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The Field Guide to the San Andreas Fault by David K. Lynch takes us on a tour along California’s world famous fault. It is designed as a guide to be used for automobile travel with carefully detailed instructions on exactly how to get to many outstanding geological features along the fault. The book is  easily understood by the public without many technical terms and with many tables for comparisons with other energetic events.

The book is intended to be used as a field guide and has a spiral binding which in this case is a very good idea because the book will lie flat on the page to which it is opened. The book is clearly thought out as a touring guide but for Americans only because the directions are in miles and the local descriptions are in feet. However, I must complain at this archaic means of measurement when the rest of the world has moved on to the much more reasonable decimal based metric system. But, from my point of view, the book gets worse on this measurement issue. Why was the decision made to use a mixed system of notation for documenting the precise locations? The latitude and longitude numbers are an excellent way of finding things and can be used to any degree of precision desired. But, why scramble undocumented degree notation with undocumented minute notation and then decimalize the undocumented minute notation? It is confusing enough even if it were documented. There are many beautiful photographs such as this one on page 70 documented with this confusing notation.

A location along the San Andreas Fault

33.613,-116.005 is a location along the San Andreas Fault.

This archaic notation would have been passably okay if it were properly written out as 33° 36.779′ ,116° 0.324′, 451 feet but even that is unnecessarily scrambled and wrong. It does load properly on  GoogleEarth but only if you insert the missing (-) sign in front of the 116. Without the missing minus sign you end up near Suzhou, China in a farmer’s field. The entire book is filled with this fundamental error, which amounts to several hundred errors. It is easily worked around but you must remember to insert the minus sign every time. Entering the numbers  33.613,-116.005 into GoogleEarth (download the program) is briefer with fewer numbers and much more importantly is fully decimalized and not a crazy mixture of degrees, minutes and decimal minutes, feet and miles.

The whole area near this photographed location is sprinkled with geologically interesting photographs on GoogleEarth which are made visible by checking Geographic Web box on the Layers, Options. While checking your Layers box also click the Street View because then you can tour the next canyon just a bit south at 33.592,-115.978 with 360° street view photographs which also shows some remarkable geographic features.

I physically tour about the world sometimes too but I must instill a little guilt into you people and discourage idly jaunting about just to look at some old rocks. It is better to do as much traveling on your computer as is reasonably possible. So, after buying this book I would recommend going to the locations first via GoogleEarth to see if you really need to go there in your car.

To salve my own guilty conscience on this needless travel issue, I have created some other web sites for virtual touring.

100 Top Museums of the World – with links

UNESCO – World Heritage Sites – with links

However, if you are going on a traveling vacation this tour of the San Andreas Fault would be a wonderful adventure and this book would be a great help in making it a life enhancing experience.


Have some fun. Fly the length of the San Andreas Fault on GoogleEarth. Go to 38.3496,-123.0674 by cutting and pasting that number into the upper left box of GoogleEarth and then tilt the view by pressing the ^ just under the N in the upper right corner for about 5 seconds or until the horizon line appears at the top of the screen. Click the Terrain option to get a nice simulated 3-D view. Then press the N and pull it clockwise around the circle to about the 7 o’clock position until you are looking straight down the long bay. Place your pointer in the middle of the window and gently pull and release the mouse clicker towards you. With a little luck you will now be flying down the bay like you are in an airplane. You are now flying along the San Andreas fault. You will need adjustments occasionally to keep on the fault line. Just place your pointer in the center of the screen and pull the mouse a little in the way you want to go.

The fault line goes out to sea for a while and then reenters land just south of downtown San Francisco. When you get to long the long San Andreas Resivour you will know you are still on the major fault line. There are other fault lines running generally parallel to this one, such as the Hayward Fault. You will need a little help staying on the fault line.

For to the US Geological Survey for the current California Earthquakes.