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No. 11: Summer 1980

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Orphans Of The Wild West

North of San Francisco, all along the Oregon and Washington coasts, the geologically oriented traveller will discover many huge boulders, mostly 10-20 m across, but some 100 m in size. Their constitution varies, but many are coarse-grained basalts that appear to have spent much of their lives at least 30-40 km underground. These boulders are "erratics" in the sense that no one has found surface outcrops that might have given them birth. So, where did they come from? But origin is only part of the problem. The presumable non-glacial erratics occur in a geologically confused area that seems to be upsidedown time-wise according to the few fossils that have been found.

One theory is that the erratics were long ago carried to great depths by the conveyor-belt layers that slide eastward and downward under the U.S. Pacific Coast. Later, geological pressures squeezed the rock containing the erratics back to the surface like toothpaste. In the last phase, the matrix rock was eroded away leaving the erratics orphans.

(Wood, Robert Muir; "Orphans of the Wild West," New Scientist, 85:466, 1980.)

Comment. Note that this complex scenario is dictated by the dogmas of continental drift and the geological time scale.

From Science Frontiers #11, Summer 1980. 1980-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987