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Thursday, February 28, 2002 - 12:00 a.m. Pacific

The Earth detectives

After last year's earthquake, the quake-chasing duo Kathy Troost, 44, and Derek Booth, 48, rushed to Starbucks headquarters, where suspicious sand was reportedly lurking. Upon arrival, Troost and Booth pondered how cars had managed to park on the sand without leaving tracks. They surmised the culprit was liquefaction - in which an earthquake's shaking makes soil behave as a liquid. The two geologists are currently on a mission to create a subsurface map of the Seattle area.
Ralph Haugerud, 48, is not a fan of riding in small planes, but he uses them to fly over Seattle with high-tech equipment that shoots harmless lasers at the ground. This process is called LIDAR (Light, Distance And Ranging). The data collected will ultimately contribute to a map revealing the texture of the Earth's surface minus all the things we grow and build on top of it. This geologist says the place he'd least prefer to be during a huge earthquake is on the unstable ground of Harbor Island because "I don't like swimming in cold water."
While sitting in traffic on I-5 in Seattle one day, Brian Sherrod looked over and made one of his better-known discoveries: A 70,000-year-old lakebed. Just think, the paleoseismologist would have never seen it without rush hour. Sherrod, 40, who does not have his water heater strapped to the wall, said he would prefer spending the next earthquake in a field. During last year's quake, he was driving on the University Bridge when it started rocking and banging. "It was awful. It was scary. I couldn't control my car."
Thomas Pratt, 43, has apologized for waking up Seattle in the middle of the night with explosives. Three years ago, he and other scientists created such a jolt that it did more than make their seismometers wiggle. As a geophysicist, Pratt not only uses explosives, but vibrating trucks to make "sonograms" of the Puget Sound area. Currently, Pratt has 90 monitors set up to record most every move the Earth makes.


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