A Landing a Day

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Posts Tagged ‘Hanford WA’

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).


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:


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 . . .




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