Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 69.djvu/230

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226
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY
AMERICA AND SEISMOLOGICAL RESEARCH
By Dr. WILLIAM HERBERT HOBBS

BUT a few years ago, the American naval officer serving his tour of duty upon the European station found in the antiquated vessels in which he was compelled to appear a constant source of mortification. This condition has now passed, and it is the geologist who in his turn is humiliated as the modern European earthquake station is opened for his inspection. A great earthquake upon American home territory has been registered by all first-class seismographs throughout the world, and the records have been collected for comparison and study at central stations. It is the kindest thing to say of the American records that they are a negligible quantity—for measured by modern standards they are—but unfortunately their inclusion in the autograph albums of the California earthquake of 1906 does not allow them to be overlooked. Thus the backwardness of our country in a most important branch of the great science, in which we had perhaps thought ourselves entitled to some respect, is patent to all.

It will hardly be claimed for us that the United States offers no opportunity for earthquake investigation. In 1811 a devastating quake affected a large area in the central Mississippi Valley, in 1872 occurred the great Owens Valley earthquake in Nevada, and in 1887 the Sonora earthquake of even greater violence; not to mention the Charleston and the recent California seistus. Lighter shocks have been frequent, and the greatest of earthquake authorities, the Count de Montessus de Ballore, showed some years ago that New England, the St. Lawrence Valley, the central Atlantic coast generally, the central Mississippi Valley, and above all the Pacific coast of the United States, must be regarded as notable earthquake provinces.

The better to understand our true position, let us consider what has been accomplished in earthquake investigation within the last ten years. First, and most important, the laws of earthquake distribution have been determined, and the relation of earthquakes to topography and geology has given us a new branch of science—seismic geography. This is almost exclusively the work of one man, the Count de Montessus de Ballore, major of artillery in the French army, who has given the better part of his life to this arduous labor.

From a wholly different direction the problems of earthquakes have been approached through the perfecting of seismometrographs, until they register all great seisms of our planet, however distant. This