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1. Krakatoa : The Day the World Exploded:
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2. When the Mississippi Ran Backwards
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3. Volcanoes of the Cascades : Their
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4. The Great Earthquake and Firestorms
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5. Mount st Helens: The Eruption
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6. Echoes of Fury: Life After the
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7. A Dangerous Place : California's
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8. Footprints in the Ash: The Explosive
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9. Magnitude 8: Earthquakes and Life
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10. Surviving Galeras
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11. Modern Global Seismology (International
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12. The Big One : The Earthquake That
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13. Volcanoes in Human History: The
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14. Volcano Cowboys: The Rocky Evolution
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15. Volcanoes in the Sea: The Geology
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16. Discoveries: Volcanoes (Discoveries)
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17. Environmental Effects on Volcanic
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18. Mt. St. Helens: Surviving the
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19. Melting the Earth: The History
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20. Earthquake Country

1. Krakatoa : The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883
by Simon Winchester
list price: $13.95
our price: $10.46
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Asin: 006093736X
Catlog: Book (2004-03)
Publisher: Perennial
Sales Rank: 6226
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Simon Winchester, New York Times bestselling author of The Professor and the Madman, examines the legendary annihilation in 1883 of the volcano-island of Krakatoa, which was followed by an immense tsunami that killed nearly forty thousand people. The effects of the immense waves were felt as far away as France. Barometers in Bogotá and Washington, D.C., went haywire. Bodies were washed up in Zanzibar. The sound of the island's destruction was heard in Australia and India and on islands thousands of miles away. Most significant of all -- in view of today's new political climate -- the eruption helped to trigger in Java a wave of murderous anti-Western militancy among fundamentalist Muslims, one of the first outbreaks of Islamic-inspired killings anywhere. Krakatoa gives us an entirely new perspective on this fascinating and iconic event.

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Reviews (109)

3-0 out of 5 stars Krakatoa, from discovery to rebirth
This remarkable treasure chest of historical trivia is laid out as a history of the Dutch East Indies, with center place being given to the island of Krakatoa. Anyone uninterested in the social, political, historical, and geological background to the famous eruption can just skip to its chapter, about halfway through the book. Simon Winchester has done an admirable job collecting and collating interviews, logs, diaries, reports, barographs, tide meter readings, you name it, to recreate the the horrific disaster, and set a few earlier errors straight.

One observer looks towards the beach, and see a monstrous wave, higher than the palm trees, sweeping along the shore. Others take note of the sea in the strait, writhing and surging, even though there is no wind and no clouds. Sailors caught in the ashfall suffer electric shocks from the charged cloud. A stone residence on a hill 110 feet high is destroyed by a wave that overtopped it by twenty feet. The sea becomes a slick of ash, pumice, debris, and bodies. (Winchester announces that he is censoring himself, in that last detail.) A woman in Ceylon who is killed by a surge is the most distant victim of the volcano. The airwave circles the globe seven times. The violent sunsets are recorded by landscape painters for years afterwards.

The run-up to the dramatic parts is a fairly interesting history of the Dutch in the East Indies, stuffed to bursting with footnoted asides. Krakatoa is the focal point throughout, though. Winchester even pinpoints the earliest Dutch map to represent the island, and then the first one to name it. There is an unmistakeably British thatchy-tweedy-fussiness in his manner. Even in the climactic narrative of the disaster, he finds room for a footnote to explain that Macassar was the source for an oil that spoiled wood finish, and necessitated the invention of a lace furniture drapery called an "antimacassar".

As for his idea that Krakatoa launched radical Islam in Indonesia, that's probably impossible to prove. The Japanese takeover of Dutch Pacific possessions in World War II, and the Saudi practice of exporting and subsidizing fundamentalist Wahabhi madrassas around the world probably had more to do with it. But it is certainly something to think about.

All in all, this is an informative and at times exciting account of one of the biggest and certainly the loudest natural disaster in recorded human history.

5-0 out of 5 stars A PBS documentary, but on paper
Having read Winchester's "The Professor and the Madman", and after hearing about the book on the radio, I decided that I couldn't help but read this book. Though Winchester refers to Krakatoa as a widely-known event, I can confess to having only a slight recognition of the name prior to this book. I won't forget now.

Winchester covers enormous ground in this book, writing about evolution, plate tectonics, Islam, the telegraph, imperialism, the Line of Demarcation, the flora of the East Indies, and more. Do not be fooled, you will leave this book with a greater understanding of much of the origin of the modern world.

One delicious tidbit: Winchester argues that the relative cultural size of the world shrank much more at the eruption of Krakatoa than at the dawn of the Internet. On the other hand, Winchester seems to be constantly implying apology for the last 800 years of Western European history. He has a few particular zingers for the nosy British.

Overall, this book is lot of little bits. And, oh yeah, the central part of the book -- Krakatoa's explosion -- was absolutely riveting. My vision of hell now involves something of Dante and something of Krakatoa.

I recommend this book.

4-0 out of 5 stars Krakatoa: The History
Krakatoa by Simon Winchester is a very informative, enlightening, and researched work. Rather than just being a recounting of the day Krakatoa exploded (which the title seems to imply), the damage it caused, etc., the book does much more. It recounts the historical significance of Indonesia (and the Dutch rule there), the importance of the Sunda Strait (where Krakatoa is located), the underlying reasons for massive volcanic explosions (plate tectonics and continental drift), and the social and religious aftermath due to Krakatoa.

I enjoyed the treatment of each of these issues, but at times some of the information seemed to be a stretch in relation to the subject at hand. The first half of the book, the build-up to the massive explosion if you will, was slower and not as engaging as the second half which was absolutely a joy to read and learn. Winchester does a great job of convincing the reader that Krakatoa was truly the first major event that the world of global communication (due to the telegraph and transatlantic communication lines) came to know. Winchester also does a good job explaining why the Krakatoa legacy has endured. Interestingly, much of it has to do with the unique name itself.

Krakatoa is a very good read. From an intellectual standpoint, the book is great, everything that you want to know about Krakatoa you'll find here. From the standpoint of enjoyable reading, the first half and some of Winchester's digressions are difficult to get through, but the second half is a great read. I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the subject, or just history itself, but beware if you're looking for a book solely focused on the explosion/destruction of Krakatoa on August 27, 1883.

1-0 out of 5 stars Skip it
I was looking forward to reading "The map that changed the world" by the same author after this book. However, reading "Krakatoa" has made me quite wary of any such adventure. This book is as tepid as Krakatoa was explosive. This is one of the very few instances when I have actually calculated the remaining pages of a book while reading; just to know how much longer I had to sit through it (.... "Finish thy book" is the first of my personal commandments). And mind you, I enjoy reading about the allied scientific aspects of any subject matter including geology (the discussions on petroleum geology in "Hubbert's Peak" being a case in point). The author seems to have started off with the noble aspiration of seamlessly interweaving the history, geography, social context, geopolitics, technological deveopments of the age and other issues keeping Krakatoa as the central theme. However, he ends up serving an unappetising stew with even the meaty part about the dramatic explosion somehow leaving you uninspired.

There are tidbits of interesting factual information but this is not enough to classify as saving grace for any book; especially one with such a compelling central subject, rich in possibilities.

3-0 out of 5 stars Not the page-turner it's reputed to be.
I guess I'm like most people--I find forces of nature (volcanoes, earthquakes, tornadoes, etc.) fascinating. The review blurbs on the back cover refer to this book as "a page-turner," and "terrifying." Well...not really. I have no doubt Mr.Winchester knows his stuff. However, my experience with this book is like that of a number of people who have left reviews here--do you HAVE to go into this much set-up to talk about a volcano? Perhaps it's me. One of the best "disaster" books I ever read was John Hersey's "Hiroshima." It dealt with a few major characters, dropped you right in the middle of the situation, and you were exhausted and heartbroken for the characters when you finished--and it was less than 200 pages. Reading "Krakatoa" is like being told a story by a professor whose train of thought is easily derailed by the amount he knows. If you are interested in geology, I have no doubt you will find this book fascinating. If you are an average reader, like me, you will find this book slow at best, mind-bogglingly tedious at worst. ... Read more

2. When the Mississippi Ran Backwards : Empire, Intrigue, Murder, and the New Madrid Earthquakes
by Jay Feldman
list price: $27.00
our price: $17.82
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Asin: 0743242785
Catlog: Book (2005-03-10)
Publisher: Free Press
Sales Rank: 906277
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3. Volcanoes of the Cascades : Their Rise and Their Risks (Falcon Guide)
by Richard L. Hill
list price: $9.95
our price: $8.96
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Asin: 0762730722
Catlog: Book (2004-10-01)
Publisher: Falcon
Sales Rank: 176316
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Book Description

An introduction to the Cascade Mountains by an award-winning science writer, discussing how the volcanoes were formed and what hazards the peaks might pose.
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4. The Great Earthquake and Firestorms of 1906 : How San Francisco Nearly Destroyed Itself
by Philip L. Fradkin
list price: $27.50
our price: $18.15
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Asin: 0520230604
Catlog: Book (2005-04-01)
Publisher: University of California Press
Sales Rank: 36292
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Book Description

The first indication of the prolonged terror that followed the 1906 earthquake occurred when a ship steaming off San Francisco's Golden Gate "seemed to jump clear out of the water." This gripping account of the earthquake, the devastating firestorms that followed, and the city's subsequent reconstruction vividly shows how, after the shaking stopped, humans, not the forces of nature, nearly destroyed San Francisco in a remarkable display of simple ineptitude and power politics. Bolstered by previously unpublished eyewitness accounts and photographs, this definitive history of a fascinating city caught in the grip of the country's greatest urban disaster will forever change conventional understanding of an event one historian called "the very epitome of bigness."
Philip Fradkin takes us onto the city's ruptured streets and into its exclusive clubs, teeming hospitals and refugee camps, and its Chinatown. He introduces the people--both famous and infamous--who experienced these events, such as Jack and Charmian London, Enrico Caruso, James Phelan, and Abraham Ruef. He traces the horrifying results of the mayor's illegal order to shoot-to-kill anyone suspected of a crime, and he uncovers the ugliness of racism that almost led to war with Japan. He reveals how an elite oligarchy failed to serve the needs of ordinary people, the heroic efforts of obscure citizens, the long-lasting psychological effects, and how all these events ushered in a period of unparalleled civic upheaval.
This compelling look at how people and institutions function in great catastrophes demonstrates just how deeply earthquake, fires, hurricanes, floods, wars, droughts, or acts of terrorism can shape us.
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5. Mount st Helens: The Eruption and Recovery of a Volcano
by Rob Carson
list price: $19.95
our price: $19.95
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Asin: 157061248X
Catlog: Book (2000-04-01)
Publisher: Sasquatch Books
Sales Rank: 331060
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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At 8:27 a.m. on May 18, 1980, Washington State's Mount St. Helens stood at 9,677 feet; in the next five minutes the mountain lost 1,300 feet, blowing its top in a blast so powerful that trees toppled 17 miles away. Hurricane-force winds stripped the soil from nearby ridges and hillsides, leaving bare rock. All plant life for miles around either vaporized or tore away from the surface of the earth. Once-pristine alpine lakes were transformed into "tea-colored swamps."Volcanic ash shrouded four states like snow while an ash plume high in the atmosphere circled the globe. All told, "57 people were dead, along with millions of birds, deer, elk, and fish." No longer would Northwesterners regard the chain of glacier-clad peaks extending from British Columbia's Mt. Garibaldi to Northern California's Mt. Lassen as benevolent dollops of recreational fun. For the first time they would see these peaks for what they are: volcanoes that could actually erupt. For scientists, Mount St. Helens would provide an ever-changing laboratory for study; indeed, important advances have been made in any number disciplines, from seismology to ecology.

Along with remarkable before-and-after images (including the famous Rosenquist photos of the initial blast), Rob Carson's 20th-anniversary retrospective captures the human drama leading up to the eruption and two decades of subsequent scientific discovery in its aftermath. The idea of a volcano erupting in the continental U.S. was certainly novel at the end of the age of disco. Washington governor Dixy Lee Ray hoped "to live long enough to see one of our volcanoes erupt." Sightseers rushed to the mountain, buying T-shirts with premature slogans like "I Survived Mount St. Helens." Harry Truman, "crotchety octogenarian" and whisky-packing owner and operator of the Mount St. Helens Lodge, made headlines by refusing to leave his home, claiming "that mountain will never hurt me." Truman perished under several hundred feet of ash. A geologist named David Johnston wasn't supposed to be near the mountain that day, but as fate would have it, he traded shifts; his last words shouted into his radio were "Vancouver, Vancouver, this is it!"

While the human element figures prominently in Carson's book, the truly amazing story is the one of postblast ecological recovery. Take the humble pocket gopher: those that survived began mixing ash with underlying soil, playing a critical role in making the land suitable once more for plant and animal life. Unbelievably, just three years after the eruption, 90 percent of plant species and nearly all mammals had returned to the most devastated areas. Scientists quickly learned that recovery, rather than depending on colonizing species from outside the blast zone, relied largely on species that never left--like hibernating frogs and toads, lucky pocket gophers, and countless subterranean insects. Of course, life outside the blast helped, too; the woolly bear caterpillar parachuted in to reclaim territory and windblown fireweed seeds soon blossomed in the pumice. And meanwhile, the mountain itself (called "Fire Mountain" by the Native American Klickitats) is rapidly growing once again. --Martha Silano ... Read more

Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars Don't mistreat the pictures
An excellent book, completely readable and very informative. I visited the devastated area by chopper within a year after the big one, and Carson's book told me that a lot of the interpretations I heard in 1981 are no longer considered valid. I particularly enjoyed the appraisal of Weyerhauser's tree farms vs natural reforestation. There are favorable points for both, and it's essentially a matter of choosing the scientific or the industrial benefits. I bought the book at the Monument (Forest Service, not Park Service) and reading it while I was there made it all the more exciting. My only complaint: the page layouts. Too many tall, narrow pictures are printed across the binding. Photos of these dimensions would easily fit on a single page, and their impact and beauty are diminished when so much of them is buried in the binding. Possibly this flaw would be less objectionable in a sewn hardcover edition. Also, pictures are often printed as insets in larger photos -- which suggests to me that the book design was considered more important than the photographs. The illustrations are great complements to a splendid text, and they deserve kinder treatment.

5-0 out of 5 stars An American volcano captured in photographic glory.
The eruption of Mt. St. Helens is captured in photographic glory for any who would learn about the explosion of the volcano and the subsequent recovery of its surrounding environment. Black and white and some color photos accompany extensive descriptions of the eruption, its short- and long-term effects, and environmental changes.

5-0 out of 5 stars wow wonderful writing!
i love this book and the doofus who thought this book wasnt that great(the one below me) needs to read it again he says it moved quickly to the recovery of the mountain: look at the title! thats what it is about should recognize a great writer when you see one. humph ... Read more

6. Echoes of Fury: Life After the Eruption of Mount Saint Helens
by Frank Parchman
list price: $24.95
our price: $16.47
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Asin: 0974501433
Catlog: Book (2004-04-30)
Publisher: Epicenter Press
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7. A Dangerous Place : California's Unsettling Fate (Images of America)
list price: $22.00
our price: $14.96
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Asin: 0679420118
Catlog: Book (2003-02-11)
Publisher: Pantheon
Sales Rank: 32444
Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (10)

5-0 out of 5 stars apocalyptic & inevitable
As a geoscience educator, I'm often looking for new books that will engage freshman, introductory geology students, and I can think of no better way to compliment this book than to say that I'm going to require it for all my lower division classes.

Reisner doesn't reiterate ideas from Cadillac Desert, but rather infuses his understanding of the interaction of water, geology, and people into this new area. I learned a lot; for example, I didn't have a full appreciation of the precarious nature of the Delta and its role in supplying the southern half of the state with water.

The book was written pre-9/11, and one cannot help nodding bitterly at the accuracy of Reisner's descriptions of public reaction to, say, the deaths of thousands of citizens.

It's a terrible loss for us that Reisner won't write another book, and indeed didn't flesh this one out as thoroughly as his presentation in Cadillac Desert. As an example, the scope and inadequacies of legal changes to building permitting after the 1971 San Fernando earthquake could use further elaboration. Such omissions don't distract from the book--indeed, they may enhance its readibility--but I'm sure had he time, Reisner would have delved in more detail into many subjects. Nonetheless, this book should be a startling and resource-rich guide for the cataclysmic event that is guaranteed to happen in the near future.

3-0 out of 5 stars Little Book About the Big One
This will make me sound like a bad guy, but the untimely death of Marc Reisner lead to the very undeveloped nature of this book. This was surely a work in progress when he passed away from cancer in 2000. The book has the potential to be an environmentalist powerhouse of investigative reporting, like Reisner's masterpiece "Cadillac Desert." California in general offers the kind of story that Reisner mastered in the other book, as much of the state and its civilization are living on borrowed time and very unnatural social constructs. The state faces two potential catastrophes: running out of fresh water, and of course the inevitable BIG ONE - the ultimate earthquake that will ruin the state.

This book opens in Los Angeles, a megalopolis in a dismal location with zero natural advantages that can naturally support the population. L.A. would be little more than a dusty crossroads without 150 years of federal subsidies and gargantuan engineering schemes to import water, especially from Northern California. Meanwhile, that area has its own threatened megalopolis, as the San Francisco Bay area is just waiting for the big earthquake that will hit sooner or later. In addition to structural mayhem and wildfires, such a disaster would also devastate the water supply for both urban areas.

The problem here is that all of the above issues are covered convincingly, but merely in essay form with no notes or supporting bibliography. Reisner also did not get to the long-term financial and sociological catastrophes that would result from the disaster, which would have made this book far stronger. Meanwhile, much of the book is interspersed with a fictional account of the Big One that is mostly a doomsday scenario. It's a plausible story but indicates a lack of focus for the book overall. Sadly, Reisner was unable to deliver the powerhouse book that this subject promises, and of which he was surely capable. [~doomsdayer520~]

5-0 out of 5 stars Marc Reisner ¿ his last book, dammit
What a great guy Marc Reisner was. He wrote A Dangerous Place: California's Unsettling Fate as he was dying of cancer, and it's not just a benchmark of California's environmental history but also a profound and emotional valedictory effort. Living as I do within ¼ mile of the grumbling and growling Hayward Fault, I found Reisner's projections of the cataclysmic effects of the Big One to be more than unsettling. Those of us who are priviledged or doomed to live in this glorious state cannot fail to take heed of the picture he paints of the likely events surrounding our upcoming tectonic hiccups, belches, and sneezes.
The book is divided into 3 sections. The first retells Californias environmental history from the era of Junipero Serra's mission system right up to our own freeway system. The middle section deals with the fundamentals of plate tectonics. But it's that 3rd section that looks forward to (shudder) a hypothetical eruption of the Hayward Fault in 2005 that is most gripping. Yikes.
Sayonara to a great environmentalist and author.

4-0 out of 5 stars A Sobering Look At The Inevitable
Think of a writer with an ability to spin a convincing tale of fright, and Stephen King might come to mind. But after reading "A Dangerous Place: California's Unsettling Fate," you might want to add Marc Reisner to that list.

In this compact volume, Reisner first provides an overview of California's spectacular development from a largely unsettled desert to the most populous state in the nation. The desire for wealth drove the growth of the state's two great metropolitan areas. While gold fever was behind San Francisco's rapid rise, and land speculation fueled Los Angeles' frenetic expansion, the result was the same--two great communities situated atop extremely violent seismic zones.

Reisner recounts some of the most spectacular earthquakes of the 19th and 20th centuries in this region. But most frightening of all, at least from this reader's viewpoint, is his account of a disaster yet to be. In a vivid, yet fact-based account Reisner describes a quake that is NOT a worst-case scenario...yet it dwarfs its predecessors in destruction of life and property. Thousands of lives are lost, the damage totals soar into the billions, and even though the site for this hypothetical quake is the bay area, we learn why it will almost certainly have catastrophic consequences for southern California's water supply.

Reisner was apparently still working on this book at the time of his death from cancer, so this may be why the ending seems to fall short of a great summing up. Still, his message is clear. When--and it's truly a question of when, not if this disaster strikes--we will face little choice but to rebuild and go on. Our investment in these places is too great to do otherwise. We need to take his cautionary tale to heart, and be prepared as much as we can be for the enormity of the task ahead.

3-0 out of 5 stars Two books. One cover..............
A Dangerous Place begins as a concise, well-paced description of California's seismic potential and precarious water management systems. Blending history with present day infrastructure requirements, Reisner lays bare the fragility inherent when a populace exceeds the environments ability to support it. Though natural resources may fail on their own, Reisner suspensefully charts the mayhem when the inevitable 7.0 temblor arrives to accelerate the process.

Indeed, through two-thirds of the book, A Dangerous Place is an excellent, non-fictional read. But, then, for some inexplicable reason, Reisner decides to make believe. In the final third, the author imagines the next big earthquake and attempts the difficult shift from fast-paced factual reporting to fully fictional, wide-eyed, first-person narrative. It's him and his family against the fantasy earthquake. It's thrilling, it's chilling.......

Well, no, it's corny.

Reisner's shift from fact to fiction seriously harms his ability to achieve his goal. Where a feigned natural disaster is desired, one may always rent a 70's era movie starring Ernest Borgnine. Yet, when one desires to be provided the facts in an exciting, hard-hitting style, one would hope to have access to the format with which Mr. Reisner began. Had he maintained it, A Dangerous Place would merit 4 to 5 stars. ... Read more

8. Footprints in the Ash: The Explosive Story of Mount St. Helens
by John Morris, John D. Morris, Steven A. Austin
list price: $16.99
our price: $14.44
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Asin: 0890514003
Catlog: Book (2003-09-01)
Publisher: Master Books
Sales Rank: 244359
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9. Magnitude 8: Earthquakes and Life Along the San Andreas Fault
by Philip L. Fradkin
list price: $27.50
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Asin: 0805046968
Catlog: Book (1998-10-01)
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company
Sales Rank: 1083464
Average Customer Review: 4.75 out of 5 stars
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"The tectonic history of any one part of the earth, like the life of a soldier, consists of long periods of boredom and short periods of terror." With this quotation from geologist Derek Ager, Pulitzer Prize-winning environmental journalist Philip Fradkin, "a literary geologist with a notebook in one hand and a hammer in the other," begins his trip along the San Andreas Fault. His persistent question is how "a culture could ignore this powerful natural agent while simultaneously being shaped by it." Fradkin himself lives near the fault, and he understands the human reluctance to remember the past and to prepare for the inevitable. He looks at the history and impact of the major California earthquakes of the past 150 years, from Fort Teijin in 1857 to Northridge in 1994. Throughout, he exposes the problems caused by human shortcomings: the amnesia of the general public, earthquake engineers' conflicts of interest, and the failures of science. His discussions of the politics of earthquake prediction and of the "arcane systems" used to measure earthquake magnitudes are the best in print. "I wanted others to be aware of the fault's physical presence and its awesome power," Fradkin writes. He may also succeed at raising Californians' awareness of how to prepare for earthquakes--and at shortening their feelings of boredom while lengthening their periods of prudent terror. --Mary Ellen Curtin ... Read more

Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars An Important Work
This is an important work; well researched and well written. It should be required reading for all public officials in California. More illustrations would have been useful. Highly recommended.

5-0 out of 5 stars Creates a personal visceral feel for powerful earth force
Yesterday, August 17, I was sitting in Point Reyes, CA., home of author Phil Fradkin, directly overhanging the San Andreas fault. I was on page 121 of Magnitude 8, when suddenly the house began to move. It swayed back and forth like a tree hut in a gale for about 15 seconds. Yes, it was a minor 5.0 magnitude quake centered in nearby Bolinas. Powerful Writing!

Great book by an author who has put his heart and soul into internalizing the meaning of these mysterious earth processes.

4-0 out of 5 stars Enthralling, thoughtful, and sobering, but with a few warts
Fradkin travels the length of the San Andreas by car, by kayak, and on foot, describing its perils and its history. Into his story of the San Andreas he weaves parallel threads about earthquakes elsewhere, always playing up the public's denial of earthquake hazard.

As a seismologist, I found the book often irritating (right down to its title: there is no evidence that the San Andreas has ever suffered a magnitude 8 earthquake or that it ever will), and sometimes too dramatic, but in the end it left me with a feeling of chagrin. Fradkin put together a good, coherent story of the San Andreas' hazards, but to do so, he had to fight his way through arcane jargon. His comment that the scientists don't know how to communicate makes me squirm, but it is absolutely right.

Not only is this a must-read for anyone within 200 miles of the San Andreas, it should be required for all seismologists and emergency managers who ever have to talk to the public.

5-0 out of 5 stars Facinating blend of narative and science
This book tells the story of California and it's geology in way that connects it with real life. It brings home how we conspire to ignore the earthquake threat. A must for CA residents. ... Read more

10. Surviving Galeras
by Stanley Williams, Fen Montaigne
list price: $25.00
our price: $16.50
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Asin: 0618031685
Catlog: Book (2001-04-17)
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Sales Rank: 207566
Average Customer Review: 3.73 out of 5 stars
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On January 14, 1993, Stanley Williams led a party of fellow geologists up Galeras, a Colombian volcano that, though historically active, had been lying quiet long enough that they suspected it was due for an episode--and thus an opportunity for the volcanologists to practice their predicting skills. As they reached the lip of its great crater, Galeras obliged them with a vengeance: it erupted in a burst of fire and toxic gas, killing several members of the party and leaving Williams scorched and broken, "sprawled on my side, caked in ash and blood, wet from the rain, bones protruding from my burned clothes, my jaw hanging slackly."

Rescued by two colleagues, Marta Velasco and Patty Mothes, Williams faced several challenges in the years to come--not only healing his body and exorcising the ghosts of Galeras, but also contending with other colleagues' whispered charges that he should have known the mountain was about to blow. But death, Williams and collaborator Fen Montaigne (Reeling in Russia) write, comes with the territory. Whenever a volcano has erupted in recent years, it seems, a volcanologist is among its victims, for, Williams notes, "the best way to understand a volcano is still, in my opinion, to climb it," and to climb it in all of its moods. And those moods, Williams and Montaigne add, are not easy to forecast, even if earth scientists have developed ever more accurate ways to predict events such as earthquakes and tsunamis.

At once a study in mountains, the history of geology, and the will to endure, Surviving Galeras is often terrifying, and altogether memorable. --Gregory McNamee ... Read more

Reviews (41)

5-0 out of 5 stars Honest & riveting account of field scientists
Surviving Galeras provides a fascinating and valuable read. The book blends solid, clearly explained science with insightful and honest descriptions of the events before, during, and after the catastrophic eruption of Galeras volcano in Columbia. As a field geologist who occasionally works in risky environments (but not volcanoes), I found Williams' description of the personalities who do this sort of work and the way they reached decisions to be familiar and, more importantly, entirely rational and reasonable. Williams and Montaigne allow the reader to really understand how this type of field scientist works.

Anyone who has been in the midst of an event where people died or were seriously injured knows that memories don't get recorded accurately. Williams acknowledges the problem and presents the memories of others as well as his own. Some of Williams's critics have placed an unnecessary blackmark on both their profession and their agencies by airing "dirty laundry". Public rantings have ranged from legitimate (but overly inflammatory) debate over the value of seismic vs. gas flux data to asinine declarations that mandating hard hats would have minimized this tragedy. Fortunately, Williams and Montaigne have stayed with the high road in their book and avoided the temptation of pandering to journalist in search of creating conflict. In this book, Williams shows great respect for all his colleagues, even his critics, and one senses the effort to provide balance to the story. I have only been in the field with one person (Patty Mothes) in the book and she is portrayed exactly as the person I know. Williams does not minimize the credit due to his colleagues, whether for their scientific endeavors or their heroism on the fateful day. He shows remarkable class in honoring his graduate students (a trait all too rare in American academia), praising his fallen colleagues and his rescuers, and presenting the conflicting views of his critics.

Good science requires a variety of approaches and, far too often, practitioners of the different styles see themselves as competitors for grant money and acclaim. Divergent geologist who view themselves as colleagues serve the profession far better. Valuable information comes from the lab and the computer. But, despite our progress in these "safe" venues of science, field observations still provide critical data. Obtaining that data on active volcanoes requires a personality that accepts, even enjoys, risk. Williams calls these folks, "My kind of geologist." But, some of Williams critics seem to think that this personality trait is better applied to bungee jumping, driving fast cars, and chain-smoking cigarettes instead of striving to better understand a public hazard. Their logic evades me. We need the out-on-the-edge field scientists, and Surviving Galeras helps show us why without denigrating the other approaches to studying volcanoes. We need the lab-oriented geochemist and computer-oriented geophysicists, also. But, the nature of public opinion is that field scientists make sexier subjects for the journalist, which seems to annoy some non-field folks. Unfortunately, it appears that the one thing more attractive to some journalists than a cutting-edge, field scientists is personal controversy.

Read Surviving Galeras. It's a great read....entertaining, informative, and void of the emotional smears that mark other accounts of this dramatic event.

4-0 out of 5 stars The role of the ego in science
This book, along with Victoria Bruce's account of the disaster at Galeras are a must read for anyone interested in Earth science or psychology. Williams appears to be a rogue volcanologist with a cavalier attitude about the dangers of working inside an active volcano. The simple fact is that Williams apparently did have some warning that Galeras was not 'sleeping' the day he led the conference into the crater and he did not insist on safety precautions. As leader of the expedition, Williams could easily have demanded that everyone wear safety gear or they would not be allowed inside. Apparently, Williams thinks anyone who is interested in safety is somewhat of a wimp. While hard hats, gas masks and flame retardent suits would not have saved everyone, no doubt a few of the nine might have also lived. The post-disaster story is almost as intriguing as the events leading to the disaster Williams appears as a glory seeker 'cashing in' on his compatriots ill-fortune. That is perhaps over-emphasized in Bruce's account. Williams himself suffered a serious head injury that apparently left him with some behavioral problems and difficulty in living a normal life. Nevertheless, he was made aware of how he was portraying the incident and has done little to correct those errors of fact publicly. I highly reccomend you read both accounts. Williams ego comes through strongly in both accounts of the story and yet this book paints a somewhat different picture of the post-tragedy fallout.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great adventure read
I couldn't put this down. It is a great adventure story and and excellent look at a breed of the most adventure-seeking people in the world -- field vulcanologists.

1-0 out of 5 stars Nothing but a damn lie
Unfortunately, most of this book is built on nothing but Stanley Williams' ego. After parading around the media for years bragging about how he had been the only survivor of a scientific expedition on Galeras, Williams continues the lie by writing a book about the explosion but conveniently forgets about the other 5 scientists who got out alive. A more compelling and truthful account about Galeras is the book by Victoria Bruce called "No Apparent Danger". Bruce took the time to interview the dozens of people involved with the Galeras tragedy and so her book is much more broad-based than the single-handed novel written by Williams.

4-0 out of 5 stars Daring the goddess
In his quest for knowledge that could save thousands of lives, Williams entered where most would fear to tread, the crater of an active volcano. Like others before him, he was caught by whimsical nature of this most awesome phenomenon. It erupted, taking the lives of six of his colleagues; Williams was perched just over the rim of the crater. Williams, to his own amazement, survived, but remains of some of his friends and co-workers were never found. This book is a testament to the few courageous scientists around the world who climb and investigate these capricious mountains. Williams captivates the reader with the subject of volcanology and descriptions of those who brave the risks to study the goddess Pele's offspring.

In telling his own story of risk, injury and survival, Williams recounts his life and his colleagues' around the world. They come from many lands - Russia, Italy, Columbia and other regions beset by earth's upheavals. Williams, almost an anomaly as a native of Illinois - far from any volcanic activity [except, perhaps, politically], is intensely dedicated to the science. He describes the various volcanic processes and the impact volcanoes have had down the ages. The aim of the studies is to learn how to forecast eruptions. A major success in that endeavour was the saving of thousands of lives when the Philippine mountain Pinatubo erupted in 1991. Galeras, the Columbian volcano that nearly took Williams life, is neighbour to a town of three hundred thousand, Pasto. Attempts to instill evacuation programmes there was met with derision and resentment - it would hurt business.

Williams' accounts of volcano disasters make enthralling reading. From Pliny the Younger's attempt to rescue his uncle during Pompeii's famous outburst to modern eruptions, the failure of human populations to accommodate the threat are vivid examples of short-sighted views. Williams stresses the obvious threats, lava flows, "pyroclastic" flows of mud, ash and rocks mixed with toxic gases. He also recounts poorly recognized after effects the debris can evoke - chemical poisonings and crop and herd losses. Famine is a regular result of volcanic activity. Volcanoes are capable of global climate impact, the most famous being the 1815 Tambora explosion resulting in New England's "Year Without A Summer" which devastated crops and herds over wide areas. Williams attributes the wave of Western expansion to the impact of an eruption "a world away."

As a combined personal account and scientific study, there are few faults in this book. One can only hope someone derives a synonym for "pyroclastic flows" someday. Williams feelings about the event and the subsequent lives of the survivors are told with intense feeling. One can only sympathise with his distress at losing friends and co-workers and how the families bore up under the stress. His historical accounts cover both fact and mythology. Strangely, although Williams describes many of the gods associated with vulcanism, he omits the only American deity - Pele. As capricious as the Hawaiian goddess is, Williams reminds us that the island volcanoes don't threaten explosive eruptions. While that might offer some mild comfort to that State, Mammoth Mountain in California remains an unheralded threat to thousands in the Golden State. ... Read more

11. Modern Global Seismology (International Geophysics Series)
by Thorne Lay, Terry C. Wallace
list price: $83.95
our price: $83.95
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Asin: 012732870X
Catlog: Book (1995-05-01)
Publisher: Academic Press
Sales Rank: 648216
Average Customer Review: 4.17 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Intended as an introduction to the field, Modern Global Seismology is a complete, self-contained primer on seismology. It features extensive coverage of all related aspects, from observational data through prediction, emphasizing the fundamental theories and physics governing seismic waves--both natural and anthropogenic. Based on thoroughly class-tested material, the text provides a unique perspective on the earths large-scale internal structure and dynamic processes, particularly earthquake sources, and on the application of theory to the dynamic processes of the earths upper skin.
Authored by two experts in the field of geophysics. this insightful text is designed for the first-year graduate course in seismology. Exploration seismologists will also find it an invaluable resource on topics such as elastic-wave propagation, seismicinstrumentation, and seismogram analysis useful in interpreting their high-resolution images of structure for oil and mineral resource exploration.

Key Features
* More than 400 illustrations, many from recent research articles, help readers visualize mathematical relationships
* 49 Boxed Features explain advanced topics
* Provides readers with the most in-depth presentation of earthquake physics available
* Contains incisive treatments of seismic waves, waveform evaluation and modeling, and seismotectonics
* Provides quantitative treatment of earthquake source mechanics
* Contains numerous examples of modern broadband seismic recordings
* Fully covers current seismic instruments and networks
* Demonstrates modern waveform inversion methods
* Includes extensive references for further reading
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Reviews (6)

4-0 out of 5 stars A serious introduction to global seismology
The Lay & Wallace provides a good starting description of global seismology. Chapter 1 deals with the historical development and the topics of global seismology. Chapter 2 concerns elasticity and seismic waves. The concepts of strain and stress are introduced. The mathematical content is limited (all you have to know is the partial derivatives) and a lot of figures help you to understand. By the way, this book uses the same boxes as the Aki & Richards to focus on a particular point. The equation of motion and the wave equations are derived.
Chapter 3 deals with Body waves and ray theory.The eikonal equation is introduced,and the body of this chapter concerns travel time propagation, partitioning of energy at a boundary,wave attenuation and scattering in really simple terms. Once again, a lot of figures and documents help the understanding.
Chapter 4 focuses on surface waves and free oscillations and starts with free-surface interactions, Rayleigh and Love waves and their dispersion. Tsunamis are also considered, with only two equations but 6 figures and documents. The end of the chapter is devoted to free oscillations of the earth with once again a lot of documents.
Chapter 5 deals with seismometry, that is what are the instruments used in seismology. This chapter provides differents maps of global networks of seismometers. Chapter 6 considers seismogram interpretation (identification of seismic phases). This is applied to source location. The concept of inversion is introduced with no big deal of maths. The end of the chapter concerns then the generalized inverse and requires more maths. Chapter 7 concerns the determination of Earth structure, and appears in continuity with the previous chapter. No less than 56 figures plus documents are provided to help the understanding of the earth's structure. Seismic tomography is described in simple terms. Then each "layer" of the earth is characterized in terms of seismology.
Chapter 8 focuses on seismic sources, and introduces equivalent body forces, elastostatics, elastodynamics in a very simple way. The seismic moment tensor is introduced here.
Chapter 9 deals with earthquake cinematics and dynamics. It describes the classical 1D Haskell source, the source spetrum. The concepts of stress drop, particle velocity and rupture velocity are explicited. The end of the chapter is devoted to magnitude scales, seismic energy, aftershocks, and the scaling relations of earthquakes.
Chapter 10 tackles the problem of waveform modeling. Finally Chapter 11 deals with seismotectonics and provides plenty of interesting documents.

This book provides an excellent overview of global seismology. It should be extremely useful to teachers (valuable source of documents for your class) and also for those who want to start seismology. Additional reading will be necessary, eventually.

4-0 out of 5 stars a very complete seismological book
This is an excellent book in seismology. It covers all modern aspects of this science in a complete way. The main advantage for both undergraduate and graduate students in using this book is that the Mathematical aspects are treatised without heaviness.

5-0 out of 5 stars Reference book for current seismology
Lay & Wallace is an excellent blend of theory and observation. Enough equations to get you started, but not the overwhelming number you see in other theoretical seismology volumes. The best part is the reprinting of important result figures from scattered scientific journals. It is wonderful to have all these in one place. The major missing material is a treatment of computational aspects. I hope they put out new editions every few years with new figures from the journals.

5-0 out of 5 stars Good (advanced) introdution to quantitative seismology
This book is not for the casual reader. It is written for first year graduate students. To really understand it, you need to know some advanced math,at leadt through differential equations. However, with that background, this is an excellent book. Much easier to read than Aki and Richards. I only wish the book was published when I was a first year graduate student.

2-0 out of 5 stars There is a much better choice ......
This book is good only if you are not. The book by Aki & Richards is much better for a good seismologist. ... Read more

12. The Big One : The Earthquake That Rocked Early America and Helped Create a Science
by Charles Officer, Jake Page
list price: $24.00
our price: $16.32
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Asin: 0618341501
Catlog: Book (2004-06-17)
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Sales Rank: 196390
Average Customer Review: 3 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

In the early 1800s a series of gargantuan earth tremors seized the American frontier. Tremendous roars and flashes of eerie light accompanied huge spouts of water and gas. Six-foot-high waterfalls appeared in the Mississippi River, thousands of trees exploded, and some 1,500 people -- in what was then a sparsely populated wilderness -- were killed. A region the size of Texas, centered in Missouri and Arkansas, was rent apart, and the tremors reached as far as Montreal. Forget the 1906 earthquake -- this set of quakes constituted the Big One.
The United States would face certain catastrophe if such quakes occurred again. Could they? The answer lies in seismology, a science that is still coming to grips with the Big One.
Jake Page and Charles Officer rely on compelling historical accounts and the latest scientific findings to tell a fascinating, long-forgotten story in which the naturalist John James Audubon, the Shawnee chief Tecumseh, scientists, and charlatans all play roles. Whether describing devastating earthquakes or a dire year in a young nation, The Big One offers astounding breadth and drama.
... Read more

Reviews (1)

3-0 out of 5 stars Hard to give it a number.
I don't quite know what to say about this book. The Big One is a difficult book to put a number rating on really. For one thing I'm not quite sure for whom it was written. It strikes me as a "publish-or-perish" kind of production. I enjoyed the book, but only because I enjoy anything on geology. This said, I will point out the merits of the book from the point of various populations of readers.

The average adult with only the very meagerest background, if any, in geology and natural sciences might well enjoy the book-certainly the title and the cover blurb are designed to hook in such a reader-but he/she might be better served by spending the money on a more general title, the focus of which is learning the basics of these sciences. Certainly there are a wide number of such books out there, many of them textbooks for survey courses at the general college level. Just searching Amazon's own list, I turned up thousands of them.

The authors' stated goal was to describe the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811 and 1812, and the first few chapters do an admirable job of it. Unfortunately they tend to get off the track with their discussion of basic geology and don't return to their main topic until the end of the book where they speculate on the effects of a similar event in the future. I had the distinct feeling that they had only a slender amount to say about New Madrid and padded the volume out with a discussion of basic geology for the beginner. I certainly can't imagine a professional geologist reading the book when most of the information contained in it can be found with more precision and detail in professional journals.

Of their aim to demonstrate that the New Madrid quakes provided the impetus to the development of seismology and geology as disciplines, I'm not certain they achieved their goal.
While many people were interested in this event and a number of witnesses attempted to quantify as well as describe it, I'm not certain that this qualifies as any more than a minor branch root of these fields, an interesting aside. Again, if one has an interest in the history of geology, one can find other books that will give a broader and more connected narrative of the personalities and development of this field.

The primary population to whom I'd wholeheartedly recommend The Big One is to libraries that provide books on scientific topics for young people. For advanced students of middle/junior high or interested senior high, the book would be a splendid introduction to the topics of seismology and the geosciences as professions through the intriguing narrative these specific earthquakes and their effects on the people in the area. The book is especially good because it also discusses quackery in earthquake prediction and describes specifically what can and cannot be known about seismic events. It also defines geological terms that have come into the more ill-defined vernacular of journalism and tend to mislead. Furthermore, it describes how such irresponsible journalism can produce public panic that can needlessly cost millions of dollars, while debate about the expense of building codes illustrates how government and science work to protect affected regions. Young people trained to look beyond the headlines for solid information and who pay attention to the particulars of debates over codes, etc. are more likely to be sensible and responsible citizens.

For THOSE WRITING PAPERS on geology, seismology, history, journalism, political science, and urban planning. One might look at how the mythology of the New Madrid quakes grew from the actual events. What human needs were met by this mythology? What kind of distortion do you think may have occurred and why? One might look at how interpretation of published accounts has allowed geologists to fine tune their evaluation of the New Madrid earthquakes and how they fit into plate tectonics. Why did some earlier researchers feel some of the accounts were due to hysteria, while even later researchers believed them to be true. What kinds of things were each looking at? What data did each use to evaluate the narratives? One might look at how governments like that of Peru got almost unavoidably carried away by the quake quackery. Were the responses of these foreign governments any different from the responses of local governments in the US as described by the book? What human issues underline the similarities and differences in these responses? What suggestions, if any, would you make to avoid panic? To what extent is journalism responsible for promoting this type of panic? How might it be held accountable? Can it be held accountable? One might look at the issues of building codes in earthquake prone areas. Do you think that California and the New Madrid area should have similar codes? Why? If not, how should they differ? ... Read more

13. Volcanoes in Human History: The Far-Reaching Effects of Major Eruptions.
by Donald Theodore Sanders
list price: $45.00
our price: $45.00
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Asin: 0691050813
Catlog: Book (2001-01-01)
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Sales Rank: 399370
Average Customer Review: 4.71 out of 5 stars
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In 1815, Napoleon's armies fell to defeat at Waterloo, a clash that would change the course of world events. Far more Europeans died that year, though, as a result of a volcanic explosion in Indonesia--one cataclysmic eruption among the many that figure in this sidelong view of the Earth's history.

The explosion of Tambora in April 1815, geologists de Boer and Sanders write, sent a plume of volcanic ash high into the planet's atmosphere, bringing on a "nuclear winter" that devastated crops in the northern hemisphere, yielding famine and plague. Moreover, they add, the explosion cast a hazy pall over much of Europe, a gloom that inspired Mary Shelley to write her famed novel,Frankenstein. Another explosion, more than 3,000 years earlier, pulverized the Mediterranean island of Thera, giving rise to the legend of Atlantis and causing whole civilizations to collapse. Still another eruption on the island of Tristan da Cunha, in 1961, "brought [the 20th century] to this most isolated of the earth's inhabited places."

The authors' overview of nature's ability to thwart human intentions makes for fascinating reading, sure to appeal to fans of Perils of a Restless Planet, Surviving Galeras, and other chronicles of the trembling earth. --Gregory McNamee ... Read more

Reviews (7)

5-0 out of 5 stars Science and Humanity
This book is written in a clear and engaging style that conveys a scientific understanding of vulcanoloy and the consequences, both positive and negative, of volcanic activity on human life and society.

The authors incorporate a discussion of the physical processes that drive volcanic activity with vivid descriptions of historic eruptions. The book includes nine well-chosen case studies that highight differences in type, intensity and effects of eruption. The authors vividly describe the effects of volcanic eruptions on natural and human environments, human history and human behavior. Throughout the book are highly explanatory yet simple illustrations of the natural processes at work and the specific volcanoes under study.

The authors convey the inspiring power of volcanic acitivity and place natural and human impacts within short and long-term perspectives. This book is clear and informative science coupled with thought provoking history and engaging human interest.

From plate tectonics and environmental impact, to entertaining stories of the effects of volcanic eruptions on art and literature or the creation of mythology, to thought-provoking effects on human life, migration and economic decline - its all here.

5-0 out of 5 stars Volcanoes in Human History
Volcanoes in Human History: The Far-Reaching Effects of Major Eruptions written by Jelle Zeilinga de Boer and Donald Theodore Sanders is an engaging book about the awesome power of volcanoes its effects and how volcanoes are born. This book takes the reader on a short journey through time as we explore the origins and mechanisms of volcanism and shoing us how this affected human history, societies, cultures, and the environment.

This book explores nine volcanic eruptions, diccussing the geological setting in terms of plate tectonics; the theory that virtually rigid segments of the earth's crust move about over a less rigid layer and collide, and that the collisions give rise to earthquakes and volcanic activity. Then the book goes over the human terms following the aftereffects of volcanic eruption.

Volcanism is the surface manifestation of a living earth, the author likens a volcanic eruption as the plucking of a long tight-stretched string representing time: when the string is plucked it vibrates. Where the string is plucked is the volcanic activity or eruption where a great deal of energy is being released, the vibrations will have high amplitudes and short wavelengths. These vibrations will be powerful, but only last for a short time. But, as the vibration flows down the string (time), the amplitudes will decrease and the wavelengths increase, whithat the aftereffects will become less intense and they will last longer. The eruption will last days, volcanic aftereffects will last months, Climate change, Famine, epidemics, diaspora will last years; Economic and ecologic revival will last decades, and cultural effects will last centuries.

The books narrative is easy to read and is very understandable making this subject easy to understand. Most of us see a volcano erupt on the news and that is all we know until the news shows us another eruption. What we are not given is the far-reaching effects of what is really happening within the earth. Volcanism is the earth's way of renewing itself and releaving the tremendous pressures from deep within.

Reading this book will give the reader a greater appreciation about what really goes on, on the earth we walk upon. As the population of the earth increases, the effects of volcanism will be magnified, it is crucial that we understand the origin of volcanism as well as the devastation it can cause, and the aftereffects, for good or ill, that can linger for years, even decades, to come.

This is an incrediblly well-told story that is informative but nontechinical.

5-0 out of 5 stars Living Under The Volcano
We are used to having to deal with changes in the weather, but twenty years ago, meteorologists were having to deal with a new atmospheric manifestation. Mount Saint Helens had blown up in the state of Washington, and had affected air quality, air travel, and emotions in the region, and had world-wide weather consequences. It certainly was not the first time a volcano shaped the weather, for volcanoes have had major effects on weather and even history. _Volcanoes in Human History: The Far-Reaching Effects of Major Eruptions_ (Princeton University Press) by Jelle Zeilinga de Boer and Donald Theodore Sanders takes nine famous or obscure volcanoes and demonstrates that volcanoes are an active part of our lives.

Surprisingly, volcanic effects are not all bad. Volcanic soils are very fertile, and we use plenty of minerals of volcanic origin. The gases from volcanoes made the Earth's atmosphere before photosynthesis took over. Many geologists think that all the water on earth was originally released by volcanoes. The book shows a very interesting aspect of Hawaii, in that it is in the middle of the Pacific plate, not near the edges where the plates are barging into each other and which are the usual sites of volcanic activity. The plate carrying the islands is floating slowly over a particular hotspot, which pokes up as the plate floats over it, and gives rise to the familiar Hawaiian Island chain. Iceland is on such a hotspot, too, and besides that, it straddles the Mid-Atlantic ridge, where the ocean floor is being split apart as the plates separate at about two centimeters a year. The Bronze Age eruption of Thera in the Mediterranean directly weakened Crete, which permitted the Greeks to expand into the area; Mycenaean Greece was given the boost that made it the ancestor of classical Greece, with incalculable effects on the entire Western civilization ever since. Mount Pelée's explosion in Martinique in 1902 stopped an election that would have furthered the political advancement of black and mixed-race people on the island, and throughout the French colonies. The list of contingencies is fascinating.

All of the volcanoes described here are still active; we have not heard the last of them, and perhaps there is someday going to be a blast like that in Toba in the Pacific 74,000 years ago, which was thousands of times bigger than Mount St. Helens, and may have affected human evolution. This surprising, informative book is a useful look at how volcanoes effect land, sea, humans, and society. Even those of us not under the shadow of a volcano are living in the volcano zone.

4-0 out of 5 stars Fascinating history, plenty of facts I didn't know about.
I got this book to read more about the various volcanic eruptions I'd always heard of. You get a lot of detail and history about eruptions in Iceland, Hawaii, Europe and the Pacific, much of it I hadn't seen before. I didn't know most of the details given about Krakatau (usually spelled incorrectly as Krakatoa)such as weather effects and how far away the blast was heard. Did you know that people close to Mount St. Helens did not hear the blast,due to the way the sound carried, they only felt it?. That's an example of the level of detail given to the various examples of eruptions given. My one real complaint is that all measurements are given in metric format with only a small conversion table given in the preface to help people like me out. This book is well worth reading for anyone at all interested in volcanic eruptions.

4-0 out of 5 stars The Vibrating String
For someone who enjoys both history and natural science, "Volcanoes in Humany History" is a happy marriage. It's not exactly a page-turner, because the authors don't try to be too dramatic. They do, however, write simply and clearly, letting the eruptions and their consequences speak for themselves.

The authors' thesis is that each major eruption produces a "vibrating string" of historical effects, ranging from the eruption itself, to the immediate aftermath, to climate change, famine and epidemic, to economic and ecological revival, and finally to cultural effects that can span centuries.

The book covers nine volcanic systems, their eruptions and the resulting historical fallout: The Hawaiian Islands, where the clash between lava and ocean gave rise to a colorful mythology; Thera, whose catastrophic eruption in the Bronze Age may have destroyed Minoan civilization and produced the legend of Atlantis; Mount Vesuvius, whose eruption in 79 AD entombed and preserved the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum; Iceland, whose position above a magma plume and the spreading ocean floor gave rise to horrific eruptions and grim legends; Mount Tambora, the Indonesian volcano that caused the "Year Without a Summer" in 1816; Krakatau, whose tidal waves killed tens of thousand of people in 1883; Mount Pelee, whose pyroclastic flows killed the 30,000 citizens of St. Pierre in an instant in 1902; Tristan da Cunha, whose eruption displaced an idyllic island society; and Mount St. Helens, which in 1980 reminded the Pacific Northwest that "the Giants are only asleep."

If you enjoy "Volcanoes in Human History," you'll probably like these books as well:

"Catastrophe," by David Keys, which theorizes that a volcanic eruption in 536 AD caused the collapse of civilizations around the globe and brought on the Dark Ages in Europe.

"Unearthing Atlantis," by Charles Pellegrino, which argues that the eruption of Thera gave rise to the legend of Atlantis.

"Return to Sodom and Gomorrah," by Charles Pellegrino, which speculates (among other things) that the eruption of Thera gave rise to the Biblical stories of the Exodus. ... Read more

14. Volcano Cowboys: The Rocky Evolution of a Dangerous Science
by Dick Thompson
list price: $26.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0312208812
Catlog: Book (2000-07-01)
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Sales Rank: 297055
Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars
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Vulcanology is not the sexiest of sciences, despite Hollywood movies in which clenched-jawed heroes tame ferocious floods of lava that are busily swallowing up some crowded metropolis or another, racing against the clock to save humankind from the elements. It turns out that those movies aren't really so far-fetched, though, and in the pages of Volcano Cowboys the world's small corps of magma hunters acquire well-deserved élan.

The study of volcanoes, Time magazine writer Dick Thompson notes, is largely an observational and not theoretical science; where the vital memory of a molecular biologist "generally drops off after a decade," a vulcanologist will carry reams of data about the behavior of the earth gleaned from reports stretching back to the time of Plato and Pliny the Elder, those amateur volcano-watchers of antiquity. They've had plenty more to do in recent years, though, than to quote the ancients. Thompson's vigorous narrative begins with the eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980, an event that U.S. Geological Survey scientists had been able to predict with some accuracy. They lacked, however, a coordinated means to effect an evacuation of the area, and 57 people died. Battling institutional inertia and struggling for funding, teams of these scientists, the "volcano cowboys" of Thompson's title, set about trying to develop methods to predict more accurately dangerous volcanic events and to trim the body count when such events took place. His story recounts their eventual victory when, in 1991, the Philippine volcano Pinatubo exploded--but, thanks to the work of these dedicated field scientists, "less than one quarter of one percent of those at risk had died during the eruption."

Tens of millions of people around the world live within the reach of volcanoes. Thompson's narrative reveals that the "volcano cowboys" have made their lives safer--and it's much better than the movies. --Gregory McNamee ... Read more

Reviews (15)

5-0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Inside Look at the Evolution of Volcanology
This book is a fascinating look into the world of the USGS volcanologists and the progress made in the science of volcanology through the eruptions of Mt. St. Helens, Nevado Del Ruiz, and Pinotubo. The most interesting part of this book however, was not just the science, but the inside workings of the USGS and how politics, power, and money have influenced research on active volcanoes.

Dick Thompson did a great job of bringing the reader inside the heads of the various scientists as they struggled with interpreting the data they were receiving on each volcano. Through the fiasco of the non-eruption at Mono Lakes, the failure to save lives at Nevado Del Ruiz and their ultimate success in accurately predicting the eruption at Mt. Pinotubo in the Philippines, the volcanologists of the USGS learned to respond to volcano crises around the world. One chapter, which Thompson has entitled "They'll Think You're A Hero," sums up the pressures these volcanologists were under to accurately predict what Pinatubo would do next. If the volcano erupts as predicted they all become heroes, but if not, they lose their credibility and thousands of lives are needlessly disrupted.

I have read many books on volcanoes and their eruptions but this book clarified aspects of eruptions and the difficulties in interpreting data being collected from an active volcano. It also clarified the difficulties in bringing various methods of observation together to form one cohesive picture of a pending eruption. Dick Thompson also captured the humor of these volcanologists in stressful situations which brought the book to life.

Overall, this was an entertaining, insightful look at the science of volcanology. I couldn't put it down.

5-0 out of 5 stars Really a Winner
This is a first-rate book -- interesting subject matter, exciting tales well told, and an extremely well-informed easy-to-grasp look at modern volcanology.

The book follows the adventures of a dozen or so United States Geological Survey geologists (the "volcano cowboys") from the late 1970s through the early 1990s, focusing on two major episodes -- the Mt. St. Helens eruption of 1980 and the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991.

Mr. Thomspon, a long-time science correspondent for Time Magazine, has really done it right. The stories and travails of the researchers are related in an interesting and intimate manner, but never mined for soap opera or cheap drama. The power of volcanic eruptions is made vividly clear (I've been a lifelong geo buff, but I had no idea). And Mr. Thompson has a particuar flair for explaining complete scientific matters with such grace and economy that you hardly notice that you're absorbing technical material. He knows precisely how much detail to leave out for the general audience -- his perfect two-sentence description of why geologist study road cuts (bottom of page 294) should be studied by every science writer.

This is not a book that will satisfy someone looking for extremely fine-grained detail on volcanology, but presumably if you are looking for information on mathematical modelling of particle-size interaction in pyroclastic flows, you'll go to the scientific literature. As someone who knows a fair amount about geology, but didn't know much about volcanoes, I was entirely satisfied. My only gripe -- I would have loved a list of further reading & resources. This book left me hungry for more info!

I also thought it had just enough info on the political context of volcanology -- the explanation of how and why the USGS fouled up an attempt at eruption prediction near Mammoth Lakes, Californa was a great little tale. Once again, Thompson gives you enough, but not too much. This book is the work of an extremely talented writer with a great sense of balance and control.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great book, even for geologists!
Volcano Cowboys is an excellent book about the real people behind the science. If you are looking for a book about how volcanoes form - this is not it, but it you are looking for a book about how real science is done read Volcano Cowboys!! These guys aren't the stereotypical geeky scientists we often picture sequestered in labs and pale-skinned from lack of sunlight. This is what field geology is all about - getting your feet dirty (and your pants and shirt and hands and hair)! This book is also a candid view of the politics involved in science and also the fact that volcanology, like all science, is a work-in-progress. No, we don't know everything there is to know about how volcanoes work - and that is what makes geology so very exciting!

My one disappointment with the book were the pictures/figures. I want to see a diagram of Mt. St. Helens after the eruption to compare with the nice diagram of "before"!!! The photos are also a little hard to see in the paperback version.

5-0 out of 5 stars Applied science at it's best
This was simply the best (non-technical) volcano book I have ever read! I could not put it down.

The main portion of the book details the first rumblings of two famous volcanoes and follows events up to their climatic eruptions. Even if you are familiar with the individual volcanoes physical history you'll be fascinated with how earth science is truly applied in the "real world" and how many other pressures (political, social and economic) scientists in this field have to deal with.

When you are done reading this book you will get a glimpse of what kind of passion, dedication and craziness is needed for those working in the field.

5-0 out of 5 stars Fast paced science and a wonderful read
Writing about volcanoes may well be a subject that intrigues, but to follow the science of it, and personalise to the vulcanologists and their different schools, in the way that is done here, is no mean feat. This is a fast paced read, reflecting the thrill and horror of the big bang. What a great book! ... Read more

15. Volcanoes in the Sea: The Geology of Hawaii
by Gordon A. and MacDonald
list price: $44.00
our price: $37.84
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Asin: 0824808320
Catlog: Book (1983-09-01)
Publisher: University of Hawaii Press
Sales Rank: 96942
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16. Discoveries: Volcanoes (Discoveries)
by Maurice Krafft
list price: $12.95
our price: $12.95
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Asin: 0810928442
Catlog: Book (1993-03-15)
Publisher: Harry N Abrams
Sales Rank: 137442
Average Customer Review: 3.67 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (3)

This book looks at volcanism and how it has changed over time. It begins with ancient theories about volcanoes and continues to modern times. The last great change in thinking happened in the 18th and 19th centuries when the belief that volcanoes were powered by underground coal fires was disproven. I found this book to be quite informative, although somewhat dull.

4-0 out of 5 stars A very good review of the history of volcanology.
This book was written shortly before the author's death in May, 1991. He died in a pyroclastic flow from Mt Unzen in Kyushu, Japan. Kraft's lifelong passion was volcanoes, and his wife, fellow volcanologist, Katia Krafft, who died with him, were widely renowned for their skill and daring in obtaining the very best in photos of erupting volcanoes, and for their help to many in predicting eruptions and otherwise forwarding the science and popularity of volcanology.

This particular book traces the history of volcano study from rank superstition to the latest in science at the time of the author's death. Numerous passeges from others' writings are set forth as part of a very well conceived and edited text. Numerous color photographs, old etchings, and other photographic and artistic aids augment and explain the fine writing.

Volcano buffs, from the lay reader to the USGS expert, will appreciate and enjoy this book immensely. Be one of them.

4-0 out of 5 stars Volcanoes, Fire from the Earth
This book, written by Maurice Krafft, is very well illustrated and "pocket sized". It was recommended for a trip, but I have used it as a reference for my teaching of geology. Krafft was well known for his risk-taking photography, and this seems a tribute to his work. If you have an interest in volcanoes and geology, this is your book. ... Read more

17. Environmental Effects on Volcanic Eruptions: From Deep Oceans to Deep Space
by James R. Zimbelman, Tracy K. P. Gregg
list price: $114.00
our price: $114.00
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Asin: 0306462338
Catlog: Book (2000-11-01)
Publisher: Plenum Publishing Corporation
Sales Rank: 1976704
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18. Mt. St. Helens: Surviving the Stone Wind
by Catherine Hickson
list price: $19.95
our price: $13.57
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Asin: 0969760159
Catlog: Book (2005-05)
Publisher: Gordon Soules Book Publishers
Sales Rank: 474580
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19. Melting the Earth: The History of Ideas on Volcanic Eruptions
by Haraldur Sigurdsson
list price: $35.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0195106652
Catlog: Book (1999-04-01)
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Sales Rank: 448078
Average Customer Review: 4.83 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

From prehistoric times to the fiery destruction of Pompeii in 79 A.D. and the more recent pyrotechnics of Mt. St. Helens, volcanic eruptions have aroused fear, inspired myths and religious worship, and prompted heated philosophical and scientific debate. Melting the Earth chronicles humankind's attempt to understand this terrifying phenomenon and provides a fascinating look at how our conception of volcanoes has changed as knowledge of the earth's internal processes has deepened over the centuries.A practicing volcanologist and native of Iceland, where volcanoes are frequently active, Haraldur Sigurdsson considers how philosophers and scientists have attempted to answer the question: Why do volcanoes erupt? He takes us through the ideas of the ancient Greeks--who proposed that volcanoes resulted from the venting of subterranean winds--and the internal combustion theories of Roman times, and notes how thinking about volcanoes took a backward, symbolic turn with the rise of Christian conceptions of Hell, a direction that would not be reversed until the Renaissance. He chronicles the 18th-century conflict between the Neptunists, who believed that volcanic rocks originated from oceanic accretions, and the Plutonists, who argued for the existence of a molten planetary core, and traces how volcanology moved from "divine science" and "armchair geology" to empirical field study with the rise of 19th century naturalism. Finally, Sigurdsson describes how 19th and 20th century research in thermodynamics, petrology, geochemistry and plate tectonics contribute to the current understanding of volcanic activity.Drawing liberally from classical sources and firsthand accounts, this chronicle is not only a colorful history of volcanology, but an engrossing chapter in the development of scientific thought. ... Read more

Reviews (6)

4-0 out of 5 stars Very good book
"Melting the Earth"
The history of ideas on volcanic eruptions

By Haraldur Sigurdsson
First Draft By Matt Lindsey
Geo 103

The book I chose to read was "Melting the Earth" by Haraldur Sigurdsson. This book covers two of my most favorite subjects History and geology, which made this book even more interesting to read. Early Sigurdsson writes on subjects from, the Polynesian people and there fire myth Maui, who lives in the far depths of the earth, and when he turns while dreaming. He causes earthquakes on the earth above to the discovery of radiology. If you want to read a captivating and educational book about the history of volcanoes containing a wide variety of historical an mythical facts, I truly recommend this book.

In the beginning of this book, Sigurdsson explains early source of fire, some possible ways it was first introduced and used throughout the years to come. An excellent example was 600,000 year old ovens in china to burnt clay found in Africa that dated a staggering 1.5 million years old. Once the early homo-erectus learned of fire there culture changed forever, now they were able to heat and shape rocks more efficiently. But the earliest know form of tools made by homo-erectus was 2.5 million years ago in eastern Africa, made of obsidian (volcanic black glass). Later in this book, Sigurdsson touches on such people as, Kelvin, Zeus other Greek gods, Homer, Socrates, Plato. Then he moves on to discus the bible, and many more verities of philosophers and legends in several different cultures from around the world. World tragedies and accounts of mass destruction are accounted throughout this book, from risky sulfur mining in very active volcanoes to earthquakes that kill 800,000 people, with one major eruption.

About 3/4ths the way through the book he starts delegating a lot about the sources of volcanoes and the cause for there mass eruptions, he also discusses many different geologists that have also studied in this area, comparing both his ideas and theirs to form an overall complete analysis of the history of volcanoes.

It isn't till the last part of the book, he actually starts describing the earth and its mantel strictly on plate tectonics and magma generation. With the discovery of the solid mantel below our feet. In the very last page, he also talks about how major volcanic activity is not limited to earth alone, in fact many planets have had explosions almost 10 times what we do today. Leaving the everlasting question, is there life elsewhere in the galaxy?

I thought this was a very good book, mainly the fact that it was able to keep your attention throughout the whole thing, by bringing up myths from the pacific islands to actual catastrophes, from the first know use of fire to radio carbon of today, this book hits you with just about everything from every angle you could possibly imagine, from the philosophers point of view to the geologists findings through many long tedious expeditions.

Something's I really did not like about this book, was that he made constant reference to others work, and many books surrounding this field, though the points made with Sigurdsson references were helpful it was just that in my opinion he had to many and made it a little hard to fallow.

Overall I think this was a good book. I recommend that if you are interested in volcanoes and the earth around us, you should definitely read this book. The good out weights the bad aspects in this book, you will be in for a great treat as you read about the myths and legends of the past world to the facts and seemingly strange properties of the world today.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great book. Page-check your copy before you pay for it, tho
This is a terrific book, but I'm going to have to find another copy before I can read Chapter 15 (Radioactive Heat and Convection). My copy suffers from a serious bookbinding error, in which pages 197-228 are missing and pages 165-196 are repeated. (The second page 165 follows the first page 196, and page 229 follows the second page 196.)

I also have a couple of nits to pick that I would have expected the editors at Oxford University Press to catch before the book reached print.

(1) Early in the book, Homer and Ulysses are referred to in a sequence of two sentences which suggests that Ulysses was a character in Homer's work, which he wasn't. Ulysses stars in Virgil's Latin epic "The Aeneid", which borrows heavily from Homer's Greek epic "The Odyssey", starring Odysseus. So the discerning reader is left not knowing whether the subsequent quotation is from Homer's Odyssey or from Virgil's Aeneid.

(2) Early in the book, the assassination of Julius Caesar is referred to as the death of the Romans' emperor. But Julius Caesar was never emperor. He was assassinated to prevent him from becoming king. His adopted son Octavian invented the title of emperor ("imperator" = commander) years later--specifically to avoid offending the Romans' aversion to kings--when he had defeated his own rivals and had assumed absolute power in Rome as Caesar Augustus.

(3) The conversion from a temperature _difference_ of 3 Celsius degrees into a temperature _difference_ of 37.5 Fahrenheit degrees is completely wrong. It incorrectly includes the 32-Fahrenheit-degree offset for the freezing temperature of water (32F = 0 C), which isn't involved at all in a temperature-difference conversion. The correct conversion is to a temperature difference of 5.5 Fahrenheit degrees. The conversion of a Celsius temperature _level_ to a Fahrenheit temperature _level_ on the same page is done correctly, however. I suspect that the erroneous conversion was done by a literary editor who wasn't as familiar with temperature scales as I am sure the author must be.

But these are minor (though annoying) editorial flaws in a well-written, enlightening book. I recommend it highly.

Now, if I can just get my hands on pages 197-228 somewhere...


5-0 out of 5 stars Excellant compendium of sources and resources
Two of my favorite subjects are history and geology, so this was a double treat for me, since it's sort of a history of geology! Sigurdsson has created a marvelous compendium of sources on the subject of volcanism from mythologies among people native to areas of techtonic activity through Roman authors on the natural sciences to European and American scientists and philosophers into the early 20th Century. Probably one of the most significant things I discovered in reading the book was the underlying cause for the distain of the average person for the "rational" approach of the scientist. In laying before me the various theories for the cause of volcanism and earthquakes, Sigurdsson indirectly makes it clear that the "logical" assumptions of men of science can prove to be wrong, and the best research--for the technology of the time--can still lead to erroneous evaluations shaped by preconceived notions of the world, whether those concepts are biblico/religious ideology or a strongly held school of scientific thinking. Only by reading the entire book does one realize, also indirectly, that the scientific method of enquirey is the only way of gaining ground on the principles underlying natural processes. While the various authors of different theories may be in part or even entirely wrong, it is only through the testing and retesting of theories against the sterling measure of reality, that a clearer, working model of how nature works will arise. What is truely amazing is that so many early thinkers came to have at least a partial understanding of volcanism and of planetary and solar formation in modern terms. Also impressive were the novel approaches to experimental geology that were acheived. Many of the early investigators were truely creative people. Sigurdsson appears to be very well read, and his appreciation of the value of the visual documentary record, in forms such as pre-literate paintings and woodcut and engraved illustrations from rare books, is impressive and worthy of an individual trained in historical research rather than in the sciences. For anyone with an interest in geology, an interest in history, or simply someone who appreciates a good job of research, this is an excellant volume. It would also be a useful starting point for research on most other topics in the history of science, as many of the better resources are mentioned in the text and in the bibliographic entries for each chapter at the end of it. Some of the latter are in German, French or Italian, although many are in English translation in Sigurdsson's citing or can be found in English translations elsewhere.

5-0 out of 5 stars A scientific journey through history, art and philosophy
Haraldur Sigurdsson's work, Melting the Earth: the history of ideas on volcanic eruptions, is a rare blend of art, history and scientific research. Writing with an ease that belies profound historical and scientific research, the author explores centuries-old myths and theories about why volcanoes erupt, offers well-researched scientific explanations about volcanic activity, and provides us with philosophical inspirations about man's constant intrigue with the magic of nature. Beautifully complemented with art and photography, this work is easily understood by those of us whose only knowledge of volcanoes is having lived in the shadow of one.

Cecile Comp, Caribbean volcanic island native

5-0 out of 5 stars Buy Two of These!!
Dr. Sigurdsson has woven a superbly documented and wonderfully informative chronical of volcanic phenomena and theory. In Melting the Earth: The History of Ideas on Volcanic Eruptions, Sigurdsson introduces us to ancient philosophers and contemporary scientists alike. We learn of the Earth's volcanic dynamos: Thera, Etna, Vesuvius, (to mention a few)--from the events leading up to their explosive eruptions, environmental effcts.

Dr. Sigurdsson has compiled a true treasure a preeminent source book on the history of volcanic theory make for provocative reading, causing, awe and respect for this fearsome force of nature. Led by Dr. Sigurdsson's love of the subject and his apt narrative style, we come away educated, entertained, and hungry for more. ... Read more

20. Earthquake Country
by Robert L. Iacopi, Fred W. Fisher
list price: $14.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1555610862
Catlog: Book (1996-09-01)
Publisher: Perseus Publishing
Sales Rank: 1063136
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars Contents:
Maps, photos, how and why earthquakes cause damage. Explores the Southern, Central & Northern Andreas Fault, Elsinore Fault, Newport-Inglewood Fault, Santa Ynez and Related Faults, Garlock-Big Pine Fault, White Wolf Fault, Owens Valley Fault, Haywood Fault, and others.

Some old black and white photos of damage done. Like: Long Beach in 1933 (Jefferson High School), San Francisco's Hall of Justice and other buildings in 1906, Santa Barbara Pictures from 1925, Cummings Valley School in 1952, some from Holtville, Hotel Woodrow in Brawley, Naderman Bakery & Hollister Rochdale Company in Hollister in 1906, Santa Rosa's City Hall, a 3 story building in Fort Bragg, Memorial Church and domed library at Stanford, some of San Jose, one where a plate glass window pulled apart at seams and caught a tablecloth in crack when it drew back together, Daly City, one of a tall apartment building in Lake Merced where it blew out all the windows but did no other damage, an entire street in Compton demolished, Mission Santa Barbara, the old Hotel California and more. 160 pages.

5-0 out of 5 stars Living and traveling on the great San Andreas fault
The San Andreas Fault, one of the largest transform faults in the world, runs from the Mexican border north to northwest California, where it finally enters the Pacific. Millions of people live by ths fault and its branches, and are subject to its powerful earthquakes at any moment. Yet few are familiar with its exact route, what it looks like on the surface, and how to take simple steps to protect against its spasms of movement.

"Earthquake Country" addresses these things in a simple, direct, and easily understandable fashion. The photographs are well-chosen and striking, and the directions to various places discussed are highly accurate.

A few years ago, I took a trip along the fault, from Pearblossom, northeast of Los Angeles, to Point Reyes, northwest of San Francisco. I saw hills ripped in half, streets that had moved, fault lines in roads, streams that followed the fault, lines of sag ponds crossing hills, and many other amazing features and things. Without this remarkable, carefully crafted book, I would have passed many of these features without knowing of their significance, or even their existence. The chapters on the central sections of the fault around Cholame and Parkfield were especially informative.

As he takes you along the fault, the author also discusses earthquake protection, and seismic geology in a crisp, professional fashion. This book is must reading for any Californian, or any tourist who visits that wonderful state. I really enjoy the book, and recommend it very, very highly.

5-0 out of 5 stars Required reading for earthquake country residents
Excellent book, very informative and should be read by anyone living in earthquake country- understanding how and why quakes occur removes some of the fear. I've read all the past editions of this book; the most recent one has been updated to include the 6.7, 1994 Northridge quake, which I experienced. Maybe not a pleasant subject to read about but very interesting. Well-written. ... Read more

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