEY'RE
THOUSANDS OF YEARS OLD AND
THEY'RE THERE BECAUSE THEY'RE
IN RELATIVELY SEISMICALLY
STABLE PARTS OF THE WORLD NOT
AFFLICTED BY GREAT EXTREMES OF
WEATHER.
BUT THESE SAME MATURE COUNTRIES
ARE ALSO LITTERED WITH THE
RUINS OF CITIES THAT WERE
BUILT, WHERE THEY SHOULDN'T
HAVE BEEN BUILT IN THE FIRST
PLACE.
PLACES LIKE POMPEII AND
HERCULANEUM AND PETRA AND
ILIOPILIS...
AND IUTIA.
AND WE AS TOURISTS GO AND LOOK
AT THESE PLACES.
WE LOOK AT THE RUINS.
RUINS ARE PART OF OUR NATIONAL
INHERITANCE REALLY.
WE LOOK AT
THEM AND WE'RE IN AWE, AND WE
SAY ISN'T IT REMARKABLE THAT
PEOPLE BUILT THESE GREAT
PALACES AND STRUCTURES AND
CITIES, AND WE DON'T PERHAPS
THINK TOO MUCH WHY THE PLACES
ARE RUINED.
WE JUST ACCEPT RUINS FOR WHAT
THEY ARE.
BUT AMERICA IS A COUNTRY
WITHOUT ANY RUINS.
I MEAN SHE HAS PERHAPS ONE OR
TWO GHOST TOWNS IN ARIZONA OR
IN UTAH, WHERE THERE ARE PLAYED
OUT GOLDMINES AND SO FORTH.
BUT THERE ARE NO RUINED CITIES,
BECAUSE AMERICA IS YOUNG ENOUGH
THAT SHE HAD THE CONFIDENCE OR
THE HUBRIS OR WHATEVER TO PUT
IN CITIES DOWN WHEREVER SHE
LIKED, WHETHER OR NOT THE WORLD
AGREES THAT THAT'S THE RIGHT
PLACE FOR THEM TO HAVE BEEN
PUT.
AND I JUST WONDER NOW WHETHER
IN, IF YOU LOOK AT A MAP OF
AMERICA DRAWN 200 YEARS FROM
NOW, WHETHER THEY'RE MIGHT NOT
FOR THE FIRST TIME IN HER
HISTORY, BE RUINED CITIES.
I MEAN NEW ORLEANS IS A CLASSIC
EXAMPLE.
WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT IT IS
SOMEWHAT CRAZY TO BUILD A MAJOR
CITY IN A SWAMP, 20 FEET BELOW
SEA LEVEL, BETWEEN A LAKE AND A
RIVER, IN A PART OF THE WORLD
THAT'S AFFLICTED BY CONSTANT
HURRICANES.
SO THAT IN TIME MAY BE RUINED.
SIMILARLY, PHOENIX, TUCSON,
EVEN LAS VEGAS.
I MEAN THERE IS NO WATER THERE.
THERE'S NO GREAT WORLD HISTORY
OF GREAT CITIES BEING BUILT AND
LASTING IN DESERTS.
SO I SUSPECT THAT THEY IN TIME
WILL BE RUINED AS WELL.
PHOENIX, IT'S A LITTLE
DIFFICULT TO IMAGINE TOURISTS
COMING WITH QUITE THE SAME
DEGREE AS ENTHUSIASM AS THEY
WOULD GO TO PETRA SAY AND
LOOKING AT THE RUINS OF YOU
KNOW A WALMART OR SOMETHING.

[Audience laughing]

Simon continues AND THEN
ONE HAS TO WONDER ABOUT SAN
FRANCISCO AND THE CITIES OF THE
BAY, BECAUSE LIKE IT OR NOT,
ALL THOSE CITIES EXIST ON WHAT
WE NOW KNOW IS ONE OF THE MOST
DANGEROUS PLATE BOUNDARIES ON
THE SURFACE OF THE PLANET.
I MEAN THERE IS GOING TO BE A
BIG EARTHQUAKE.
THERE ARE GOING TO BE BIG
EARTHQUAKES TIME AND TIME AND
TIME AGAIN.
BUT IT IS SORT OF A HERESY.
I MEAN IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO
IMAGINE THE WORLD NOWADAYS
WITHOUT THE SAN FRANCISCO THAT
WE KNOW TODAY.
IT, IT IS UNIMAGINABLE TO
SUPPOSE THAT TOURISTS AT SOME
FUTURE GENERATION WILL LOOK AT
THE STUMPS OF THE GOLDEN GATE
BRIDGE, OR THE SHELL OF THE
TRANSAMERICA PYRAMID AND WONDER
WHY PEOPLE EVER BUILT THEIR
CITIES THERE.
BUT I THINK THE ONLY WAY THAT
SAN FRANCISCO AND HER NEIGHBOUR
CITIES, OAKLAND, BERKELEY,
SANTA ROSA, SAN JOSE, CAN BE
GUARANTEED OF SURVIVAL IS TO
TAKE A LEAF FROM THE ONE
COUNTRY THAT HAS LEARNED TO
LIVE FOR 2,000 YEARS WITH
EARTHQUAKES AND THAT IS OF
COURSE JAPAN.
JAPAN HAS ALWAYS BUILT SENSIBLY
AND FLEXIBLY PAPER AND WOOD,
COMMONLY NOWADAYS OF COURSE
MUCH, MORE SENSIBLE HIGH TECH
STRUCTURES.
SO IT BUILDS ITS BUILDINGS
KNOWING THAT THEY'RE LIKELY TO
BE, KNOCKED DOWN OR AT LEAST
SHAKEN VERY HARD.
BUT IN ADDITION TO THAT THE
PEOPLE TRAIN.
THERE ARE EMERGENCY CACHES OF
FOOD IN EVERY PREFICT...
OR EVERY
TOWN.
EVEN I MEAN KOBE WAS BAD AND
THEY LEARNED A LOT FROM IT.
EVEN WHEN THE NEXT BIG KANTO
EARTHQUAKE IN TOKYO OCCURS, ONE
KNOWS THAT THE, CASUALTIES WILL
BE RELATIVELY LOW IN NUMBER.
AND THAT
TOKYO WILL REBUILD ITSELF,
BECAUSE IT IS READY.
IT IS NOT IN DENIAL.
THE CALIFORNIANS FIND IT I'M
AFRAID SO EASY TO SAY, OH, WE
DON'T LIKE LISTENING TO THE
PROGNOSTICATIONS OF GEOLOGISTS.
IT'S SO MUCH EASIER TO UNCORK
ANOTHER BOTTLE OF SAUVIGNON
BLANC AND JUST GET ON WITH...

[Audience laughs]

Simon continues WITH THE
GOOD LIFE THAT WE KNOW.
AND TO ILLUSTRATE THAT POINT
ABOUT HUBRIS AND DENIAL, WHICH
I THINK INFECTS AMERICANS
RATHER TOO MUCH FOR THEIR OWN
HEALTH, I'LL JUST GIVE YOU THE
VERY LAST THOUGHT.
I WAS TALKING ABOUT YELLOWSTONE
TO AN AUDIENCE IN KANSAS CITY A
COUPLE OF, WELL, ABOUT A YEAR
AGO.
TALKING NOT ABOUT THE GEYSERS,
BUT ABOUT THIS, THIS SUPER
VOLCANO, THAT PEOPLE ARE WELL,
AWARE.
GEOLOGISTS ARE WELL, AWARE WILL
SOONER OR LATER DEVASTATE
YELLOWSTONE AGAIN.
THERE IS, AS YOU PROBABLY KNOW
THIS ENORMOUS, MAGMA BODY, VERY
SHALLOW, UNDERNEATH YELLOWSTONE
NATIONAL PARK.
IN RECENT RESEARCH OF THE BED
OF THE YELLOWSTONE LAKE AND OF
THE YELLOWSTONE RIVER, HAS
SHOWN THAT IT'S FOR SOME
REASON, RISING AND FALLING IN
THIS STRANGE SORT OF RHYTHMICAL
SENSE.
AND IF YOU'RE OF A ROMANTIC
BENT, YOU CAN THINK PERHAPS OF
THIS MAGMA BODY LIKE A GREAT
MONSTER BREATHING AND OUT.
WAITING, WAITING TO DO
SOMETHING.
WELL, ONE DAY THERE'S NO DOUBT
ABOUT IT AT ALL.
IT WILL ERRUPT.
THERE WILL BE A TITANIC SERIES
OF VOLCANIC ERUPTIONS AT
YELLOWSTONE, AND WHEN THAT
OCCURS I SAID TO THIS AUDIENCE,
ALL OF THE NORTHWESTERN UNITED
STATES WILL BE UTTERLY
DESTROYED.
ALL OF THE GREAT CITIES,
SEATTLE, PORTLAND, IT'LL ALL BE
FINISHED.
IT'LL BE COVERED WITH LAVA.
IT'LL BE TO USE THE VERNACULAR,
THEY LIKE DOWN THERE, IT'LL BE
TOAST.

[Audience laughing]

Simon continues AND
EVERYONE WAS A BIT NERVOUSLY...
BUT I SAID THERE'S NO NEED TO
WORRY BECAUSE WE TALK ABOUT
THESE THINGS IN GEOLOGICAL
TIME.
IT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN FOR AT
LEAST 250,000 YEARS, BY WHICH
TIME OF COURSE I SAID THE HUMAN
SPECIES WILL BE EXTINCT.

[Audience laughing]

Simon continues AND THIS
WENT DOWN VERY WELL.

[Audience laughing]

Simon continues THERE WAS
A SORT OF SIGH OF RELIEF,
EXCEPT FOR ONE, VERY AGITATED
MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN IN THE FRONT
ROW, WHO RAISED HER HAND,
LOOKED EXTREMELY ANGRY AND SHE
SAID WHAT?
SHE SAID WHAT, YOU MEAN EVEN
AMERICANS WILL BE EXTINCT?

[Audience laughing]

Simon continues I WILL
LEAVE IT AT THAT.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH INDEED.

[Audience laughing]
[Audience applauding]

Watch: Simon Winchester on A Crack in the Edge of the World