If you live in the Pacific Northwest, get ready to run for your life . . . <br><br>In the face of a massive earthquake and tsunami in the Pacific Northwest, a respected geologist must make two gut-wrenching decisions. One could cost him his reputation, the other, his life. <br><br>Is the Northwest overdue for a huge quake and tsunami, or will the region remain safe for hundreds of years yet to come? No one knows… or does someone? <br><br>Dr. Rob Elwood, a geologist whose specialty is earthquakes and tsunamis, is having nightmares of "the big one” that are way too real to disregard. His friend, a counselor and retired reverend, does not think Rob is going nuts. To the contrary, he believes the dreams are premonitions to be taken seriously. No one else does, however, even after a press conference. <br><br>Some live to regret it, most don’t. <br><br> Rob’s drama becomes intertwined with others—a retired fighter pilot trying to make amends to a woman he jilted decades ago and a quixotic retiree searching for legendary buried treasure in the rugged coastal mountains of Oregon.<br><br>All are about to live Rob’s nightmare.<br><br>"Riveting, scary, and entirely believable . . . a compelling, page-turning thriller with the ring of truth.” Jerry Thompson, author of <i>Cascadia’s Fault</i> <br><br> H. W. "Buzz” Bernard, a native Oregonian born in Eugene and raised in Portland, is a best-selling, award-winning novelist. His debut novel, <i>Eyewall</i>, which one reviewer called a "perfect summer beach read,” was released in May 2011 and went on to become a number-one best seller in Amazon’s Kindle Store. Before becoming a novelist, Buzz worked at The Weather Channel in Atlanta, Georgia, as a senior meteorologist for thirteen years. Prior to that, he served as a weather officer in the U.S. Air Force for over three decades. He attained the rank of colonel and his "airborne” experiences include a mission with the Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters, air drops over the Arctic Ocean and Turkey, and a stint as a weather officer aboard a Tactical Air Command airborne command post (C-135).
Thunderbird and Whale
The Oregon Coast Near Present-Day Seaside
January 26, 1700
THE YOUNG BOY, unable
to sleep, opened one eye and surveyed the interior of the cedar-plank lodge.
Embers in a fire pit near the center of the lodge cast a weak, flickering glow
throughout its interior. Smoke spiraled lazily upward through a slit in the
roof. Shadows danced on the walls. Cured salmon hung, like slumbering bats,
from overhead racks.
strange amalgam of sounds permeated the building: snores, wheezes, a soft belch
here and there, the occasional sharp "blurp” of someone passing gas.
than these reverberations of life, the night seemed strangely silent. The
endless dampness and incessant winds typical of the dark season along the coast
had relented, at least briefly. But the boy, like all residents of the tiny
village—four lodges perched above the banks of a short river rich in salmon and
steelhead—knew the rains and gales would return. They always did. Thus, this
period of relative dryness and calm offered a great reason for celebration.
evening, the inhabitants of the community had dined on a special meal of elk
and salmon, and berries and roots. Even now, the aromas of the feast lingered
in the still air of the lodge.
eating, the men had sat around the fire talking and smoking, sharing stories of
adventures past, while the women and children busied themselves with chores:
tidying up the lodge, cleaning utensils, and shaking out the sleeping mats to
rid them of as many of the ever-present fleas as they could.
pests could not be totally exterminated, however, and the boy scratched
absentmindedly at a rash of bites on his hip. He sat up on the raised sleeping
platform and gazed at the area around him. Next to him, his mother and sister
slept. On the other side of the room, his father and grandfather slumbered,
undoubtedly exhausted after their hunt for elk earlier in the day. They had
brought down a large one.
mentioned to the boy upon returning from their pursuit that they’d had to thrash
their way deeper than usual into the dense forests of the coastal mountains.
For a reason that mystified them, the elk had moved to higher ground. This,
they explained, was strange behavior for the season, when moolackusually remained close to the shores of the ocean where they didn’t have to
wade through the deep, wet snows that often coated the mountains.
boy settled back onto his mat and closed his eyes, hoping sleep would overtake
him. It didn’t. Outside, the kamuks, dogs, had raised a clamor, barking
and baying, presumably at an unwelcome visitor—a bear, a mountain lion, a
wolf—that had wandered too close to the village.
the ruckus would quiet after the intruder had fled, but not tonight. It
continued, eventually morphing into whines and plaintive howls.
boy arose from his mat and noted that several others had stirred. His father
arose, too, picked up a spear, and, wearing nothing but his breechcloth, crept
toward the doorway, motioning for the boy to stay put.
father reached the door, then disappeared down a short ladder leading to the
ground. Outside, the barks and yowls continued. The man returned shortly,
clambering back into the warmth of the lodge and shaking his head—nothing
that instant, the ground beneath the lodge shuddered, then quieted, only to be
followed by a second, more intense shake, then a third, even harder. Moments
later, the earth heaved upward, a violent motion that tossed the boy and his
father off balance, sending them sprawling onto the sand floor near the fire
pit. As abruptly as the earth had risen, it sank, the boards of the sleeping
platforms cracking like ice in a sudden winter thaw. Scattered screams and
yells filled the semi-darkness as the remainder of the structure’s inhabitants
boy attempted to stand, but another upward surge of the earth knocked him down
once more. One wall of the lodge sagged, then, with an explosive crack, split.
Two heavy logs, the overhead beams of the structure, plunged to the floor. Cries
of pain and pleas for help followed, permeating the devastated interior of the
the ground subsided, only to be followed by yet another swell. The boy
staggered to his feet and stumbled toward the exit, or at least the place where
the exit had been. Nothing more than split and rent wood now marked its
presence. He turned to look for his father and grandfather.
a gaping hole in the roof, light from a waxing moon illuminated in feeble light
a horrific carnage within the lodge. Friends and relatives lay maimed, many
motionless. The boy spotted his father and grandfather attempting to pull
people from beneath the massive timbers that had fallen from the roof. He
staggered toward them as the earth continued to roll in jolting surges. It felt
no different than riding a large dugout in heavy seas. The sickness that
sometimes afflicted him on the ocean attacked him now. He bent over and
regurgitated his evening meal.
violent shaking continued, unrelenting in its ferocity, and the boy fell
several more times as he struggled to reach his father and grandfather.
Finally, after what seemed an eternity, but probably covered no more time than
the life span of a spring rain squall, the convulsions slackened.
boy reached his father and grandfather and joined them in attempting to pull
his bleeding, unconscious kahpho, sister, from beneath a pile of
splintered wood. They labored fruitlessly, unable to tug the heavy debris from
her body. With each lingering, albeit less violent, heave of the ground,
additional parts of the lodge, already weakened by the initial tremors,
collapsed. Finally, the boy’s grandfather stood and pointed outside.
must go,” he said.
boy’s father shook his head. No.
grandfather knelt beside his son and rested a hand on his shoulder. "It is too
late. We must leave or we will die.”
shaking of the earth, now no more than dying ripples, at last relented. "It is
over,” the boy’s father said, "finished.” He continued his frantic efforts to
free his daughter.
grandfather, with a strength and swiftness belying his age, jerked the man to
his feet. "No, it is not finished,” he said, his words commanding, forceful.
"The flood is coming.”
flood? There is no water falling from the sky.”
flood from the great water.” The grandfather inclined his head toward the
an orange glow filled the night. One or more of the destroyed lodges had
apparently caught fire.
the grandfather said.
to?” the boy’s father asked, his voice tight with emotion as he stared down at
his trapped and injured daughter. Moans and groans from others filled the
weakly lit darkness.
"Thecanims,” the old man said. The canoes.
boy asked, tugging at his father’s breechcloth.
gone,” his father said. A tear ran down his cheek. The boy had never seen that
followed his elders outside. They scrambled over piles of sheared and
splintered timber, the young Indian blinking back his own tears. Smoke drifted
through the ravaged village. The wails of the injured and dying mingled with an
eerie chorus of barks, yips, and howls from animals in the nearby forest. The
boy grasped his father’s hand with a firmness born of fear.
they stumbled through the chilly darkness, through their ruined settlement,
toward their canoes resting on the mudflats of the river. They slashed through
soggy eelgrass and deep depressions and ponds that hadn’t been present a short
time earlier. The boy’s father stopped to look in the direction of the ocean.
The boy looked, too. The weak moonlight glistened off wet sand as far as he
could see. It appeared as if the tide had receded beyond the horizon, into the
depths of the sea.
that,” the boy’s father said, pointing. "The great water has retreated. There
is no flood coming, old man.” He touched his head in a gesture suggesting the
grandfather had lost his senses.
are wrong,” the grandfather snapped, glaring at his son. "There is a deadly
flood coming, one in which the waters will flow uphill. Our ancestors knew of
it. They warned us in their stories.”
young boy looked from his father to his grandfather, trying to comprehend.
will explain when we get to safety,” his grandfather said. "Now we must move
boy’s father stared back at the remnants of the lodge, then down at his son, as
though weighing the consequences of an impending decision.
old man rested a hand on his son’s shoulder. "I am sorry,” he said, "but you
must live for the one who lives.” He shifted his gaze to the boy.
somewhere distant, well beyond the exposed tidal flats, well out over the
depths of the ocean, a hissing, like that of a massive snake, cut through the
human and animal cries that suffused the darkness.
the boy’s grandfather commanded.
boy looked around, not understanding from what they were fleeing. His father
grabbed his hand and tugged him toward the canoes. A few residents of the
village had already paddled into the stream. But others, ignoring the
exhortations of the elders, continued rescue efforts in their crumpled homes,
two of which burned with the ferocity of a wildfire.
reached the canoes. The boy and his grandfather clambered into one. The boy’s
father pushed the dugout into mid-stream, then climbed into it himself. The two
older men began paddling, heading upstream. The sound that had begun as a hiss,
grew louder, like rushing water or a breaking wave.
boy’s father and grandfather stroked furiously in a desperate effort to outrun
whatever was coming. Initially, the river’s course paralleled the shore, but
eventually turned inland. The boy had no idea how far they had to go to find a
place of safety. He knew only that something evil pursued them. He could hear
it clearly now, grinding and chewing its way through the forest and up the
river, snapping trees in violent thunderclaps of destruction.
he saw it and gasped. A massive surge of black water, not just in the river,
but on both sides of it, closing in on them like a beast from the depths of the
sea. Within an instant, the surge caught them, lifting the canoe as if it were
riding a huge ocean swell.
men ceased paddling and clung to the gunwales of the canoe, the vessel now
merely riding the flood like a chunk of driftwood in a cascading stream. The
roiling water, filled with trees, dead animals, and—the boy’s gut lurched—two
bodies clothed in the garb of his tribe, churned around them in an angry surge.
after the initial rush, the water continued to rise, hoisting the canoe ever
higher, until it reached the tops of the shorter trees along the now-inundated
banks of the river. A whirlpool snatched the dugout and slammed it into a stand
of towering spruce, the needled boughs of the trees clawing, like wild animals,
at the exposed skin of the Clatsops.
boy’s father grabbed at one of the boughs, caught it, and screamed for help.
The grandfather, realizing his son’s intent, seized another limb. The canoe
jerked to a stop. The men struggled to wrestle the canoe into a position of
relative stability as the ocean continued to rush fiercely around them. The boy
ventured a peek over the edge of the canoe and tried to guess how far they were
above what used to be the ground. He thought six or seven grown men might have
to stand on one another’s shoulders to reach them. His heart beat so rapidly he
feared it would leap from his chest.
what seemed like forever, but wasn’t—the position of the crescent moon had
barely shifted—the water began to recede, draining rapidly back toward the sea.
The boy relaxed. "It’s leaving us,” he said, a note of hope tinting his words.
grandfather shook his head. No. "It will return. Once, twice, maybe
three times before the sun rises. We must remain here. It will be safe.”
they sat the night in the sheltering upper boughs of a Sitka spruce, in a
dugout canoe, as the great flood attacked twice more, backing off only after
whatever evil spirit had loosed the destruction seemed satisfied. For warmth,
they huddled together in the small boat, but still shivered uncontrollably as chill
of the winter night deepened.
came dull and muted, the land along the river virtually denuded of life. No
animals moved, no bushes swayed in the wind, no grass sprouted from the banks
of the stream. All vestiges of anything living had been swept away. Nothing but
a debris-littered landscape met the eye: flattened trees, shattered timber, the
bloated carcasses of deer and elk, squirrels and raccoons, lynx and bear, and
the remains of at least one human. A heavy frost tinged the nightmarish scene
in a ghostly whiteness.
the small stand of spruce where the men had found shelter remained. With most
of the lower limbs of the tree that had offered them safety still intact, they
scrambled down from the canoe and reached the ground, now nothing but mushy,
salt-encrusted layers of mud and sand topped with a thin layer of ice.
foot, they trekked toward the village, a laborious journey over frosty, boggy
ground that sucked relentlessly at their feet. They encountered rock slides,
washouts, and, where the ground had mysteriously sunk into the maws of the
earth, gaping depressions filled with downed trees. It seemed as if the land
itself had tried to devour whatever had stood upon it.
moved through a morning mist in strange silence. Their exhalations, thin
streaks of vapor, trailed behind them in white gossamer threads. Not even the
cries of seabirds, normally abundant, pierced the morning stillness. No sounds
of human presence, other than theirs, cut through the brooding hush. No voices
of hunters. No thud of elk-antler wedges splitting wood. No laughter of young
exhaustion, they reached the site of the village, or at least where the village
had stood. Nothing remained save sand, driftwood, and seaweed, and the limp,
lifeless bodies of the crushed and drowned. The boy counted at least twenty
corpses, mainly of the elderly and children, littering the beach and river
banks. Among the human remains, seagulls pecked dutifully at the carcasses of
dogs. The stomach-churning stench of death pervaded everything.
boy turned from the scene, fearing he would be sick. He didn’t wish to display
weakness in front of his father. His chest heaved as he fought back waves of
hand came to rest on his shoulder. He looked up into the face of his
grandfather whose reddened eyes appeared clouded and misty.
boy choked back a final incipient sob. "What happened here, Chope? Why
did the great water and land turn against us?”
grandfather steered the boy to a barnacled stump that had washed ashore in the
immense flood, and they sat. The boy looked once more at the carnage that
confronted him. His father walked among the bodies, examining each with the
care of a kindred spirit. He flailed his arms and shooed away an inquisitive eagle.
He stooped beside each of the dead, laid a hand on them, and appeared to utter
the earth vibrated and the boy leapt from the stump, prepared to flee for his
life once again. The shaking ceased. His grandfather remained seated. "Don’t
be afraid,” he said. "It’s just the final echo of a great battle.”
battle?” Still harboring trepidation, the young Indian again sat beside his
I was a boy,” the old man said, "there was a tale passed down from generations
gone by, over seasons too numerous to number. It was a story that no one I knew
had been witness to. Nor had my grandfather’s grandfather, or even the
generations before them. But it was an account we knew to be true. It has now
happened again. I will tell you why. But you must listen closely, so you can
tell the story to your offspring.”
the darkness, the mighty Thunderbird, the most powerful of all spirits, whose
eyes shoot lightning and whose wings unleash thunder, snatched Whale from its home
in the great water and bore it inland, soaring toward the lofty mountains where
Thunderbird’s nest awaited. Whale, you see, would provide a fine and
because of the size of Whale, Thunderbird tired and descended to earth several
times to rest its wings. Each time it did, a fearful struggle ensued, Whale
fighting for its life, Thunderbird battling to subdue it. A final skirmish,
violent and prolonged, occurred near Thunderbird’s home. The earth shook and
deformed, forests sank, masses of rocks tumbled from the mountains. The great
water retreated but returned with fearful speed and fury, rising higher than
ever before, washing away villages and turning rivers to salt. All this we have
boy nodded again.
grandfather shifted his position on the stump, blew into his hands to warm
them, then continued his story. "The shaking we felt moments ago was Whale in
its death throes. Thunderbird, as always, was the victor. Now the earth and
great water will let us live in peace for many generations.”
spirit of Thunderbird controls our destinies. In times of tranquility, it is
easy to forget that we live on a battleground; that we are at the mercy of
earth that trembles and waters that inundate.” The elder paused and surveyed
the devastation surrounding them.
a long while, he said, "No, the peacefulness will not endure. That is why you
must repeat this tale to those who will follow you, for it is the unseen
generations that will grow complacent, thinking all is well, that Thunderbird
is sated and delivers only harmless thunder and lightning. But he will grow
hungry again, a battle will ensue, and the land will convulse and flood once
more. Villages will disappear and people will die.”
boy stared out at the water. "It was so beautiful here, Chope,” he said
Long after we no longer walk this land, people will think that. But they, like
so many of us, will not be aware of the danger that lurks. You must warn them
with your story. It is yours to hand down now.”
boy stood, wrapping his arms around him for warmth, and turned toward the
mountains. He wondered how many generations would pass before Thunderbird took
flight once more in search of Whale.
The Ghost Forest
The Copalis River
90 Miles west of Seattle
Monday, March 23
ROB ELWOOD NOSED the
canoe into a muddy bank bordering a tidewater marsh. He turned to his son
Timothy seated in the rear of the canoe. "Hand me the shovel.”
Timothy steadied the canoe, Rob chopped away at the bank of the marsh with the
shovel. Overhead, seagulls orbited beneath a low-hanging gray overcast. Behind
the marsh, bundles of mist, like flannel cotton candy, clung to the tops of a
dense stand of Douglas fir and Sitka spruce. A chilly breeze snaked up the
narrow, languid river, a reminder that spring had yet to arrive on the
Washington coast. The fetor of mud and marine life, both living and dead,
permeated the dull morning.
worked at a steady pace, hacking out a vertical cut that exposed layers of
silt, mud, and peaty soil. He glanced back at his son. Tim, wool stocking cap
pulled low over his brow, kept his paddle jammed into the mucky bottom of the
river, stabilizing the small boat. His sullen facial expression conveyed his
Rob said, "it was your idea to see what your old man does when he goes to work.
You were the guy who wanted to find out what a geologist does in the field.”
well I guess I had kind of a different vision.”
stopped digging and placed the shovel in the bottom of the boat. "Like what?”
spring break, Dad. I thought we might go somewhere warm, like Hawaii, to study
volcanoes. Or Southern Cal. You know, the San Andreas Fault. The Big One.
Something like that. Exciting. Not digging in a frigging mud flat.”
a tidal marsh.” Rob pulled his lightweight anorak tight around his neck,
adjusted his wire-rim spectacles, and blew into his hands to keep them warm.
"You think I wasn’t sixteen once, son?”
squinted at him. "What’s that supposed to mean?”
means I haven’t always been Doctor Elwood. It means I know about babes
in bikinis on warm beaches during spring vacation. Believe it or not, I’ve been
through the horny-adolescent-male stage.”
Tim’s cheeks turned the shade of a hearty Merlot. Using his free hand, he
yanked his iPhone from his parka and punched at the virtual keyboard with his
thumbs. "Hey, guess what? The Trail Blazers won last night.” He held up the
phone so his dad could view the score.
Rob sighed. "Let’s talk about
another mystery then. Swing the canoe around so you can see what I’ve
pocketed his phone, then pivoted the craft and brought it abeam of the tiny
cliff his father had cut into the bank.
do you see?” Rob asked.
going to have to do better than that if you want to be a scientist.”
shrugged. "Maybe I’ll be a writer.”
you should think about being something you can actually make a living at.”
on, son. Look at the mud. Try to think analytically about what you see.”
ripple of water thunked against the canoe. The boat bobbed up and down.
turning,” Rob said, "and we’ve still got stuff to look at on the marsh. So
let’s step it up. Try doing a little detective work, okay?”
leaned closer to the excavation, making a show of examining it. "Sure,”
he said, sounding less than enthusiastic. "There’re layers of mud, like
different colors, different textures. Silt maybe.” He squinted. "And it looks
like there’re little bits of plants and grass stuck in the mud.” Indifference
etched on his face, he turned toward his father. "What a thrill.”
didn’t respond immediately. Partially out of frustration, partially in an
attempt to come up with a way to engage his son, he paused. After a minute or
so, he spoke. "Look again near the bottom of what I hacked out. There’s
something different, something besides just typical salt-marsh deposits.”
moved his gaze back to the excavation. "Oh, yeah. Looks like there’re twigs and
chunks of bark and stuff in the mud.”
Those are the remains of a spruce forest, a forest that grows only on dry land.
But it’s not dry here, is it? Kinda weird, huh? But there’s something else,
too.” He extended his right arm, and with his index finger traced over a thin,
grainy deposit layered on top of the mud harboring the spruce bits.
sighed, reached out, and took a pinch of the deposit between his thumb and
forefinger. "Sand.” He looked at his father.
his son’s eyes, Rob detected a nascent question. "Good. So let’s think about
this. Mud, mud, mud, then suddenly a layer of sand. Where’d that come from?”
on. Pretend you’re on CSI. Give it a shot. There’s a mystery here.”
sand came in on a high tide.”
once? And another thing, we’re probably three miles upstream from the mouth of
the river. That would suggest something a hell of a lot bigger than a high tide
carried this sand inland.”
storm. A big storm.”
That’s a possibility. Let’s pull the canoe up onto the grass and take a look around.”
maneuvered the craft onto the slightly raised hummock of the marsh. They
secured the boat and clambered out into a field of soggy, tan grass. Beneath
the ankle-high growth, thick mud, almost quicksand-like in its consistency,
sucked at their boots.
meandering tidal streams snaked through the marsh. A great blue heron stalked
along the edge of one of the creeks, searching for breakfast. It paused to
inspect Rob and Tim. Apparently deciding the slow-moving figures offered no
threat, the bird continued its hunt.
watched as Tim surveyed the grassy slough. "Something seem a bit out of place
here?” he asked.
kinda. Those things.” Tim pointed at the scattered silvery stumps and spires of
dead trees. The snags gave the marsh the appearance of a giant pin cushion.
catch, kid. What stood here a long time ago looked just like the thick forest
behind it. Spruce, fir, cedar. Now all that remains are grass, some huckleberry
bushes, and these dead trees from another age. We call it ‘The Ghost Forest.’”
Forest?” Tim’s voice betrayed a spark of interest.
old stumps and trunks are Western red cedar—strong, rot resistant, insect
resistant. They remained here long after the rest of the forest died and
decayed. Remember the spruce bits in the mud?”
here’s the crux of the puzzle. What killed the trees?”
face brightened. Engagement. A mystery to be solved. "I like my big storm
theory. A saltwater flood from the sea.”
seawater would have drained back out to the ocean. The trees would have
survived. Try again.”
bald eagle soared above the marsh, working its wings like trim tabs, probably
running an armed reconnaissance in search of a mouse or vole.
furrowed his brow, staring at the Ghost Forest. "Hey, I know,” he said. "Fire,
a forest fire.”
motioned him forward, toward the naked snags. They squished across the marsh,
in spots brushing through the leathery, serrated leaves of salal bushes. They
reached a place where several of the bone-colored spires stood in close
proximity to one another.
any evidence of fire? Blackened wood? Burn marks?”
walked around the trees. Squish, squish, squish. "Not really,” he said finally,
sounding a bit dejected.
closed his eyes and tilted his head toward the slate-colored cloud deck. He
remained in the reflective pose for a moment, then opened his eyes and pivoted
toward his dad. "Sink hole,” he said decidedly. "A big sink hole formed and
allowed salt water to rush in.”
that’s not totally correct, but you’re close. Good thinking. Here’s the deal.
Remember the layer of sand covering the mud that contained the spruce forest
same thing from about the same time—we know that because of radiocarbon
dating—has been discovered all along the coasts of Washington and Oregon. That
means something catastrophic happened in the Pacific Northwest a little over
three hundred years ago. Something that caused certain areas to subside, or sink,
thus allowing tidal marshes to become blanketed in sand.”
"Somethingcatastrophic?” Tim eyes widened. "What?”
massive earthquake, what’s known as a megaquake. It caused some spots to
suddenly sink, like where we’re standing, and unleashed a huge tsunami that
swept beach sand inland and permanently flooded those places that had, so to
speak, caved in.”
could see he had Tim’s interest now. "Trouble is, we’re not talking something
of just historical significance. It’s an event, a disaster, that’s going to
stared at his father.
that movie The Impossible that came out a few years ago, the one about
the big tsunami in Sumatra?”
That was pretty scary.”
Rob said, his voice dropping to a hoarse whisper, "it’ll happen here. In the
Northwest. Just like Sumatra. And I don’t mean just here,” he stamped
his foot on the soft earth, "I mean everywhere from Vancouver Island to
smiled. "Come on, Dad, you’re yanking my chain.”
It’s easy to pass off what once happened here as ‘ancient’ geologic history,
something that happened many years before white men reached the western edge of
the continent. But it’s not. The Earth is restless and sometimes violent.
St. Helens, for instance. The restlessness didn’t cease just because we settled
the region and built freeways and skyscrapers and dams. The threat of violent
upheavals persists. Just ask the people of Sumatra or Japan. Or if you could,
even the Indians who used to live along coasts here.”
kept his gaze fixed on his father.
went on. "Earlier you mentioned The Big One on the San Andreas fault. Forget
it.” He shook his head in slow motion denial.
narrowed his eyes. Skepticism.
L. A. will still get a Big One,” Rob said, "but—and this is something we
didn’t realize even thirty years ago—it’s really Vancouver, Seattle, and
Portland that are Ground Zero for The Big One, the
stood silent for a few moments, perhaps trying to come to grips with the
consequences of what his father had just told him. The wind picked up, sighing
through the crown of the living evergreens and rattling through the dry bones
of the Ghost Forest. Overhead, a squadron of gulls, calling to one another in
piercing cries, rode the freshly invigorated wind.
broke out of his reverie. "Hey, there’s another canoe.” He pointed at the
turned. A canoe with single paddler pushed upstream, riding the incoming tide.
Not a fisherman. Someone fishing would use a drift boat or cast a line from the
shore. A recreational paddler? Maybe, but the boat appeared to be making
directly for the marsh.
continued watching. The canoe eased into the bank and stopped. Its single
occupant exited, secured the craft, and glided toward Rob and Tim. Glidedseemed the correct word. The new arrival, decked out in a University of
Washington ball cap, Pendleton jacket, and L. L. Bean footwear, moved
effortlessly over the boggy land in long, smooth strides and, in a matter of
seconds, stood in front of Rob and Tim.
she said, and extended her hand. "I’m Cassie.”
Rob said, shaking hands with her. "I’m Robert Elwood, Rob. And this is my son,
Timothy.” He nodded at Tim.
hope you don’t mind me intruding,” she said. "But I’ve read so much about the
Ghost Forest I decided I wanted to come see it for myself.”
took stock of Cassie. Her slight build seemed the reason she’d been able to
move over the marsh with such ease. Beyond that, in a word, she appeared
entrancing. Not necessarily beautiful, but beguiling. A ponytail the shade of
sugar maple leaves in a New England autumn spilled out from beneath the back of
her cap. If eyes, as is often said, are the windows to one’s soul, then
Cassie’s virescent irises suggested something timeless and wise resided deep
complement that implication, she appeared, well, ageless. Rob had no clue
whether she might be in her early thirties or late sixties. Perhaps it depended
on how the light hit her, at least what little of it managed to squeeze through
the leaden overcast.
your interest in the Ghost Forest?” Rob asked.
been doing research on Native American legends along the north Pacific Coast.
Most recently with the Makah and Huu-ay-aht people.” She gestured northward.
"Before that, with the Snoqualmie, Quileutes, and Duwamish. Within each tribe,
oral histories of a ‘great shaking of the earth’ and a ‘massive flood from the
ocean’ have been handed down over many generations.”
I’ve heard,” Rob said.
researchers categorized the tales as folklore and mythical sagas. For one
thing, the timeframes of the stories were impossible to pin down. There were a
lot of vague references like ‘shortly before the white man’s time’ or ‘four
generations before my grandfather’s time.’ That left a lot of room for
interpretation. Maybe the 1700s, maybe the 1600s, if at all. Then, with the
discovery of the Ghost Forest, we—”
a lot of other research discoveries, too,” Rob interjected.
sure,” she said, "but the Ghost Forest was the most high-profile. Anyhow, it
was an important part of the evidence that there had indeed once been a ‘great
shaking of the earth’ and ‘massive flood’ along the coast.”
paused, seeming to allow her thoughts to drift into the past, or maybe the
future, then continued. "So, the Native American tales it turns out aren’t
mythology, they’re history.”
gust of wind riffled the dark waters of the Copalis.
than that,” Rob said. "They’re a warning.”