Bruce Barcott | August 25, 2011 | Outside
Monster earthquakes are going off all around the Pacific Ocean’s Ring of Fire. Is the West Coast of North America next?* And can you surf a tsunami?** Join us on a footnoted foray into the terrifying world of megaquakes, tidal waves, and the fine art of being your own Jesus.
PITY POOR CASSANDRA, blessed by Apollo with the power of prophecy, cursed with the fate of disbelief. She tells the people what’s coming. She suffers their laughter, absorbs their scorn. Then she watches her prediction come true. Yeah, you told us so, they’ll say as they bury the dead. Congratulations, jerk.
Patrick Corcoran feels her pain. It’s his job. Every day, he rises at dawn and goes out into the world to tell people to prepare to meet their doom. Or, rather, to prepare to escape it.
Corcoran is a professional geographer in Astoria, Oregon, a misty fishing port where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. He’s a high-energy guy, 50, with a little Billy Bob Thornton to his look. Loves his job and loves his coffee. Drives around in his Toyota Tacoma all day with an 11.5-foot-long Takayama paddleboard strapped to the rack. He’s a coastal natural-hazards specialist with Oregon Sea Grant, a marine version of an agricultural extension service affiliated with Oregon State University. Corcoran prophesies earthquakes and tsunamis five days a week.