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Journey down San Andreas with fault expert Dr. David Lynch

San Andreas stretches from Cape Mendocino to the Mexican border

Posted: January 11, 2010 10:57 a.m.
Updated: January 11, 2010 11:30 a.m.
Everyone has heard of the San Andreas Fault, but almost nobody knows what it is. Or where it is. Or what it looks like. Or what it means.

In the Carrizo Plain there is little ground cover and the fault has shifted in historic times, so the fault is more beautifully exposed than any place in California.

In other regions like San Bernardino, no major movement has recently taken place so urbanization has covered much of the fault's surface trace. Still, the San Andreas Fault is the most accessible plate boundary in the world.

The mighty rift and its attending landforms are there for anyone to see.

On Saturday, April 3, at 2 p.m., the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society will present Dr. David Lynch, author of "Field Guide to the San Andreas Fault," who as part of their Lecture Series, will present photographs and detailed maps that highlight the fault based on a series of driving trips from Cape Mendocino to the Mexican border, with emphasis on southern California.

Copies of the "Field Guide" will be available for purchase and can be autographed by the author.

The event will be held at the Saugus Train Station in Heritage Junction at William S. Hart Park, a unit of the County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation System, 24101 Newhall Ave. (formerly San Fernando Road), Newhall 91321.

The general public is welcome. Admission will be free.

The San Francisco earthquake of April 18, 1906 is widely known as the worst natural disaster in California history with the loss of more than 3,000 lives. But it was not the biggest earthquake ever recorded in California.

That distinction goes to the Fort Tejon earthquake which took place on Jan. 9, 1857. The heaviest shaking of this colossal 7.9 magnitude quake was just some 40 miles northwest of Santa Clarita.

As reported in the "Harper's Weekly" illustrated newspaper of Feb. 21, 1857, "At Fort Tejon and the Kern River district, the shocks were most disastrous, and had the country been thickly peopled, the consequences might have been fearful.

"The second shock at Fort Tejon was felt at half-past eight o'clock, and lasted from three to five minutes, resembling in sound the rumbling of a train of cars. Nearly all the buildings in the vicinity were seriously injured, and sev­eral narrow escapes are recorded.

"One life is known to have been lost. At a spot, distant about twenty miles from the fort, the earth was upheaved, and exhibited the appearance of a very violent shock. Roads, in some places, were rendered impassable.

"It is believed that the earthquake was more severely felt at Fort Tejon than at any other point in the State, and it will require much time and expense to repair the damage done."

The rupture of the San Andreas fault in this 1857 earthquake extended from a possible epicenter at Parkfield, California near Cholame (the site of James Dean's fatal auto accident) for a distance of about 225 miles to the Wrightwood area.

Had this earthquake taken place today it would have likely caused far greater loss of life and damage as it passed through communities such as Palmdale, Lancaster and Frazier Park along with the greater Los Angeles metropolis and San Bernardino.

David Knight Lynch, Ph. D. will take us on a journey along this much feared fault as it stretches from Cape Mendocino to the Mexican border through the Southern California area.

Dr. Lynch received a B.S. in Astrophysics in 1969 from Indiana University and a Ph.D. in Astronomy in 1975 from the University of Texas in Austin. He is Senior Scientist at The Aerospace Corporation where he specializes in infrared spectroscopy of comets, novae, supernovae, young stars and very old stars.

He has also held research positions at Caltech, U.C. Berkeley and the United States Geological Survey. He has published more than 150 scientific papers and 10 books, much of it based on observations from telescopes on Mauna Kea, Kitt Peak, Mt. Hamilton and in space.

Dr. Lynch also works with the USGS on plate tectonics with a focus on the southern San Andreas fault.

The Historical Society is pleased to host Dr. Lynch at the Saugus Train Station.


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