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The Wonders of the Yosemite Valley, and of California by Samuel Kneeland (1872)

Recent Earthquakes in Yosemite.

Readers of the preceding pages will remember the many proofs of old and existing, volcanic eruptions in the region of the Sierras; and recently there has been in this region some severe earthquake disturbances. The earth has been rent in long and deep, but narrow, fissures; rocks, trees, animals and dwellings have been swallowed up or destroyed, and great destruction of property, and not a little terror, have been the result of these tremblings, which even now have not ceased.

Confining ourselves here to the Valley, the following information has been communicated to a friend by a gentleman who has passed the winter there: On the twenty-sixth of March, 1872, at about 2 a.m., the first shock occurred, shaking, people out of bed, lasting about three minutes, with undiminished energy, and with considerable movement of the surface. At first nothing was heard but an unusual agitation of the trees, but after about at minute a tremendous crash was heard on the south side of the Valley, opposite Yosemite Falls; Eagle Rock had fallen from a height of 2,000 feet, and was pouring an avalanche of boulders over precipices, and through the forests of firs and spruces, filling the Valley with dust, and with countless reverberations. The sky was clear and the moon bright, so that everything could be plainly seen; the trees were strangely agitated, and the croaking of the frogs in the meadows, for a time, silenced. The river soon after was found to be muddy, from portions of its—banks having been shaken into it, but otherwise showed no signs of the agitation to which it must have been subjected.

This shock was followed, at intervals of a few minutes, by sharp concussions, each attended by gentle undulations and deep rumbling sounds. A second well-defined shock, about an hour after the first, was followed by another avalanche of rocks from the region of Eagle Rock. A third severe shock occurred soon after sunrise, of less violence than the preceding.

Rocks of small size, up to those 30 feet in diameter, formed, from this cause, a long rough slope at the foot of the vertical walls; many trees were destroyed, some four feet in diameter, cut and bruised, and thrown about like straws; some had their tops cuts off 100 feet from the ground by the flying, rocks. Other avalanches occurred in Indian and Illilouette cañons, and on the west side of the Cap of Liberty. Innumerable shocks occurred on the following day, and all were observed to progress from the north to the south, with a few from the east. The walls of the Valley are not disfigured, the only noticeable changes being some patches of fresh rock surface, and some new spires and fronts where Eagle Rock fell. The shocks were noticed till late in April, and perhaps later, and their consequences cannot fail to add a new interest to the sights in the Valley for the visitors of 1872.


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