Subduction zones | ParkRecord.com

Subduction zones

Jay Meehan, Park Record columnist

It’s not the first time that the Nazca Tectonic Plate has peeked up under the dress of South America, but the shakes from Saturday’s massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Ecuador continue to reverberate within the longtime Southern California expatriate community of Heber City.

The two main figures in causing me to, first, visit Park City the winter of ’67-’68 and, later, move to the relatively pristine old mining camp and ski resort the summer of ’70, just happened to be visiting a small village along the Ecuadorian coast when the geological pressure-relief-valve went off.

Back then, none of us could quite figure out what it was that kept Bullet Shaffer and Henry Masters every so often traipsing up to Utah, of all places. What could possibly be the motivating force that caused them to forsake our 1960s counterculture Eden in California for what could only be a tedious lifestyle in Park City? Yeah, right!

Well, as history shows, we got onboard in a big way. In fact, the winter of ’70-’71 saw forty of our Lynwood-Compton tribe with permanent (for the ski season anyway) miner’s shack housing. Some remain to this day. Many are called, few are chosen, as they say. Anyway, that’s how I got here. I figured those two Compton boys were on to something.

Last week, word around town had it that Henry might possibly be looking to relocate to warmer climes for his golden years and that the equatorial beach life beckoned. Bullet and his wife Brenda, having run out of new Caribbean islands to explore on their annual springtime getaways, probably just decided to go along for the ride.

I can treat their seismic adventure in a somewhat lighter fashion now with word finally reaching us that, although they still have no idea when sufficient roads and airports can be reassembled to allow for their return, they are safe. Until contact was finally achieved, however, there was little, if any, incredible lightness to our being.

The first few days brought nothing except, maybe, unneeded fuel for our always-ready-to-fire-up "worse case scenario" mindsets. That being said, I must admit that I wasn’t overly proud of myself when my initial sense of relief arrived packaged in the news account of no Americans being among the first 250 dead.

The quake itself could have been worse, I suppose. The irresistible force involved would be the aforementioned Nazca Plate which just so happens to be moving under the South American plate, the immoveable object in this particular subduction model, at a pretty regular 61 millimeters per year.

Every so often, of course, slippage and assorted readjustments occur along the fault line, and, in that, lies the rub. Attachments, both physical and emotional, that humans have made upon the earth’s crust immediately become suspect. The term "anchored" becomes quite relative.

South of the current geological mayhem zone, the forces involved were adequately powerful to have, over millions of years, thrust up what we came to call the Andes mountain range. In 1960, a Chilean quake registered an almost unimaginable 9.5 on the Richter scale. Shake, rattle and roll!

Scuttlebutt has it that when the tremors began, Henry, Bullet, and Brenda were back at their hotel preparing an evening repast. Fearing a tsunami on the heels of the initial massive shockwaves, they would spend their first post-quake night huddled on higher ground with a few hundred of their closest friends.

I love scuttlebutt! Hopefully, they’ll be back home soon enough and correct any overreaching on my part. Hey, be here or be talked about!

There will be little respite from our concern for their wellbeing until we actually touch them and, through a repetitive infusion of their favorite "truth serum," get the lowdown. No doubt the trauma of the collective devastation will remain with them forever.

Whaddaya think, Henry? With global warming and rising water levels and all, maybe it wouldn’t hurt to locate your retirement surf-in surf-out casita compound a few miles inland. Snuggling up to one of those active neighborhood volcanoes wouldn’t have a downside, now would it?

Come on home, guys! The minutes are creeping by on tiptoes. As an expanded family, we need hugs! And more importantly, through our endearing personalities, we need to remind you why you left in the first place!

Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.


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