The Big One

When you say “California,” different people think of different things. Some think about Hollywood. Others think about warm weather and sandy beaches or the beautiful mountain scenery – the rock face (side or surface) of Half Dome, water falls, and towering (very tall) trees – of Yosemite National Park. Still others think about California’s large, exciting cities, like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

There’s another group of people that think – and sometimes worry – about earthquakes. California is situated (located) on top of a large number of faults, as you can see in this map. A fault is a large crack in the rocks that form (make up) the earth’s surface. When these rocks shift (move) – up and down or from side to side – the result is an earthquake. From time to time (occasionally) there’s talk about the possibility of another “big one” – a large, catastrophic (causing a lot of damage, suffering, or death) earthquake that could destroy entire cities and kill or injure many people.

California had a “big one” in 1906. The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 registered (measured) somewhere around (about) 8.25 on the Richter scale (a measurement using numbers to describe the power of an earthquake). It was so strong that people 400 miles (almost 650 km) away – in Los Angeles and the states of Oregon and Nevada – could feel it! More than 3,000 people were killed by the earthquake and the fires it caused. The San Francisco earthquake is considered one of the worst natural disasters in American history.

I recently discovered two old film clips (a part of a film) that show the dramatic (great; big) contrast of life in San Francisco before and after the earthquake. In the first clip, you’ll see a fascinating picture of life in San Francisco more than 100 years ago. In the second, you’ll see a graphic (with a lot of details) picture of the devastation (serious damage) caused by the 1906 earthquake.

The first film clip – A Trip Down Market Street – was made by putting a movie camera on the front of a streetcar and filming the changing scene (view of a place) as the streetcar travels up Market Street – one of the main streets in San Francisco – from the harbor (where ships stop) to the center of town. When you watch it, you’ll learn a lot about San Francisco in 1906. You can still ride street cars today in San Francisco, but the scene is very different than it was 100 years ago! Coincidentally (by chance; not planned), this clip was probably made less than one week before the earthquake!

A Trip Down Market Street (This is an old silent film; there is no sound.)

The second film clip was compiled (to make something by putting together different pieces) in 2009 from news footage (film of an event) taken after the earthquake. Two filmmakers, Dan Meyerson and Matt Peterson, wanted to recapture (to bring back the experience of) what life looked like in San Francisco after the earthquake.

This clip follows almost the same route (the way from one place to another) – along Market Street – as the first clip. As you will see, the earthquake caused almost total devastation to downtown San Francisco.

Market Street after the earthquake

There’s no way to know when or where the next “big one” will hit (happen suddenly) California. It could happen tomorrow or even wait another 100 years.

If you’re interested in more American culture and history, you can find many things like these film clips at Open Culture, a web site that provides free educational and cultural media. It’s the most appropriate for more advanced English learners.

~ Warren Ediger, creator of Successful English, where you will find clear explanations and helpful suggestions for better English.

Public domain photo by Arnold Genthe used courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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44 Responses to The Big One

  1. Peter says:

    High Warren,
    Good show bro,
    Good topic
    Very informative and at the same time educational.
    As u said, The worst thing about earth quicks is that they are not predictable. I mean u never know when two adjacent plates on earth start bickering:))

    The advance of technology and since still unable to anticipate the time and place at which an earthquick may takepkaces.
    But what makes it even worst is the aftershocks,particulary in high ritchter earth quicks.
    What can we do It is earth way of balancing itself.
    I guess LA is situated exactly the faults between two famous plates. I mean LA is on the earth’s earthquick belt.but ,the worst place is Japan they have earthquick almost everyday.

  2. Peter says:

    It is sad, as hell
    Just vision it.
    A once active and vibrant city turns to a a secluded, deserted land ,filled with grief-stricken individuals, lost in their thoughts that what have become to them. Could People with long faces roaming around this now-God forsaken land hoping to find any signs of their beloved ones among pilles of debries made by leveled buildings.
    Dust and sadness is in the air, and the sunset is the gloomiest ever!
    Do you feel me ?
    It is sad ,Warren
    It is sad
    Trust me,I once experiences every minute of fact, I lost one friend to it. There were a big one back home years back
    I was there to see some tourist attractions , a kind of resort area in a desert-like-hot area
    I was with my friends.
    I saw people bawling their eyes out,
    Y don’t wanna know bro
    U dont wanna know

  3. Peter says:

    You know what my friend ,
    I don’t know what future holding for me ,but what ever it is I made a pact that I never ever go back there.

  4. Peter says:

    Trust me
    You got it right , I am a bit off ,but decently I am not a psychopath.:)))
    Don’t worry,
    Just good comes from Eslpod
    From the looksof it, Jeff has fitted in Avery good screen system. No psycho can pass through on Lucy and Jeff watch:))
    Don’t ask how I wold get in then.
    Well ,the system crushed once ,and I was there to take adv
    It was totally out of fluke:)
    Excluding me, all the fellows on this page stike me as stand-up intellectual individual who persues a cerain skill set and knowledge on this very cyber,linguistic university of ours called”Eslpod.”

  5. emiliano says:

    Seeing these movies, incredible to have them, we could see how much a city and our world has changed in a hundred years.
    It´s not really a long time, my father was born in 1914 eight years later, and he is stil alive.
    Along his life the world has changed completely in all ways.

    Thank you Warren, I hope that you and Californians don´t ever live another big earthquake.


  6. Peter says:

    There us one question still outstanding here ,
    I mean back then there wasn’t propably a world wide call for hep
    They should have called out the millietery.
    But , what really helped the quick-stricken people to get back on their feet then
    Back then , Difinitly, there was no extensive media coverage.

  7. Betty says:

    Hi, Warren, thank you so much for such a detailed account of California history.

    We want a ‘Big One’ when we go to McDonald or Burger King, I am sure no one want a ‘Big One’ like the one happened in California in 1906.

    It is a very interesting topic for me, because I had been to California, and I talked to an elderly Chinese lady in a Chinese Restaurant when I was having a meal there. What she mentioned was, she worried about having another earthquake in California. She loved California very much, and it would be so much nicer if she was not being haunted by the worries of another earthquake.

    I only had been to USA once for a family holiday, and I was impressed by the modern and prosperous society I saw in California, well, in comparison to the small villages and towns I used to live in United Kingdom.

    My husband said the areas that we visited were some of the most developed parts of USA, there were a lot of places in USA still very underdeveloped.

    I think sometimes new and better things come after disasters or catastrophes. Those who survived and lived to see the new buildings etc shooting up like new plants must had indescribable feelings inside them.

  8. Peter says:

    Morning fellas,
    Don’t feel intermitated by the topic at hand.
    Feed this page my comrades,
    Accommodate The Artistic piece with your opinions ,viwes,and thoughts.
    One way or another, we got grazed by earth quicks visually ,or actually 🙂 share it with us folks.
    I know you got a lot to share.
    Come forwards pals ,whatever would do
    Is there anybody out there who has lived the experience ?
    Guys , get to spirit
    We r at our haven,for God sake
    Put down your perspective on the whole concept that foot the bill:))
    All sorts of success for you lads ,

  9. Peter says:

    Dear Warren,
    I got something for you totally off subject.
    I have this very question; the reason I bring it up here is that I figured my cyber classmates might want to know the reason behind it.
    Ordering a cup of coffee at a local coffee house , I ask for ,say, one Larg coffe with three milk.
    I don’t say three milks because I know it is wrong.once I rummaged about:)) ,and found the reason why. The thing is, my short memory sucks so I forgot about it.
    Having said that , everysingle morning I asked this very question upon ( as soon as )ordering my regular (the same order every day : ” large coffe with three milk”)
    Warren be a pall , and address this issue.
    I bet my bottom dollar that a large number of your audience have this very inquiry.
    So indulge us please’

  10. Peter says:

    Good show Betty,
    But,Please keep in minde that all the post-earth quick housing developments ,all the financial projects , and all the going green mottos remind the quick-stricken people the bitterness of what they went through. There is no scale that can measure the agony that dominates the area hit by the disaster.
    I am telling you Betty , the magnification of the impact can’t be contained in words. I was there once , words fall short depicting the tortment ,grief , and agony that grips their very souls.
    I live it once,
    God forbid, that I live it twice!
    You don’t wanna know Betty
    You don’t wanna know

  11. Dear teachers Jeff and Lucy
    The topic is of general interest. Those who study and learn about Earth’s phenomena, know that the faults are floating over a thick layer of melted material in high temperature in the core of earth and when it comes out the surface of earth, the volcano appears. When two layers slide each other, there is an earthquake, caused by friction. The power of an earthquake is measured on the Richter scale. The damages brought by an earthquake are directly proportional to the power made free from the sliding of layers. San Francisco is on a fault and in any time there will be an earthquake (the big one) that can destroy the entire city. Fortunately, nobody knows when it will come. Those who live in a country like Brazil are free from these kinds of phenomena. Thanks God I live here in this country with blue sky and green forests.
    I leave my best wishes for everybody.
    Aecio from beautiful Brazil.

  12. Fayssal says:

    I hope that you are all in a fit as a fiddle and that things are going according to plan with you.

    well, let’s get down to the brass tack, I really loved this article, and writing such a lovely and interesting article is a no mean feat, you are Lucy and Jeff my roll model being such an indefatigable writers as well as infallible, what can i say that i am an eslpod fiend…..

    Regarding the comments are of a great paramount importance, i somewhat learned a lot from reading them, you guys are a source of inspiration and endowed with a good humor.

    thank you all and sundry

    best regards

  13. Peter says:

    Dear Jeff,
    The year is changing
    Still no new paper on the top right corner. What gives?

  14. Peter says:

    Thanks flavio for the input
    U gave us the insight on the matter

  15. Peter says:

    I may be way out on a limb here. But, nobody thinks about christmass time but me.
    It is just 12 days left to Christmas time.
    It os just me or ,It is a milestone

  16. Betty says:

    Hi, Peter, it must be very hard for you to forget the pain from the trauma of experiencing an earthquake. We all have things in life that are fortunate and unfortunate, people always suggest us to try to remember the former and forgive and forget the latter.

    There had been some very bad earthquakes in China recently, and a lot of innocent citizens died as a consequence. It was heart breaking news for us all. People were bitter because a lot of the casualties should not have happened.

    I watched a documentary programme a few years ago which talked about buildings in Japan where earthquakes was simply part of a daily life. The programme displayed the positive attitude of Japanese in tackling one of the natural disasters that was surrounding them on a daily basis. It was very educational and very informative, and I was especially impressed by the dedicated scientists who contributed so much of their time and energies to the building of a better world for their generation and many more generations to come.

    There is a Japan Building Disaster Prevention Association which “aims to contribute to the safety of human lives and properties through investigating and disseminating disaster prevention systems and techniques related to maintenance of building environment”.

    I know it is an impossible dream to hope that the whole world can handle earthquakes as effectively and efficiently as the Japanese, but I hope one day this dream will come true.

    By the way, I treat every topic as a question from the teachers to us, some homework handed down to us, and I really scratch my head and use all the dictionaries and spelling checks etc to help me compost a comment and submit my homework to the teachers. I had to borrow a lot of material from the internet which is very helpful for me.

    I am sure a lot of listeners and readers here write their ‘secret messages’ to the ESLPOD Team by email instead of writing here, but one day they will join us when they realise that it is a way to improve their English even faster.

  17. Peter says:

    What are so bent out of shape for.
    Ur last entery is like an stern letter.
    I know all about the daily occurrence u mentioned in japan
    I mean skyscrapers there and how they absorb all the shakes and everything.
    But, I didn’t want to get into details like you did.
    Thanks for the sympathy, though, Betty.
    Once ,I was a part of the disaster, or catastrophe as you call it.literally, The whole city was leveled.the shed toll was significantly high. I mean the casualty.
    It was like a nightmare to me.a nightmare that you can wake out of it anytime soon ,and some times your whole life.
    It takes you months to wrap your head around what have happened to you.the worst part is that there is no way that I can ease my conscious because I was there and I could do nothing.
    There is a sinking feeling in the air that the worst earthquick ever is fermenting right underneath the capital city with a population of 17000000 case of happening…. Just Go figure! Betty
    There is a word on the street that it may happen very soon!
    Naturally disaster of any kind is quite overwhelming Betty.
    Sorry , if I thick you off

  18. Peter says:

    Betty ,
    It wasn’t Heart breaking at all
    It was negatively heartfelt on so many levels.
    Heartbreak doesn’t do it betty. Not even a bit.
    It touches your very core.Even the passage of time can’t heal the wound.

  19. Betty says:

    Hi, Peter, it was 3 December 2010 when you submitted your comment. Christmas is on 25th December. There were 22 days to Christmas. Your iphone keypad really was too small for you. The little children reading your comment would be opening their Christmas presents 10 days too early.

    How are you going to spend your Christmas, Peter?

    Christmas Day in Hong Kong is very different than in United Kingdom.

    Hong Kong is such a commercial place that all shops open, all good hotels serve very expensive Christmas buffets, streets full of people, the whole city is very much alive with outdoor activities. Very beautiful. No so good if you do not have money in your pocket and wanted to have all the hilarious fun.

    My parents’ generation do not believe in Jesus and we’d better not to mention celebrating the birth of Jesus. We sneak out to celebrate it with our young friends. No Christmas decorations at home, full stop.

    In England Christmas is a family time and all public transports stop running, all supermarkets close on Christmas Day. So people must get all their food shopping done before Christmas Eve, and everyone try to stay at home with their families on Christmas Day. The streets in non-tourist towns and cities were almost deserted.

    Some people had never been to England (UK) imagined that Christmas in England (UK) must be even more exciting in England than Hong Kong. They booked a Christmas Holiday to England, and then they found out that they could not even find a place to eat on Christmas Day in a small town in England.

    Very Contrasting Christmas Sceneries in Hong Kong and United Kingdom.

    I hope everyone here in will have a very Merry Christmas this year.

  20. Peter says:

    Christmass here, is so different.
    U don’t get Christmasey until the last minute.
    I mean here,everybody just work and work and save everything for the last minute.all the christmass shopping, hanging out with friends , christmass parties and receptions,all the supposedly christmass fun all are done towards the very end of christmass time.seems like nobody wants that happy time, so they leave it for the last minute then do it for the hell of it.if you utter happy holiday , the response you get would be : ” Let’s get it over with,shall we.” Here, the only thing that remind you of Christmases is lousy decorations in window stores and public places ,mostly civic centers.what makes it worse is all the so called illuminations and decorations follow the sane pattern of last year and the year before ,and …. Seems like everything has fallen in a bad rut.
    Life is hectic as always. All dreamy stuff u just mention not takeplace here.Nobody wants to get to spirit around here. And ,on the top of that brutal,frigid cold wether force every body inside their places. So ,literally in christmass eve the only diffrerence you can detec is the absence of hurried ,slouchy people running on the street all stoop ,droop ,and deep into their thoughts working their way home out of the freezing ,slushy, nasty cold wether.
    That is about it my friend
    And Uncle Same follow the same pattern
    Don’t blieve me ask Warren
    Warren what is up bro
    Did you get all Christmasey
    Or you r saying :the hell with it.
    Come on chap; fill us in with sth on christmass department that I dont know already,will you ?
    Be a pal ,and indulge us
    I challenge you my friend . Nagte my words,if I am wrong offcourse.
    Whay is LA like in christmass time.all glory?

  21. Peter says:

    don’t get me wrong please.I love Canada.
    Very friendly people.
    You can’t track any human right violation
    Seriously, no discrimination of any kind.
    People of different colors,cult,and belief live in harmony here.
    But ,my only problem here is people are too
    Much into working and making money.
    I believe USA is the same.
    I mean,sometimes,having a bit fun doesn’t hurm, does it
    I just picked bits and pieces here. Nothing else
    Canada is a good country that takes a good care of its people and the best thing about it is an out-of-charge health care system.
    It is absolutely free. Ofcourse,not for cosmetic purposes, and my friend that makes it all dreamy:))
    Loneliness sometime takes alot out of me.
    Peace out

  22. Peter says:

    I understand everybody has to work to support their family .
    Specialty nowadays that we r dropping full-time jobs and putting on part-time jobe. It is a negative but it has become a norm around here.
    So,the system calls for more work and less fun.
    It is the way it is.
    Luckily,I m single
    So,I get to be more on the fun side that work side:)
    I still want to play the field more fun that way:)

  23. emiliano says:

    Betty, every post are better writen than the former what it is really a lesson to everyone of us. I like to read you just a lot and yes, it seems you take a lot of time to do it properly.
    You are right, me too have to look for information frequently when I am writing here and it is a good exercise by all means.


    Now I am very worried and sad because my father is in the hospital, it seems he is really too bad.
    My sister is with him and now he is on surgery but with not good perspectives by his age.

    Just awaiting some call from my sister the blog is my best form of entertain my mind.
    If you have time try to see how the City Hall of Los Angeles is built, it´s incredible to see how this building is designed to
    prevent earthquakes.
    I saw it last year and it was amazing.

    Well, my mind is upset, I can´t write too long as I am thinking what is happening in the hospital.

    It´s a pleasure to read all what you write Betty, thanks a lot.

  24. Peter says:

    Again it is me,
    Sorry folks,
    Didn’t mean to bring the blog down
    I normally don’t do back stories but this time around the story of earthquick made the part of my life flash before my eyes that I had blocked it out

  25. Tania says:

    Hi! Such a sad topic on week-end… And Romania is situated in a seismically active region and has a history of devastating and deadly earthquakes.
    The probability that a severe “a big one” and damaging earthquake will occur is high and very soon, our National Institute for Earth Physics said. We are very frightened.
    So, it is true that life scares us enough… How could we love the horror genre?

    All the best for you all without any earthquake,


  26. Peter says:

    Speaking of which, a new year is approaching ,and we r still blessed by the fact that we still have Eslpod up and about.people let’s make the Eslpod’s presence In our life a continuum by feeding the Eslpod finantially. Enough with verbal praises ; it is time to action. If we don’t cone forward , it may not be very far that one day we wake up and sit behind our computers to check out the latest on the Eslpod educational serious, but to our surprise, nothing comes up on the screen . First we check the Internet connection ,then we goggle Eslpod simply because we don’t wanna accept the fact that Eslpod is not there for us anymore.
    Fellow students,
    Do not let this happen !
    We need a pre emotive action!
    Let’s no take Eslpod for granted.

  27. Peter says:

    Warren seems like your post has pushed lots of buttons :)))

  28. Tania says:

    Hi! As usual, a lot of novelties for me all photos of San Francisco. Grace Cathedral… but especially Transamerica Pyramid – the tallest and most recognizable skyscraper in San Francisco.
    I have not known that it was among the five tallest buildings in the world.
    And then LOL Art Show, LOL artists, LOL cat… a new form of feelings expression? Interesting.
    It would be great a day in San Francisco.

    Watching “Trip Down Market Street Before the Fire 1906″…many tall buildings even in the year 1906.

    Thank you.

  29. Tania says:

    Hi! Dear Emiliano, reading your post you have to know that I am very, very sorry for your father. I wish him much health.


  30. Tania says:

    Hi! Dear Warren, thank you for the web site Open Culture. It is very useful.

    Regarding the gifted children : blind gymnast flies – 11-year-old Lola Walters has trained at the famed Bela Karoly’s gymnastics camp. Bela Karoly is a Romanian.(news from your newspapers)

    And the photo? Is that your beautiful child?

  31. Tania says:

    Hi! You have told us you are a member and assistant conductor of a choir – a religious one?
    It is difficult for me to see the difference between chorus and choir.

  32. Tania says:

    Hi! What about the book “Revolutionary Wealth” by Alvin and Heidi Toffler?

  33. Tania says:

    Hi! Thank you for the video with the death scene “The Killing of John Lennon – A Legend Was Killed”.
    The killer said: I killed John Lennon to gain his fame. Awful!

  34. Tania says:

    Hi! Dear Aecio Flavio Perim, you remind us of our Geography teachers. Thank you.

  35. Betty says:

    Hi, emiliano, I am so sorry to hear the news of your father in hospital. My thoughts are with you and your family. I hope he will get better soon.

    I can totally understand how you feel, when parents are taken ill, we worry a lot.

    We in will understand, don’t feel you have to write when you are not in the mood, we will be patient and wait for your next comment which we enjoy reading so much.

    Thank you so much again, emiliano, for your encouragement, I had been working hard to try to improve my written English, and you have been so encouraging like a very good teacher for me. I will certainly try to see how the City Hall of Los Angeles is built to see how the building is designed to prevent earthquakes.

    I cannot forget how big the meal portions are in Los Angeles, me and my children could not stop laughing when we saw the huge bread arrived at our table. Why is everything so big in USA?

  36. Peter says:

    Hi my dear friend Emiliano,
    I m so sorry to hear that your father is not doing very well .hope he passes all these and be up and running again.
    It is ashamed that this unfortune happened to you. I wish him to get well in no time.
    We miss you being with us here on the blog.
    But ,taking good care of you father tops everything bro.keep up with it my friend.
    It is sad that I hear that man.
    I genuinely worry about your father.
    Please keep us posted my friend.
    All the forces with you.
    PS: Betty , good gesture on your part.

  37. Peter says:

    Speaking for my self, I liked the topic stimulated lots of thoughts around it.
    You always come up with something slightly eccentric. I like your touch on the blog.
    A word of recognition is good even when it comes frrom a bum like me:)
    Good job warren.

  38. Tania says:

    Hi! I have a secret…I share it with you. This evening I am waiting for a present from Saint Nicholas. I am not a child but I like to imagine that I can receive a gift… just a little one.
    I have prepared my boots, I have put them near my bed…I wonder if Saint Nicholas can see them.

    All the best for you all,


  39. Betty says:

    Hi, Peter, thank you for your good words, we all are thinking of emiliano and his families at this moment, and we wish them all the best.

    Merry Christmas to you, Peter, it is a magical moment when the whole world respect this day as a peace day.


    Hi, Tania, I hope Saint Nicholas will find your boots and fill it with whatever you want and whatever you need. A Very Merry Christmas to you.

  40. Talal says:

    thanks Warren for this post , and I wanna tell Emiliano that I am sorry to here that, I wish that he will become better soooooooooon . my thoughts are with u as well.

  41. Talal says:

    Hi Tania, I hope that Saint Nicholas will find ur boots and fill it with gold or diamond, better than a normal gift, trust me, hahahaha.

  42. Tania says:

    Hi! Thank you, dear Betty, for your wishes. But the Christmas Day is on the 25th of December.

  43. Betty says:

    Hi, Tania, I know Christmas Day is on the 25th December, we were hoping that Saint Nicholas was a bit confused and arrived with his gift before Christmas Day.

    Good things come to those who wait.

    I am not a Christian, but Christmas gives us holidays and a chance to be happy which is a most valuable gift from Saint Nicholas already.

  44. Tania says:

    Hi! Thank you, dear Talal. But no chance for diamonds.

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