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Cataclysms on the Columbia by John Eliot…
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The huge ice age floods which shaped the "channeled scablands" and coulees of central Washington state are a fascinating subject which should be brought to the attention of everyone even vaguely interested in the forces that shape our landscapes. This book, aimed at lay readers, gives an overview of the floods, and the history of the geological research which led to our current understanding of these remarkable events.

The original proponent of the catastrophic flood theory, Harlen Bretz, was strongly criticised by his contemporaries because he was unable to provide sufficiently compelling evidence for his "outlandish" theories. Acceptance came only after his successors, notably John Pardee, argued successfully that wave-like deposits in the valleys below Missoula MT were consistent with floods of the speed and volume advocated by Bretz. Unfortunately, the book tends to gloss over these later developments, and often reads more like a hagiography of Bretz than an account of the process by which science is actually done.

The book also suffers from lapses in style. The writing (shared by three authors) is uneven, tends to be repetitious, and would have benefited from tighter editing. The illustrations are also a big disappointment - I would happily have paid extra for a book with up to date and well-produced colour photos, rather than the grainy monochromes which have been used throughout. Ditto the graphics, which appear to have been lifted straight from the technical literature without any attempt to make them more suited to lay readers.

Read the book, marvel at the story, and imagine what it would have been like to watch the floods from a secure piece of high ground, but keep your eyes open for a livelier and more readable update.
1 vote unwinm | Sep 17, 2007 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Eliot Allenprimary authorall editionscalculated
Burns, Marjoriemain authorall editionsconfirmed
Burns, Marjoriemain authorall editionsconfirmed
Sargent, Sam C.main authorall editionsconfirmed
Sargent, Sam C.main authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0881922153, Paperback)

The formation of the Grand Coulee remained a mystery for many years, until J Harlen Bretz proved that the Columbia River basin was the site of huge floods 15,000 years ago that created the landscape we see today.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:53 -0400)

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