Monday, January 20, 2014

What do Frogs Know about Plate Tectonics that Humans are Missing?

article from February 17, 2011
By Jamie Douglas

The Ring of Fire starts in Antarctica with Mount Erebus, works its way up the west coast of the Americas, from Chile to Alaska, and thence wraps itself around past the Kamchatka Peninsula, Japan, south to the Pacific Islands and New Zealand, circling right back to Mt Erebus, encompassing thousands of dead, dormant and active volcanoes, any of which could erupt with little notice – yes even the ones that are considered inactive.

A great part of the Caribbean islands are also of volcanic origin, with several that are still very active, and the plate tectonic activity below the surface leads to disastrous events like last year’s Haitian disaster that killed hundreds of thousands.

So, about the frogs...

Last week, on the fateful night of 11/12 February, when Egypt was rocking the world with its own seismic events, something very unusual happened at our house. At about 9 pm (21:00), my wife saw a little frog under my desk. I gently picked him up and put him outside. Now please be aware that during the year that we have been at this house, I have only seen a very rare frog outside.

Then there was another, and another, and another. We became literally overrun with these cute little frogs, to the point that we had to watch where we walked and, interrupting our Daily Show with Jon Stewart watching, we set about liberating the frogs, one by one. All this time my accumulated trivial knowledge in my soft drive (brain) did not recall my having once upon a time read about how, in the orient, particularly, in Japan, they had carefully observed animal behavior to predict earthquakes. I never put the two together. We don’t even have any idea how or why they came in the house. I suspected that they wanted to watch the Daily Show with us, but my wife Julie is somewhat squeamish about creatures in the house [Editor’s Note: only because I startle easily, not because I fear cute little frogs], so it was best they go. We finished watching a couple of more episodes, and then Julie went to sleep while I set to writing an article for my expat blog.

Much later, after I had joined her in bed, I heard noises, like the roof creaking and some plaster hitting the ground. It was a minor temblor, of which we get quite a few. Then it occurred to me that the frogs, in their haste to escape from underground, should have been a warning sign to us, and indeed, we live only 6 km from the place in the Chilean Andes where, at that time, an aftershock of 6.8 hit.

The Earth has continued to rumble after the big 8.8 quake last February 27, where over 500 people tragically lost their lives. To see just how active this region is, check out the USGS seismic activity map of Chile.

All this, of course, is the natural course of evolution of a planet with a liquid core, upon which floats what is known as “the surface.” There is sure to be more to come, large and small, so pay attention to our amphibian friends.

Be good to the frogs, maybe occasionally kiss one – you never know which one is the right one!

Jamie Douglas
Chacra Ushuaia, Patagonia

[Photo by Jamie Douglas]

I encourage you to write me at cruzansailor [at] gmail [dot] com with any questions or suggestions you may have. Disclaimer: I am not in any travel-related business. My advice is based on my own experiences and is free of charge (Donations welcome). It is always my pleasure to act as a beneficial counselor to those who are seekers of the next adventure.