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Othello, Hanford and the Channeled Scablands, Washington

Posted by graywacke on May 23, 2016

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-four-or-five days blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is) please see “About Landing” above.  To check out some recent changes in how I do things, check out “About Landing (Revisited).”

Landing number 2269; A Landing A Day blog post number 699.

Dan:  Today’s landing is my first in Washington since I changed my random lat/long approach; so, of course, it’s a USer and my Score went down (from 813 to a new record low, 778).  Haven’t a clue what I’m talking about?  Check out “About Landing (Revisited),” above.  Don’t care?  Don’t bother . . . (and just continue reading).

Here’s my regional landing map:

landing 1

And my local landing map:

landing 2

 

Here’s my streams-only map (check out the poetic names of my local streams):

landing 3

As you can see, I landed in the watershed of the Potholes East Canal; on to the Ringold Wasteway; on to the Columbia River (158th hit).  More about potholes (not the canal) in a while.  Also – I could find nothing about why the Ringold Wasteway is called the Ringold Wasteway, or, in fact why it’s called a wasteway at all . . .

It’s time for my spaceflight in to southeast Washington.  Click HERE, enjoy the flight, and then hit your back button.

Here’s my GE SV map:

ge sv landing map

 

And here’s what the orange dude sees:

ge sv landing

I don’t have to travel far to get a look at my local drainage:

ge sv drainage map

And here’s the view (of Potholes East Canal):

ge sv drainage

So, what about Othello?  I think I need to start with the name.   Well, the New York Times dug into that issue in a 2011 article by Katharine Q. Seelyeaug, entitled “All the Town’s a Stage Where the Bard’s Works Inspire Street Names.”

Before quoting from Ms. Seelyeaug’s piece, here’s a Street Atlas map of the north side of town:

sa othello

FYI, Desdemona is a character in Shakespeare’s “Othello.”  Elsinore is a town (and a castle) that was home to Hamlet (and, by the way, was featured in an ALAD post).  And Shelley?  Well, nothing to do with Shakespeare except that Percy Shelley joins Shakespeare as one of England’s most celebrated poets.

So, here are some excerpts from the NY Times article:

“Welcome to Othello” is emblazoned on the giant water tank that greets visitors driving in off the highway.

And there are others of his ilk lurking. Here is Hamlet Street. It intersects with Macbeth, and also with Desdemona. Running parallel to Hamlet is a street called Elsinore, evoking the gloom-and-doom castle that the melancholy Dane called home.

ny times troy eric griggs

LuAnn Morgan, secretary and archivist of the Othello Community Museum said of the town’s naming history:  the name “Othello” was proposed for the settlement’s first post office by Nettie B. Chavis, who homesteaded here from Tennessee in 1902.  Mrs. Chavis suggested the name in honor of a short-lived post office called Othello in Roane County, Tenn., that existed only from 1883 to 1890. Mrs. Chavis’s connection to the one in Tennessee — and why it was named Othello — are not clear.

Enough Othello; time to take a quick look at Hanford, which is actually the “Hanford Site.”  From Wiki:

The Hanford Site is a mostly decommissioned nuclear production complex operated by the US federal government.  The Site occupies 586 square miles, roughly equivalent to half of the total area of Rhode Island.   Established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project, the site was home to the B Reactor, the first full-scale plutonium production reactor in the world.  Plutonium manufactured at the site was used in the first nuclear bomb, tested at the Trinity site, and in Fat Man, the bomb detonated over Nagasaki, Japan.

Here’s a GE shot of the facility (which is about 30 miles wide):

ge hanford

Back to Wiki:

During the Cold War, the project expanded to include nine nuclear reactors and five large plutonium processing complexes, which produced plutonium for most of the more than 60,000 weapons in the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Site Selection

In September 1942, the Army Corps of Engineers placed the newly formed Manhattan Project under the command of General Leslie R. Groves, charging him with the construction of industrial-size plants for manufacturing plutonium and uranium.  Groves recruited the DuPont Company to be the prime contractor for the construction of the plutonium production complex. DuPont recommended that it be located far away from the existing uranium production facility at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The ideal site was described by these criteria:

  • A large and remote tract of land
  • A “hazardous manufacturing area” of at least 12 by 16 miles
  • Space for laboratory facilities at least 8 miles from the nearest reactor or separations plant
  • No towns of more than 1,000 people closer than 20 miles from the hazardous rectangle
  • No main highway, railway, or employee village closer than 10 miles from the hazardous rectangle
  • A clean and abundant water supply
  • A large electric power supply
  • Ground that could bear heavy loads.

In December 1942, Groves dispatched his assistant Colonel Franklin T. Matthias and DuPont engineers to scout potential sites. Matthias reported that Hanford was “ideal in virtually all respects,” except for the farming towns of White Bluffs and Hanford, and several Indian reservations.  The federal government quickly acquired the land under its eminent domain authority and relocated some 1,500 residents.

The Hanford Site broke ground in March 1943 and immediately launched a massive and technically challenging construction project.  The construction workers (who reached a peak of 44,900 in June 1944) lived in a construction camp near the old Hanford townsite. The administrators and engineers lived in the government town established at Richland Village, which eventually had accommodation for 4,300 families and 25 dormitories.

Construction of the nuclear facilities proceeded rapidly. Before the end of the war in August 1945, there were 554 buildings at Hanford, including three nuclear reactors and three plutonium processing “canyons”, each 820 ft long.

The effort that went into this is simply amazing.  

The Hanford Site is one of the most notorious (if not the most notorious) environmental clean-up project in the United States.  Wiki claims it is the world’s largest clean-up, and quotes the following figures:  $13.4 billion spent through 2013; $3 billion/year for the following six years, and then $2 billion/year through 2046.  Total costs, well over $100 billion.  Phew.

Time to move to a subject near and dear to my heart, the scablands.  Regular ALAD readers probably know that I love to write about Glacial Lake Missoula and the massive flooding that occurred when a series of ice dams (that created the lake) broke.  I’ve talked about it in several posts, most notably my Missoula MT post and a Davenport WA post.  Anyway, here’s some background, from ForMontana.com:

One of the most fascinating events of the last ice age was a series of cataclysmic floods associated with Glacial Lake Missoula. The shorelines of the ancient lake can be seen along mountainsides around Missoula. In the photo shown above, the light snow on Mt. Jumbo makes it easier to see these ancient shorelines.  At times the lake was 950 feet deep where Missoula sits today (and up to 2000 feet deep in other areas).

Here’s what happened . . .

As the glacial ice moved south and reached its maximum about 18,000 years ago, it extended into western Montana and Idaho and it blocked the flow of the Clark Fork River.  The water began to build up behind (south of) the ice dam. This formed a huge lake that geologists have named “Glacial Lake Missoula.”

When the Lake Missoula was at its highest, the water was about 2,000 feet deep and contained about as much water as Lake Erie.  Once the water filled in the area behind the ice dam, the lake didn’t last for long.  Since ice floats, it doesn’t make for a very durable dam. Consequently, it was only a matter of time before the lake dislodged its ice dam. With the dam displaced, the 480 cubic miles of water impounded behind it would have been unleashed in a cataclysmic flash flood of incredible proportions.  The water would have thundered through present-day Spokane and continued across eastern Washington to the Columbia River, scouring the land as it swept through.

Geologists think that this happened many times. Once the front of the glacier was swept away by the water it had impounded, the lobe of ice grew back into the area and re-dammed the river. Geologists believe that at Lake Missoula formed and flooded at least 41 times between 15,500 and 13,200 years ago.

About 50 miles north of the my landing is a very cool feature called the Dry Falls.  During the flooding events, an unimaginable volume of water poured over this cliff (GE Panoramio shot by Jim Nieland):

pano jim nieland

So, I landed near channeled scablands (where the water cascaded after going over the above cliff). Here’s what Wiki has to say about them:

The Channeled Scablands are a relatively barren and soil-free landscape on the eastern side of the U.S. state of Washington that was scoured by floods unleashed when the ice dams that held back the glacial lake Missoula failed.

Geologist J Harlen Bretz coined the term “channeled scablands” in a series of papers written in the 1920s. The debate on the origin of the Scablands that ensued for four decades became one of the great controversies in the history of earth science.

His theories of how they were formed required short but immense floods, for which Bretz had no explanation. Bretz’s theories met with vehement opposition from geologists of the day.

In 1925, J.T. Pardee suggested to Bretz that the draining of a glacial lake could account for flows of the magnitude needed. Pardee continued his research over the next 30 years, collecting and analyzing evidence that eventually identified Lake Missoula as the source of the Missoula Floods and creator of the Channeled Scablands.

Pardee’s and Bretz’s theories were accepted only after decades of painstaking work and fierce scientific debate.  In 1979 Bretz received the highest medal of the Geological Society of America, the Penrose Medal, to recognize that he had developed one of the great ideas in the earth sciences.

“Potholes” (and thus the name of my local drainageway) are also a feature commonly found in scabland terrain.  They are near-circular depressions caused by eddies associated with the massive floods.  

Here’s a Scablands map (from Eastern Washington University), with the Othello area highlighted (the blue areas are Scablands).

dave-ewu-press-scabland-map

Here’s a GE shot showing the Channeled Scablands near my landing:

ge scablands

Here’s a classic Channeled Scablands shot (near Othello, check out the caption), from HugeFloods.com:

Drumheller_Channels

By the way, a perusal of HugeFloods.com is well worth a time investment. 

There are a ton of GE Panoramio shots from this area.  Here’s another classic Channeled Scablands shot (by C. Hansen):

pano C. Hansen

And another (by Desert Kudzu):

pano desert kudzu

There are numerous natural lakes in the vicinity, formed in depressions caused by the flooding. The next three Pano shots show some local lakes.  First this, by Marvin Martian:

pano marvin martian

And this, by Midnight Rider:

pano midnight rider

And this, by Walk and Talk.

pano walk and talk

I’ll close out this post with this cool shot by Steve G. Bisig:

The Harvest Full Moon rising over rock formations in Grant County, Washington on a late September Summer evening.

The Harvest Full Moon rising over rock formations in Grant County, Washington on a late September Summer evening.

That’ll do it . . .

KS

Greg

 

© 2016 A Landing A Day

 

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Missoula, Montana

Posted by graywacke on March 11, 2013

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-time-I-get-around-to-it blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

 Dan –  After three USers in a row; of course, I follow up with three OSers in a row, thanks to this landing in the granddady of OSers . . . MT; 117/96; 4/10; 1; 155.3.   Here’s my regional landing map, showing that I didn’t land far from that long-time USer Idaho:

 miss - landing1

My closer-in landing map shows that I landed within easy commuting distance of Missoula:

 miss - landing2

You can see that I landed along a road that runs east-west in what looks like the boonies.  
Here’s an even-closer-in landing map, which shows that I landed right along O’Brien Creek and O’Brien Creek Road:

miss - landing3

O’Brien Creek flows east towards the tangle of rivers that you can see in the greater Missoula area.  Specifically, the creek flows into the river that comes up from the south – and curls around Route 12 – the Bitterroot R (3rd hit).  The Bitterroot flows just a little over a mile after accepting the waters of the O’Brien when it flows into Clark Fork (17th hit, the river that flows right through Missoula); on to the Pend Oreille (19th hit); to the grand ol’ Columbia (139th hit).

 Here’s my Google Earth (GE) shot that shows what the O’Brien Creek valley looks like:

 miss - GE1

I decided to zoom in at a low elevation (using GE, of course), looking west up the valley past my landing:

 miss - GE2

Stepping back some (er, I should say flying back some), here’s a GE view over the Missoula Valley (with a little of the city in the foreground), still looking west past my landing:

 miss - GE3

I was surprised and happy to see that GE StreetView coverage extends up O’Brien Creek road.  It doesn’t make it all the up to my landing, but it comes close.  Here’s a shot looking up the valley.  My landing is about 1.5 miles ahead.

 miss - GE4 obrien creek road .5 mi from landing

Here’s a Panoramio shot by J. Belote, taken from the top of the mountain about 1.5 miles due south of where I landed, looking east towards Missoula:

 miss pano towards missoula from 1.5 mi s of landing by j. belote

Checking into the history of Missoula, I found out that the area was originally known as Hell Gate.  Catchy name, eh?  From Wiki:

Hell Gate (sometimes known as Hell’s Gate or Hellgate) is a ghost town at the western end of the Missoula Valley.  The town was located on the banks of the Clark Fork River roughly five miles downstream from present-day Missoula near what is today Frenchtown.

Members of the Bitterroot Salish (or Flathead) Native American tribe often traveled through the Missoula Valley on their way east to bison hunting grounds.  As the Salish passed through the valley’s narrow eastern and western mouths, members of the Blackfeet tribe would often attack and kill them.  The Salish called the valley lm-i-sul-étiku, which means “by the cold, chilling waters” but which the Salish used metaphorically to mean “the place chilled with fear.”  The entire valley was heavily wooded, and ideal for ambush.

French trappers passing through the valley in the 1820s were horrified to see so many remains of Salish in the deep canyons which formed the valley’s entrances, and called the valley “Porte de l’Enfer,” or the “Hell Gate.”

Hell Gate collapsed as a settlement in 1865. The settlement had reached a grand total of 20 residents.  But a sawmill, flour mill, and new store were built at the site of present-day Missoula, and all the residents of Hell Gate moved to the new town practically overnight.

Rather than take the town name with them, they adopted as the new name of their town the (garbled) Indian word for the valley, “Missoula.” The county seat was moved from Hell Gate to Missoula in 1866.  By 1913, little was left of the town (which was now part of a privately owned ranch) except for a few buildings.

Hell Gate has lent its name to several natural and man-made features in the area, including the valley itself, which became known in the 1800s as the Hell Gate Valley.   Hell Gate was also the original name of the Clark Fork River.

Although the river and valley would be renamed, the steep gorge cut by the Clark Fork to the east of the Missoula Valley is still known as Hellgate Canyon.  The U.S. Postal Service maintains a Hell Gate Station in downtown Missoula, and the Missoula County Public School System operates Hellgate High School, one of the oldest and largest high schools in the state of Montana.

There you have it.  By the way, Hellgate is such a cool name for a high school.  Let me guess, they are either the “Red Devils” or the “Blue Devils.”  I’ll go check in with Google . . .

Doh!  This is one of those rare occasions that my hunch was wrong.  They are the Hellgate Knights:

 Missoula-Hellgate-Knights-2

FYI, I went to Zanesville High School in Ohio.  We are the Blue Devils, and this is our logo (although this wasn’t our logo the many eons ago that I went there):

 miss - ZHS logo

By the way, ZHS  went 19-5 in boy’s basketball this year, suffering a tough loss in the second round of the state tournament.  Not a bad season when the two tallest kids on the team are both only 6′ 3″ . . .

Ahem.  Sorry about the diversion.  Moving right along – Missoula is the home of the University of Montana.  Perusing GE, I could easily find the big “M” on the mountainside that overlooks the campus:

miss - M over Univ of mt

As a geologist, I’ve been itching to get on to the next topic:  References to the Missoula Valley are replete with discussions of  “Glacial Lake Missoula.”  I know, I know, it wasn’t so long ago that I gave a robust geological treatment to Glacial Lake Wisconsin (my Mauston WI post).  But I couldn’t look myself in the eye (in the mirror) if I didn’t include some discussion about Glacial Lake Missoula, because it’s so cool.  I can hardly think of a geological story more compelling . . .

Here’s the nuts & bolts (from ForMontana.net, starting with this picture of relic shorelines):

miss don hyndman, u of mt

One of the most fascinating events of the last ice age was a series of cataclysmic floods associated with Glacial Lake Missoula. The shorelines of the ancient lake can be seen along mountainsides around Missoula. In the photo shown above, the light snow on Mt. Jumbo makes it easier to see these ancient shorelines.  At times the lake was 950 feet deep where Missoula sits today.

Here’s what happened . . .
As the glacial ice moved south and reached its maximum about 18,000 years ago, it extended into western Montana and Idaho and it blocked the flow of the Clark Fork River.  The water began to build up behind (south of) the ice dam. This formed a huge lake that geologists have named “Glacial Lake Missoula.”

When the Lake Missoula was at its highest, the water was about 2,000 feet deep and contained about as much water as Lake Erie.  Once the water filled in the area behind the ice dam, the lake didn’t last for long.  Since ice floats, it doesn’t make for a very durable dam. Consequently,  it was only a matter of time before the lake dislodged its ice dam. With the dam displaced, the 480 cubic miles of water impounded behind it would have been unleashed in a cataclysmic flash flood of incredible proportions.  The water would have thundered through present-day Spokane and continued across eastern Washington to the Columbia River, scouring the land as it swept through.

Geologists think that this happened many times. Once the front of the glacier was swept away by the water it had impounded, the lobe of ice grew back into the area and re-dammed the river. Geologists believe that at Lake Missoula formed and flooded at least 41 times between 15,500 and 13,200 years ago.

Below: On this map of Montana, Glacial Lake Missoula is the lake in the far west.  It wasn’t the only glacial lake – several others existed along the southern edge of the ice.

glakesmontana

As one might expect, these cataclysmic floods left their mark.  But it took quite a bit of sleuthing and piecing together many clues to put the whole story together.  A geologist named Harlen Bretz was the first to have a clue.  This, from Wiki:

J Harlen Bretz (1882 – 1981) was an American geologist, best known for his research that led to the acceptance of the Missoula Floods.

In the summer of 1922, and for the next seven years, Bretz conducted field research of the Columbia River Plateau.  He was interested in unusual erosion features, where massive erosion had cut through basalt deposits (the Channeled Scablands).  The area was a desert, but Bretz’s theories required cataclysmic water flows to form the landscape.

Bretz published a paper in 1923, arguing that the erosion features were caused by massive flooding (that he termed the Spokane Floods) in the distant past.

Bretz encountered resistance to his theories from the geology establishment of the day.  The geology establishment was resistant to such a sweeping theory for the origin of a broad landscape for a variety of reasons, including the lack of status and reputation of Bretz in the eyes of the largely Ivy League-based geology elites.

Bretz defended his theories (along with another geologist, J.T. Pardee, who focused on evidence for Glacial Lake Missoula), kicking off an acrimonious 40 year debate over the origin of the Channeled Scablands. As he wrote in 1928, “Ideas without precedent are generally looked upon with disfavour and men are shocked if their conceptions of an orderly world are challenged.”

Pardee’s and Bretz’s theories were accepted only after decades of painstaking work and fierce scientific debate.   In 1979 Bretz received the highest medal of the Geological Society of America, the Penrose Medal, to recognize that he had developed one of the great ideas in the earth sciences.

I found a great website that is all about the huge floods.  It is called (appropriately enough) HugeFloods.com.  Click HERE to go to it.  I strongly recommend that you do.  When you’re at the site, click on the following tabs, and peruse:

The Mystery

Lake Missoula

The Scablands (includes a cool BBC video)

Lake Lewis –  Wait until you read about Lake Lewis!

If you think that this whole colossal flood thing is worth learning more about, may I recommend this book:

miss book

My friend Cheryl showed me the book.  She has a new-found passion for geology, in spite of an artsy life that included designing and producing her own line of clothing.  She spent some time out west checking out the evidence for the big flood and knows way more about this than I do . . .  

Phew.  Heading’ on back to Missoula . . . you may have noticed that the picture of the relic shorelines is on “Mount Jumbo.”  Of course, I was curious as to how it go its name.  Well, this from Wiki:

Mount Jumbo (Salish: ‘Sin Min Koos,’ which translates into ‘obstacle’ or ‘thing in the way’)  is an iconic mountain that overlooks the city of Missoula, Montana.  Early settlers thought Mount Jumbo looked like a sleeping elephant and the round grassy mountain became known as Elephant Hill.

Coincidently, miners christened a nearby copper mine ‘Jumbo Lode’ in honor of Jumbo the elephant, famously with the Barnum and Bailey circus.  Eventually, “Elephant Hill” became “Mount Jumbo.”

Here’s a lovely shot of Mount Jumbo at sunset (from Wiki):

miss mt jumbo  wiki

I thought I’d do a little research on Jumbo himself (the elephant).  From Wiki:

Jumbo was born in 1861 in the French Sudan, whence he was imported to France and kept in the old zoo Jardin des Plantes in Paris. In 1865 he was transferred to the London Zoo, where he became famous for giving rides to visitors, especially children. The London zookeeper association leader Anoshan Anathajeyasri gave Jumbo his name; it is likely a variation of one of two Swahili words: jambo, which means “hello” or jumbe, which means “chief”.

Jumbo was sold in 1881 to P. T. Barnum, owner of the Barnum & Bailey Circus,for 10,000 dollars ($241 thousand today).  In New York, Barnum exhibited the elephant at Madison Square Garden, earning enough from the enormous crowds to recoup the money he spent to buy the animal.  Jumbo became a major attraction in the traveling “Greatest Show on Earth.”

Jumbo died in 1885 at a railway yard in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada, where he was hit and fatally wounded by a locomotive. Barnum afterwards told the story that Jumbo died saving a young circus elephant, Tom Thumb, from being hit by the locomotive, but other witnesses did not support this.

Here’s a picture, from Wiki, of the sad occurrence:

miss jumbo death wiki

Jumbo’s hide was stuffed, and I’ll borrow from the Tufts University webpage for the following information:

Tufts’ official mascot, Jumbo the elephant, has been ranked among the most singular in college athletics by The Sporting News and Sports Illustrated and is the only college mascot found in Webster’s Dictionary.

The elephant’s tale dates back to 1885, when P.T. Barnum, the circus showman who was an early trustee and benefactor of Tufts, donated the stuffed hide of Jumbo to the university after he was killed by a train in Ontario, Canada. The pachyderm was eventually put on display in the Barnum Museum of Natural History (now Barnum Hall) at Tufts. He was a big hit with the college’s athletes, who adopted him as their mascot, while their coaches invoked his strength and bravery in pre-game pep talks.

For 86 years, Jumbo was a veritable mecca for students, their parents and other campus visitors. Students would pop pennies in his trunk or give a tug on his tail to bring luck for an upcoming exam or athletics competition. But Jumbo mania came to a fiery end on April 14, 1975, when Barnum Hall, and the beloved elephant, were consumed in a blaze caused by faulty wiring in a refrigeration unit. All that remained were a piece of his tail (now neatly wrapped and stored in the university archives) and some ashes. Phyllis Byrne, the administrative assistant in the athletics department, dispatched a colleague to the ruins to collect some of Jumbo’s ashes in an empty peanut butter jar.

Jumbo’s spirit lives on in his hybrid container (a Peter Pan Crunchy lid on a Skippy jar), and since 1975, university athletes have rubbed the jar for good luck. And when a new athletics director is named, there is a ceremonial “passing of the ashes” to the successor.

If you started to skim, make sure that you read the last paragraph.  Anyway, back to Wiki: 

In time the elephant’s name came to be a household word, with “jumbo” meaning “very large”.

[How about that!  The word “jumbo” came from the elephant’s name!]

A life-size statue of the elephant was erected in 1985 in St. Thomas to commemorate the centennial of the elephant’s death:

miss jumbo statue

Railway City Brewing Company in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada brews “Dead Elephant Ale,” an IPA, in recognition of Jumbo’s connection to St. Thomas’s railway history.

I’ll close with a couple of great Panaoramio shots, taken along the Bitterroot River just east of my landing.  First, this one by John Krempel:

 miss mt sentinel john krempel pano landing to left

And this, by J. Edmonds:

miss pano j edmonds bitterroot just upstream

Phew.  Long post, eh?  This may well be my longest-ever . . .

That’ll do it.

KS

Greg

 

© 2013 A Landing A Day

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