December 12, 2013 - December 18, 2013
What Lies Beneath
This week, work was halted on Seattle's viaduct-replacement tunnel project after Bertha -- the enormous machine boring the Highway 99 tunnel -- encountered an obstruction strong enough to block its progress beneath the city. Because Bertha was designed to chew through boulders, many are wondering what the machine has run up against. An impenetrable mass of ice age scree? An alien mother ship? The world's largest diamond? Chthulu, Destroyer of Worlds? We may soon find out.
This isn't the first time that Seattle tunnel diggers have met with challenges. When the Great Northern Tunnel was being dug more than a century ago, miners discovered the remains of a prehistoric forest, estimated to be at least 2,000 years old. They also had to dig through deposits of dense clay and hard gravel, but completed the task by hand using only pickaxes and shovels.
Remnants from the distant past have been unearthed throughout Washington. Mastodon and mammoth remains have been found from one side of the state to the other, as have those of other strange beasts. The Ginkgo Petrified Forest in Central Washington is one of the most unusual fossilized forests ever uncovered, and also contains petroglyphs carved centuries ago by the Wanapum Indians.
The human record long since buried continues to resurface now and then, as evidenced by the discoveries of Kennewick Man and the largely intact Klallam village of Tse-whit-zen. Indian sites and artifacts are protected by federal law, which is strictly enforced.
In the post-settlement era, dirt has been moved around a lot as landscapes change in the name of progress. In Seattle, Harbor Island was created using soil from Beacon Hill that was cut and sluiced away in the Jackson Street and Dearborn Street regrades. The central waterfront has grown and been bolstered with acres of fill, as have the tideflats south of Pioneer Square, where Bertha began her journey. What she has found since remains to be seen.
News Then, History Now
Spoils of War: During the War of 1812, a British warship entered the Columbia River and, two hundred years ago this week, on December 13, 1813, claimed it (again) for Great Britain. The ship remained anchored at Baker's Bay for a month, during which time Captain William Black updated the 1792 charts made by Lieutenant William Broughton, who had also claimed the river for the British and named a point on its north bank for his commander, Captain George Vancouver.
Weather of Yore: On December 17, 1871, record snow blanketed much of the Puget Sound region. On December 17, 1990, a windstorm cost Washington State Ferries more than $3 million in damage. More recently, the Hanukkah Eve Wind Storm blasted Western Washington on December 14 and 15, 2006, and two weeks of snow and cold hit the region beginning on December 17, 2008.
Books and Notes: On December 13, 1905, Walla Walla residents attended the dedication ceremonies for their brand new Carnegie-funded library. Two years later, townsfolk gathered again on December 12, 1907, this time at the Keylor Grand Theater to hear the Walla Walla Symphony Orchestra's first concert.
A City Votes: On December 18, 1945, residents of College Place voted to become an incorporated city. The community got its start more than half a century earlier, when it became home to Walla Walla College, later Walla Walla University.
They're in the Air: On December 17, 1947, the prototype for the Boeing B-47 Stratojet took wing, opening up new vistas in aviation. Aided by German research captured during World War II, development of the B-47 led to the use of jet technology in the Boeing 707. More recent examples of Boeing's cutting-edge technology -- such as the December 15, 2009, launch of the Boeing 787 -- can be seen at the Future of Flight Aviation Center, which opened at Paine Field on December 16, 2005.
Down and Around: On December 13, 1950, coal miner John Wolti was trapped in a collapsed mine at the now-forgotten mining town of Elk Coal in southeast King County. He suffered a 54-hour ordeal, 400 feet underground, before his rescue. Being trapped underground is scary, but this time of year even the great outdoors is not a good place to be caught alone. Staff Sergeant John M. Horan, an Army paratrooper, found this out on December 18, 1955, when he was forced to bail out of an ice-covered plane high above the Cascades. Wearing only his winter dress uniform, boots, and an overcoat, Horan survived four days in a snowbound wilderness before hiking 12 miles out of the mountains to safety.
Happy Holidays: On December 15, 1979, more than 100,000 people attended the Boeing employee Christmas party at Seattle's Kingdome. And 30 years ago this week, on December 13, 1983, the Pacific Northwest Ballet premiered a new production of Nutcracker, choreographed by PNB artistic director Kent Stowell with sets and costumes designed by Maurice Sendak. It has since become a Northwest holiday tradition.
Quote of the Week
Our lives are like islands in the sea, or like trees in the forest, which co-mingle their roots in the darkness underground.
Image of the Week
The University of Washington rowing crew got its start on December 15, 1899, thanks to the efforts of E. F. Blaine.