May 15, 2011

By 2013, We May Finally Have an Answer About the Seneca Gun Booms

In the next few years, we may soon stand to loose yet another legend to scientific facts. In this case, the Seneca Guns may finally be explained.

For decades, many areas along the Coastal Mid Atlantic have experienced unexplained loud booms seemingly emanating from the Atlantic Ocean. The mysterious coastal booms were given the legendary name Seneca Guns. The explanation was that the booms were from ghostly cannon blasts fired by Seneca Indians seeking revenge against Colonial settlers who took their land.

Well, legend aside, we may soon have a scientific answer for these unexplained booms as the EarthScope project plans to install hundreds of portable seismographs along the East Coast. By 2013, the installation should be complete along the eastern seaboard.

Ken Taylor, chief geologist with the North Carolina Geological Survey, was discussing the booms in a PilotOnline article and he stated that the portable seismographs should "shed some light on what's really happening. I think people will be surprised with how much small, seismic activity goes on in this part of the country."

So, if all goes well, we may finally have a definitive answer to this ongoing phenomenon. If not, we'll just have to continue crediting the warrior spirit of the Seneca Indians.

EarthScope Seismic Sensors Head East of the Mississippi
National Science Foundation
March 31, 2011

Most seismic activity--and earthquakes--have been in the U.S. West. But the East is not out of the woods in terms of risk, geologists say.

After a six-year march eastward from the U.S. West Coast, the EarthScope Transportable Array seismic network has reached a major milestone: installation of the first Transportable Array station east of the Mississippi River.

Station 345A, located on a private farm about 15 miles northwest of Columbia, Miss., will operate for the next two years, continuously recording ground motion from local, regional and global earthquakes.

The Transportable Array is part of the National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded EarthScope project, an integrated Earth science effort to explore the structure, evolution and dynamics of the North American continent.

EarthScope has additional support from NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey. The Transportable Array is constructed, operated and maintained by the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) as part of EarthScope.

"Research using data from the Transportable Array has already improved our understanding of the structure and dynamics of the western United States," says Greg Anderson, NSF program director for EarthScope.

"With the arrival of the Transportable Array in the eastern United States," Anderson says, "scientists will derive new insights about the older core of our continent and processes related to the formation and modification of continents over geologic time."

Because the Western part of the country regularly experiences earthquakes that can be felt, "the region has dozens of permanent seismometers to observe fault movements," says Bob Woodward, director of the USArray, the seismic component of EarthScope.

"Seismic stations east of the Mississippi River are much less common."

The Transportable Array network comprises a grid of 400 state-of-the-art seismic stations installed about 70 kilometers apart.

Each station is a stand-alone system with a seismometer and electronic equipment installed about six feet below ground and solar panel and communications equipment at the surface.

Most Transportable Array stations, like 345A, have been installed on private land; the landowners serve as volunteer hosts and are enthusiastic about advancing knowledge of Earth's inner workings.

To date, Transportable Array stations have been installed in more than 1,100 locations, out of an expected 1,600 by the end of the first ten years of EarthScope in 2013.

These stations have recorded over 22 terabytes of data that are freely available to Earth scientists, educators and the public across the U.S. and around the world.

Related Websites
EarthScope Project:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2010, its budget is about $6.9 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives over 45,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes over 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards over $400 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

Top photo from article.
Installation schedule picture: US Array
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