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A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906
A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906
A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906
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A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906

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The international bestselling author of The Professor and the Madman and Krakatoa vividly brings to life the 1906San Francisco Earthquake that leveled a city symbolic of America's relentless western expansion. Simon Winchester has also fashioned an enthralling and informative informative look at the tumultuous subterranean world that produces earthquakes, the planet's most sudden and destructive force.

In the early morning hours of April 18, 1906, San Francisco and a string of towns to its north-northwest and the south-southeast were overcome by an enormous shaking that was compounded by the violent shocks of an earthquake, registering 8.25 on the Richter scale. The quake resulted from a rupture in a part of the San Andreas fault, which lies underneath the earth's surface along the northern coast of California. Lasting little more than a minute, the earthquake wrecked 490 blocks, toppled a total of 25,000 buildings, broke open gas mains, cut off electric power lines throughout the Bay area, and effectively destroyed the gold rush capital that had stood there for a half century.

Perhaps more significant than the tremors and rumbling, which affected a swatch of California more than 200 miles long, were the fires that took over the city for three days, leaving chaos and horror in its wake. The human tragedy included the deaths of upwards of 700 people, with more than 250,000 left homeless. It was perhaps the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.

Simon Winchester brings his inimitable storytelling abilities -- as well as his unique understanding of geology -- to this extraordinary event, exploring not only what happened in northern California in 1906 but what we have learned since about the geological underpinnings that caused the earthquake in the first place. But his achievement is even greater: he positions the quake's significance along the earth's geological timeline and shows the effect it had on the rest of twentieth-century California and American history.

A Crack in the Edge of the World is the definitive account of the San Francisco earthquake. It is also a fascinating exploration of a legendary event that changed the way we look at the planet on which we live.

LanguageEnglish
PublisherHarperCollins
Release dateFeb 5, 2013
ISBN9780062277459
A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906
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Author

Simon Winchester

Simon Winchester is the bestselling author of Atlantic, The Man Who Loved China, A Crack in the Edge of the World, Krakatoa, The Map That Changed the World, The Surgeon of Crowthorne (The Professor and the Madman), The Fracture Zone, Outposts and Korea, among many other titles. In 2006 he was awarded the OBE. He lives in western Massachusetts and New York City.

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  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    3/5
    I read this book for research purposes. While I did fill it with sticky notes and found the read overall quite rewarding, I was also left with a strong sense that it could have been a much better book.Winchester is a very knowledgeable fellow. The book is framed around his own travels to places like Iceland and then across North America, from Charleston, to New Madrid, and on westward to San Francisco. His goal is to explore tectonic theory and how the San Andreas Fault fits into the larger scheme of the living world. The data is quite interesting, but at the same time he rambles. It's like he came across too much good information and tried to squeeze it into one book. This creates a problem when a book about the 1906 earthquake doesn't get to the actual earthquake until page 241.This also creates the odd dilemma in that it felt like little of the book was on the actual quake. Information on the aftermath is interesting, such as the struggle to get insurance companies to pay up (especially German-based ones), and the plight of the Chinese and the ensuing wave of "Paper People" who tried to take advantage of or were genuinely lost because of the loss of immigration paperwork. He then, however, devotes too much space to how the "wrath of God" aspect of the earthquake inspired the Pentecostal church movement. Even his trip to Alaska to discuss the fascinating matter of how the pipeline has been created to withstand earthquakes is colored by derogatory comments on towns along the way, including a slam against Wal-mart that felt out of place in its arrogance.In all, its an interesting book that's diluted by too many tangents. Still worth reading, though, even if it caused me to roll my eyes or skim at times.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    3/5
    After the recent earthquake/tsunami/nuclear-meltdown in Japan I wanted to read a disaster book, and Simon Winchester offers light entertaining non-fiction about an old scar that has since healed, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake (and fire). Most of the book is about earthquakes in general, and the potential for another big one in the near future. It's not Winchester's best book, it's mediocre really, and there are probably better earthquake books, but being an Anglophile I enjoy listening to his accent and tweedy style in audiobook format.Some of the things I learned: the San Andreas fault is currently 17' behind, meaning the next earthquake will shift at least that far in one big jolt. The other big fault in the USA, centered in Memphis TN, is caused by upwelling underneath the middle of the North American plate, like a pimple, and not plates rubbing together, like San Andreas. Thus when a quake hits Memphis, it's like a hammer hitting marble, the waves spread far across a solid plate, unlike San Andreas where the ground is fractured on the edge of the plates and waves dissipate quickly over distance. I also learned there is a town in CA where the San Andreas is constantly moving 24x7, at about the speed of fingernails growing.