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                                       The Spirit Journal
                                                  Article in March 2005 issue

Earthquake Warnings

When Animals speak, listen. Nature provides signs, if we just pay attention.

Imagine being given a few days warning to prepare or evacuate safely prior to an earthquake or a volcanic eruption. The risk of earthquake and volcanic activity in the Seattle area is not a matter of ‘if’, but ‘when’. How can we best prepare for the next seismic event? To date seismic monitoring at the University of Washington and the USGS  has not been able to predict the timing of the next earthquake. But animals can. Cats in particular have been noted to act strangely or run away up to three days to a week before a large magnitude earthquake hits.  Perhaps it’s time we paid attention to these feline messengers.

  Animals took to the hills: Amidst the rubble of the December 26, 2005 earthquake and resulting tsunami there were few animals, if any, found. They had fled to the hills and higher ground and survived.  How did they know when to go? What ‘heightened sensitivity’ do they have that we don’t? or do we?

Successful Evacuation: In 1976 a town in China successfully evacuated the townsfolk prior to a large earthquake hitting that city. Hundreds of thousands of lives were saved. The evacuation was prompted by the disappearance of the animals.

  Shila, the Earthquake Predictor: Closer to home in Seattle, my cat Shila accurately predicted, by her strange behavior, the last three large earthquakes. In 1996 I was living in the Bothell area and Shila had an open window to come or go on the three acres where I shared a cabin with a friend.  When she started running up the walls and then hiding for hours on end instead of enjoying her outdoor excursions, I paid attention. A couple days later the cabin shook as a 5.3 earthquake registered with an epicenter in Duvall.  By 1999 I recognized her wild behavior again and commented to a few friends who had cats also, to pay attention to them and be on the alert for an earthquake. Sure enough, just a day or two later a 5.8 earthquake rumbled through our area.  When Shila acted out in February of 2001 I actually took down breakables from high shelves and dressed a bit more for a ‘run outside’ when I went to bed. The 6.8 Nisqually earthquake really rattled and rolled through my Issaquah apartment causing quite a bit of damage from falling bottles, flying CD’s, plants tumbling off the stands and death to my fish as rocks in my aquarium shifted.  Shila was safely under the bed, as usual.  She had amazingly predicted three earthquakes and with each one I had heightened my attention and attempted to be prepared

Even the Birds Know: Several days before the March 8th, 2005 plume of ash blew out of Mt. St. Helens’ I noticed a significant reduction of birds at our backyard feeders,  (I was now residing in Mountlake Terrace).   And Shila was resting more ‘underneath’ tables and a rocking chair; not her usual behavior.  She preferred stretching out on our deck. I moved our china from the cabinets just three days before the Mt. St. Helens’ small eruption.  Luckily there was not a significant earthquake as a result of that small burst.  However, Shila and the birds’ strange behavior continued to prove a point.  The animals are a good indicator of earth activity and can provide us with a few days warning. I believe animals that have the opportunity to run outside in nature and feel the earth’s rhythms are even more attuned to potential earth movements than housebound pets. Perhaps your furry and feathered friends are more than just entertaining, they may assist in saving your life. 

  In Rupert Sheldrake’s book, ‘Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home; and Other Unexplained Powers of Animals’ cites many occurrences of “Forebodings of Earthquakes and Other Disasters”, Chapter 15:

  ~ September 26, 1997, a major earthquake devastated the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, and caused much damage in nearby towns and villages. At least a week before the earthquake rats were noted leaving the sewers, the night before the earthquake cats and dogs were reported acting agitated and restless, pigeons flew strangely and a few minutes before the earthquake struck, wild birds fell silent.

  ~The first detailed description from Europe concerns a cataclysmic earthquake in 373 B.C. at Helice, Greece, on the shore of the Gulf of Corinth, which swallowed the city up.  Five days before the quake, according to the historian Diodorus Siculus, rats, snakes, weasels, and other animals left the city in droves, to the puzzlement of the human inhabitants.

  ~Other reports from ancient times include the statement of the Roman writer Pliny the Elder that one of the signs of a coming earthquake is “the excitation and terror of animals with no apparent reason.”

  ~ In more recent times, the Kobe, Japan earthquake of 1995, unusual behavior was observed in mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, insects and worms.

  Scientists say earthquakes cannot be predicted: An article by four eminent experts published in the American journal of Science in 1997 stated its thesis succinctly in the title: “Earthquakes Cannot Be Predicted.” The experts see the role of seismology as contributing to “earthquake hazard mitigation” rather than predicting specific earthquakes.

  We can pay attention: By contrast, in China in the 1970s, earthquake researchers actually encouraged members of the public to watch out for and report possible signals that, according to age-old Chinese traditions, were believed to herald a catastrophic earthquake. 

  Animal Watch: In order to make good use of these messengers I’ve set up an email: to gather and track observations from local pet and wildlife watchers. (It is my desire to organize a group of pet owners/watchers that will submit information to a local website. Volunteers are hereby encouraged to email me.)

How to inform the public: The big question is how to get the public and media more aware of this useful and readily available data. As a former Seattle SCAN TV producer/interviewer I know the impact and effect media can have on informing the public, or not.  Perhaps a growing understanding of our own interactions with pets and other animals starts at home. We then need to act as messengers via communications with friends, neighbors and through the internet.

And what about our anticipatory instincts? Given the incredible ‘instinct’s’ observed in animals doesn’t it seem possible that we humans also possess some of the same abilities?  Closer observation of pets and wild animals may bring us into closer communication with them, and, as a result, with ourselves, our inner nature and inner guidance system. Observing that guidance system may allow us to ‘be in the right place at the right time’.  What do the animals teach us? To listen, to feel, to run away if we need too. In other words, be prepared.

Be Prepared: Considering where we live and the already congested and crowded conditions on our local highways I travel with a backpack in the trunk of my car. In it I have a pair of good walking shoes, thick socks, a rainproof jacket, hat, gloves, a flashlight, extra batteries, water and some trail mix snacks, a blanket and a walkman radio. I feel prepared to walk home in the event of any situation that might cause disruption or complete gridlock in our traffic.  At home we have talked about where to run if we feel the house shaking.  We also have flashlights under the bed, extra batteries, candles, water and some amount of food stored. 

Do like the natives do: I once interviewed a native american elder who spoke about Mt. Rainier erupting. He spoke in a matter of fact manner, that if the mountain needs to erupt, we should get out of the way. There are pacific northwest tribes that do not build anywhere near certain coastal areas due to the tales of a tsunami as long ago as 300 years.  Those that live closer to the land, walk in the woods and enjoy the feel of the earth seem to also have a better connection with the Earth Mother and her moods, shifts and ‘needed’ changes.  Between Mother Earth and her animal inhabitants, as well as our own innate abilities, we should always be safe.

Shila Warning

When Shila, the cat ran up the wall

I thought her antics a bit strange.

When she then hid under my bed

I knew she was afraid.

Of what, I was not sure

Then within days the earth

She did shake,

Well, Shila was nowhere to be seen

Just two bright eyes beneath the bed

I could watch the TV for seismic news,

Or watch the cat, instead.

Brenda Roberts

March 2005



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