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Date: 30/11/18

It Really Racked Up Richter

Today's 7.0 quake near Anchorage, Alaska reminded me of something.

When Charles Richter (he of the since-superseded Scale) retired from CalTech in 1970, some of his colleagues wrote a song in tongue-in-cheek tribute to their departing eminence, which they performed in front of Richter and an invited audience.

Reports vary as to Richter's reaction: one version (put about by one of the composers) has it that he was delighted; another (which has had a wider currency) states that he was absolutely furious, as he was a very shy man (which nonetheless doesn't seem to have stopped him from being an ardent naturist).

Either way, it's a very well-written song. Frustratingly, you can't find it on YouTube or any other such source. I hope that I'm not going to make any (seismic) waves by putting it here for you to hear (click on the ear).

An ear

(And here are the lyrics)

"Charlie Richter made a scale for calibrating earthquakes.
Gives a true and lucid reading ev'ry time the earth shakes.
Increments are exponential; numbers 0 to 9.
When the first shock hit the 'seismo', everything worked fine.

"It measured one-two on the Richter scale,
A shabby little shiver.
One-two on the Richter scale,
A queasy little quiver.
Waves brushed the seismograph
As if a fly had flicked her.
One-two on the Richter scale;
It hardly woke up Richter.

"Nineteen-hundred thirty-three, and Long Beach rocked and rumbled.
Schoolhouse walls and crockery and oil derricks tumbled.
Hollywood got hit but good; it even shook the stars.
Shattered glass and spilled martinis on a hundred bars.

"It measured six-three on the Richter scale,
It rattled tile and plaster.
Six-three on the Richter scale,
A rattling disaster.
Waves bounced the seismograph
As if a cue had clicked her.
Six-three on the Richter scale;
It almost rattled Richter.

"Came the turn of County Kern; the mountains lurched and trembled.
Bakersfield, which jerked and reeled, was almost disassembled.
Arvin town was battered down in rubble and debris.
Spasms wracked the women's prison at Tehachapi.

Spasms wracked the women's prison at Tehachapi.

"It measured seven-eight on the Richter scale,
It fractured rails and melons.
Seven-eight on the Richter scale,
It fractured female felons.
Waves smacked the seismograph,
A casualty inflicter.
Seven-eight on the Richter scale;
It almost fractured Richter.

"Came a cataclysmic quake at Anchorage, Alaska.
'Seisms' ran from Ketchikan to Omaha, Nebraska.
Polar bears were saying prayers; the tidal wave was grand;
Planted boats in California way up on the sand.

"It measured eight-five on the Richter scale,
It loosened kelp and corals.
Eight-five on the Richter scale,
It loosened faith and morals.
Waves bashed the seismograph
As if a mule had kicked her.
Eight-five on the Richter scale;
It failed to loosen Richter.

"Someday - pretty soon, we fear - our many faults will fail us,
Slide and slip and rip and dip and all at once assail us.
Seismic jolts like lightning bolts will flatten us that day.
When the concrete settles down, geologists will say;

"It measured eight-nine on the Richter scale,
It rocked them in Samoa.
Eight-nine on the Richter scale,
It cracked like Krakatoa.
Waves crunched the seismograph
Just like a boa constrictor.
Eight-five on the Richter scale;
It really racked up...

"One-two on the Richter scale,
Three-four on the Richter scale,
Five-six on the Richter scale,
Seven-eight on the Richter scale,
Eight-nine on the Richter sca-a-a-a-a-a-ale...

"It really racked up Richter!

(Music by Elliott Davis, lyrics by J. Kent Clark)