April 1st Tsunami hits Noyo (Fort Bragg) and Navarro Harbours

On April 1st 1946, an undersea earthquake off the Alaskan coast triggered a massive tsunami that killed 159 people in Hawaii.

In the middle of the night, 13,000 feet beneath the ocean surface, a 7.4-magnitude tremor was recorded in the North Pacific. (The nearest land was Unimak Island, part of the Aleutian chain.) The quake triggered devastating tidal waves throughout the Pacific, particularly in Hawaii.

Unimak Island was hit by the tsunami shortly after the quake. An enormous wave estimated at nearly 100 feet high crashed onto the shore. A lighthouse located 30 feet above sea level, where five people lived, was smashed to pieces by the wave; all five were killed instantly. Meanwhile, the wave was heading toward the southern Pacific at 500 miles per hour.

Here an abfab computer animation of the tidal wave:

As you can see from the animation Hawaii was slap dab in the middle of the path of the monster.

In Hawaii, 2,400 miles south of the quake’s epicenter, Captain Wickland of the United States Navy was the first to spot the coming wave at about 7 a.m., four-and-a-half hours after the quake. His position on the bridge of a ship, 46 feet above sea level, put him at eye level with a “monster wave” that he described as two miles long.

As the first wave came in and receded, the water in Hawaii’s Hilo Bay seemed to disappear. Boats were left on the sea floor next to flopping fish. Then, the massive tsunami struck. In the city of Hilo, a 32-foot wave devastated the town, completely destroying almost a third of the city. The bridge crossing the Wailuku River was picked up by the wave and pushed 300 feet away. In Hilo, 96 people lost their lives.

Tsunami hitting Hawaii

The picture shows the tidal wave breaking over the Pier No. 1 in Hilo Harbor, Hawaii. The man in the foreground (lower left) became one of the 159 deaths on the islands.

On other parts of the island of Hawaii, waves reached as high as 60 feet. A schoolhouse in Laupahoehoe was crushed by the tsunami, killing the teacher and 25 students inside. The massive wave was seen as far away as Chile, where, 18 hours after the quake near Alaska, unusually large waves crashed ashore. There were no casualties.

This tsunami prompted the U.S. to establish the Seismic SeaWave Warning System two years later. The system, now known as the Pacific Tsunami Warning System, uses undersea buoys throughout the ocean, in combination with seismic-activity detectors, to find possible killer waves. The warning system was used for the first time on November 4, 1952. That day, an evacuation was successfully carried out, but the expected wave never materialized.

Going back to the animation you can see that the tsunami hit everywhere down the American Pacific Coast including Fort Bragg’s Noyo Harbour and the Navarro River. Remarkably there are photos of the event:

In 1946 the entrance to the River Noyo was vastly different from today

Effect of the Tsunami in Noyo Harbour

Noyo Harbour showing fishing fleet in a small area and esily affected by the Tsunami

Effects of the Tsunami in Navarro River

And it could happen again any time, any day.

Dams on Big River located at Mendocino

Dams were used by the Mendocino mill on Big River to bring the cut logs to the mill. The Mendocino Lumber Company was “famous” for damming Big River. With rare exceptions, dams along Big River were used only during the winter season. Logs were stored in the stream beds – see pic below:

Logs stored in a Big River stream bed

Winter rains furnished the freshet (body of water) for floating the logs down river, but in most cases, did not. Dams were then used to build up a reservoir of water. When the dams were tripped (blown up), a flood was created along with a “head.” A head is similar to the shore side of an ocean wave. Near the dam, a head might begin as high as 10 feet dropping to three-foot height 15 miles down river. A higher head, which would result in being able to float more logs a greater distance, would be obtained by tripping/blowing up more than one dam in succession. This, for sure, was in the days before environmentalists were invented. In his book, Big River Was Dammed, W. Francis Jackson documents at least 27 dams on Big River.

These pics (I believe) are all of dams on Big River:

Building a Big River Dam – note mule on the right with water carrying bags

Sluice gate on a Big River Dam

A Big River Dam with the Sluice Gate Open


Effect of the 1906 Eathquake along the Mendocino Coast

As I tell visitors yo our layout the San Andreas fault is just four miles offshore. The 1906 Earthquake hit all the towns along the California coast north of San Francisco to north of Eureka.

This piece that appeared in the local newspaper tells the story of the earthquake.


Effect of 1906 Earthquake along the Mendocino Coast

This picture shows shops on Fort Bragg Main Street after the quake.

Fort Bragg Main Street after the 1906 earthquake – building on left is now Racines

USS Shenandoah (ZR-1) – One of four airships commissioned by the US Navy – over Fort Bragg

This picture floated across my screen:

Shenandoah Airship over Fort Bragg

Wow, says I, a US Navy airship over Fort Bragg! Tell me more.

Per Wiki ….. “USS Shenandoah was the first of four United States Navy rigid airships. It was constructed during 1922–23 at Lakehurst Naval Air Station, and first flew in September 1923. It developed the U.S. Navy’s experience with rigid airships, and made the first crossing of North America by airship. On the 57th flight, Shenandoah was destroyed in a squall line over Ohio in September 1925.

Diagram of the Shenandoah

The photo says that the flight over Fort Bragg was on October 17th – but which year? More from Wiki …….

Shenandoah was originally designated FA-1, for “Fleet Airship Number One” but this was changed to ZR-1. The airship was 680 ft long and weighed 36 tons. It had a range of 5,000 miles, could reach speeds of 70 mph.  Shenandoah was the first rigid airship to use helium rather than hydrogen, Shenandoah had a significant edge in safety over previous airships. Helium was relatively scarce at the time, and the Shenandoah used much of the world’s reserves just to fill its 2,100,000 cubic feet of gas bags. Shenandoah was powered by 300 hp, eight-cylinder Packard gasoline engines. Six engines were originally installed, but in 1924 one engine (aft of the control car) was removed. The first frame of Shenandoah was erected by 24 June 1922; on 20 August 1923, the completed airship was floated free of the ground. Helium cost $55 per thousand cubic feet at the time, and was considered too expensive to simply vent to the atmosphere to compensate for the weight of fuel consumed by the gasoline engines. Neutral buoyancy was preserved by installing condensers to capture the water vapor in the engine exhaust.

Shenandoah first flew on 4 September 1923. It was christened on 10 October 1923 by Mrs. Edwin Denby, wife of the Secretary of the Navy, and commissioned on the same day with Commander Frank R. McCrary in command. Mrs. Denby named the airship after her home in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, and the word shenandoah was then believed to be a Native American word meaning “daughter of stars”.

Captain of the Shenandoah at the controls

In July 1924, the oiler Patoka put in at Norfolk Naval Shipyard for extensive modifications to become the Navy’s first airship tender. An experimental mooring mast 125 ft  above the water was constructed; additional accommodations both for the crew of Shenandoah and for the men who would handle and supply the airship were added; facilities for the helium, gasoline, and other supplies necessary for Shenandoah were built, as well as handling and stowage facilities for three seaplanes. Shenandoah engaged in a short series of mooring experiments with Patoka to determine the practicality of mobile fleet support of scouting airships. The first successful mooring was made on 8 August. During October 1924, Shenandoah flew from Lakehurst to California and on to Washington State to test newly erected mooring masts. This was the first flight of a rigid airship across North America.

USS Patoka

On 2 September 1925, Shenandoah departed Lakehurst on a promotional flight to the Midwest that would include flyovers of 40 cities and visits to state fairs. Testing of a new mooring mast at Dearborn, Michigan, was included in the schedule. While passing through an area of thunderstorms and turbulence over Ohio early in the morning of 3 September, during its 57th flight, the airship was caught in a violent updraft that carried it beyond the pressure limits of its gas bags. It was torn apart in the turbulence and crashed in several pieces near Caldwell, Ohio.

Based on the above it looks like the year was 1924. It will remain 1924 till I get told different!!!!!

A sommelier’s busman’s holiday

A busman’s holiday = a vacation or form of recreation that involves doing the same thing that one does at work.

A sommelier is one VERY knowledgeable about wine.

Daughter Holly is a sommelier by profession. She works for one of the largest wine distributors in the United States. So, what did she and her friend Michelle from work do on a recent weekend? Yep, you got it – they helped with the wine harvest. Michelle wrote up this account of their efforts for their fellow workers.

Holly and I went to Joseph Swan (vineyard) to help with Harvest.  One of us worked harder than the other…. 

Holly not working too hard

Michelle working hard crushing the grapes

Holly and I went expecting to work alongside the Interns and provide harvest support hoping to jump in a few places to help where we could.  We quickly realized that this was not the case.  There were no interns (except us).  It was the Rodfather and Cody to do it all and they were thrilled for any and all help.  It has been a few years since I jumped on top of a tank for hand punch downs and my arms are still screaming.  Holly was the pressure washer and sorting queen. 

I can honestly say the Syrah and many of the Single Vineyard Pinot Noirs have our actual sweat in them.  In addition to punch downs 3 times a day for each tank and bin (6 large ones and 6 smaller ones), they had just picked the Syrah from their estate (Trenton) early that morning and pulled in the Viognier later that morning as well.  We pressed off the Viognier first putting the tiny amount (5 bins) into a tank.  It was tasting great.  Rod decided to leave the Viognier skins inside the tank post press and sent the Syrah directly in after.  This will be their Syrah Rosé. 

After pressing off the Syrah it was time for cleaning up, pressure washing and of course more punch downs.  We left around 8 pm after enjoying some 2018 Rose in bottle and a rare taste of their Cabernet Sauvignon (only 20 cases made from a super small parcel within Trenton).  I have a whole new respect for Joseph Swan, Rod Berglund (Rodfather), Cody Sapieka and the entire staff that was hosting tasters as we worked around them.  Standing at the sorting table with the Rodfather, hearing his stories or his winemaking decisions or thoughts as it was happening was priceless. 

I am not sure Holly knew what she was getting into (just confirmed, she did not) when I asked if she wanted to join me, but she was a champ and impressive at every task.  Her love of power washing is unparalleled, and one might even say borderline obsessive.”

Holly crushing

Grapes just off the vine

Michelle power washing


Real story of one that got away – freight car that is ……

When Jim Johnson and his delightful wife were visiting our layout a short while back I asked him if he would share with stories about his life working on the railroad. This first one is a beauty!!!

In 1973 I was assigned to the extra board in Portola CA. This was the summer of 73 and every year about this time Stockton ran short of men and the company, Western Pacific, forced low seniority people to Stockton. The only way to get out of this was to bid and hold a regular job. I was determined that I was not going to Stockton so I bid on a midnight switch engine in Oroville, CA. I bid the job successfully and so began my summer in Oroville.

I don’t really remember the name of my ground crew but there were threee switchmen assigned to this job. One night instead of switching the yard we got the tramp duties to spot up industries outside the yard. So out the mainline west we went, a mile or so out to a place called Forest Products. We had two cars. One for Forest Products and one to go elsewhere. They were both behind the engine so the move out was a shoving move.

We got to Forest Products. We cut the one car off and left it on the main line and ducked into Forest Products. We spent about five minutes spotting up the car and then went back out to the main. As we entered the main the switchman jumped off the train to line the switch back. As he did so he looked up at my engineer’s window and threw his hands out to the side and exclaimed “Its gone. It’s gone”.

I looked out and realized that the car that we had left on the main was indeed gone. I looked further west down the mainline at the signal that was about a mile away. The signal that had been green was now red. Well. it’s downhill all the way to Marysville, 26 miles away. Away we went in chase of that car. I called the dispatcher, Gene Edgeman, and advised him of what was going on and advised him to stop any trains headed east and to call the SP dispatcher and advise him to stop their trains at the interlock at Marysville. About 12 miles down the main, just before Craig siding we caught up with the car doing 45 mph. We made a good joint with the runaway car and got stopped.

I did not go by any absolute signals but …….  We headed back for Oroville yard just knowing we were all fired when the dispatcher called us and advised no damage had been done and to forget about the incident. Ours jobs were intact. There was no one in the yard office, and no-one including the trainmaster was any the wiser. So. we put our car away and I went home with a solemn promise to myself  NOT to repeat this this again.

As I was reading this I thought what a great movie it would make.

Thanks Jim.

I couldn’t find any songs about runaway freight cars. But, I did remember this one from my childhood ……