CLOSE

California's Chances of Having a Major Earthquake Next Week Just Went Up

A cluster of more than 200 small earthquakes beneath the Salton Sea in Southern California earlier this week has scientists waiting to see if the slumbering San Andreas fault nearby could be the next to move. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that following the quake swarm at the Salton Sea on Monday and Tuesday, the likelihood of a magnitude-7 or greater earthquake being triggered is as high as 1 in 100 over the next seven days, though the odds will lower as time goes on.

But for now, local seismologists might feel their hearts racing. "When there's significant seismicity in this area of the fault, we kind of wonder if [the San Andreas] is somehow going to go active," Caltech seismologist Egill Hauksson told the Los Angeles Times. "So maybe one of those small earthquakes that's happening in the neighborhood of the fault is going to trigger it, and set off the big event."

And by big event, they mean big:

A San Andreas earthquake starting at the Salton Sea has long been a major concern for scientists. In 2008, USGS researchers simulated what would happen if a magnitude-7.8 earthquake started at the Salton Sea and then barreled up the San Andreas fault, sending shaking waves out in all directions.

By the time the San Andreas fault becomes unhinged in San Bernardino County's Cajon Pass, Interstate 15 and rail lines could be severed. Historic downtowns in the Inland Empire could be awash in fallen brick, crushing people under the weight of collapsed buildings that had never been retrofitted.

Los Angeles could feel shaking for a minute — a lifetime compared with the seven seconds felt during the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Shaking waves reach as far as Bakersfield, Oxnard, and Santa Barbara. About 1,600 fires spread across Southern California. And powerful aftershocks larger than magnitude-7 pulverize the region, sending shaking into San Diego County and into the San Gabriel Valley. [Los Angeles Times]

Scientists say major earthquakes happen in Southern California about once every 150 or 200 years; the last big quake at the Salton Sea-tip of the San Andreas fault was 330 years ago. Read the full chilling report at the Los Angeles Times. —Jeva Lange

From our sister publication, The Week.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
arrow
History
Photo of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, Purchased for $10, Could Be Worth Millions
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Several years ago, Randy Guijarro paid $2 for a few old photographs he found in an antiques shop in Fresno, California. In 2015, it was determined that one of those photos—said to be the second verified picture ever found of Billy the Kid—could fetch the lucky thrifter as much as $5 million. That story now sounds familiar to Frank Abrams, a lawyer from North Carolina who purchased his own photo of the legendary outlaw at a flea market in 2011. It turns out that the tintype, which he paid $10 for, is thought to be an image of Billy and Pat Garrett (the sheriff who would eventually kill him) taken in 1880. Like Guijarro’s find, experts say Abrams’s photo could be worth millions.

The discovery is as much a surprise to Abrams as anyone. As The New York Times reports, what drew Abrams to the photo was the fact that it was a tintype, a metal photographic image that was popular in the Wild West. Abrams didn’t recognize any of the men in the image, but he liked it and hung it on a wall in his home, which is where it was when an Airbnb guest joked that it might be a photo of Jesse James. He wasn’t too far off.

Using Google as his main research tool, Abrams attempted to find out if there was any famous face in that photo, and quickly realized that it was Pat Garrett. According to The New York Times:

Then, Mr. Abrams began to wonder about the man in the back with the prominent Adam’s apple. He eventually showed the tintype to Robert Stahl, a retired professor at Arizona State University and an expert on Billy the Kid.

Mr. Stahl encouraged Mr. Abrams to show the image to experts.

William Dunniway, a tintype expert, said the photograph was almost certainly taken between 1875 and 1880. “Everything matches: the plate, the clothing, the firearm,” he said in a phone interview. Mr. Dunniway worked with a forensics expert, Kent Gibson, to conclude that Billy the Kid and Mr. Garrett were indeed pictured.

Abrams, who is a criminal defense lawyer, described the process of investigating the history of the photo as akin to “taking on the biggest case you could ever imagine.” And while he’s thrilled that his epic flea market find could produce a major monetary windfall, don’t expect to see the image hitting the auction block any time soon. 

"Other people, they want to speculate from here to kingdom come,” Abrams told The New York Times of how much the photo, which he has not yet had valuated, might be worth. “I don’t know what it’s worth. I love history. It’s a privilege to have something like this.”

[h/t: The New York Times]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
arrow
quiz
Name the TV Titles Based on Their Antonyms

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios