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The Drum Watchers September 20, 2014

Posted by Fritz in Yachts and other things that float.
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There are a group of people who are addicted to watching the seismograph broadcast 24/7 by the ABC TV affiliate in Los Angeles. KABC has a camera focused on a rotating paper covered drum that records any seismic activity via an ink pen.


This shot is from the 6.9 quake off the northern California coast in March, 2014

Below the screen shot of the drum is a comment area where loyal ‘drum watchers’ chat about the activity (or lack thereof) and current events in the world and in their lives. As a casual frequenter of the site myself, I have noticed many of the same folks watching at the same time. Many have become friends via their mutual hobby and some are downright hilarious.

One event that seems to excite the small band of ‘drum watchers’ is catching the live drum paper change. They have dubbed the individual who does the change ‘TV Guy’. Since I have been frequenting the site I have seen the event just once. Suddenly, a disparate pair of hands appears from the left and goes about removing the old paper. The process takes about a minute unless something else is attended to— like adjusting the needle or tweaking the camera.

Note: I have tried to determine the rate at which the drum turns. My best guess is it makes one full revolution every 30 minutes. So two lines equals an hour. Guessing again I think the drum needs to be changed about every 4 days.

This drum change elicits great chat activity with watchers shouting out their greetings to ‘TV Guy’ who, on occasion, responds via the comments.

The fear of ‘the big one’ has to be on the minds of anyone living in California and I guess this harmless pastime helps folks deal with it

The largest temblor I have witnessed recorded was several weeks ago—the 5.1 Napa quake. The black ink smudge was huge and looked like it went on for several minutes. This was of course what the drum watchers live for and they raced to their keyboards to chat amongst themselves and ask feverishly, “did you feel it?”

I experienced one earthquake back in 1990. I was in Los Angeles at a business conference. I was sitting in my hotel room on the 19th floor of the Bonaventure Hotel watching TV. Suddenly my whole body lurched to one side in the chair. The lamp hanging from the ceiling over the table was angled about 15 degrees from perpendicular in the opposite direction. Then after about five seconds I was lurched in the opposite direction and the lamp swung 15 degrees the other way. It wasn’t until the lights and TV blinked on and off that I suddenly thought, ‘earthquake.’ However, because of the gentleness and lack of shaking I wasn’t really sure. I remembered hearing the safest place in an earthquake was in a doorway so I jumped up and stood in my opened room door. I wasn’t the only person who had heard that safety warning as half a dozen other folks were already standing in their doorways excitedly asking, “was that an earthquake?” “did you feel that?”

Bonaventure Hotel

Bonaventure Hotel

It was an unnerving experience to say the least and I don’t ever need to do it again. I’m happy to watch the drum turn from safely afar in Florida. I’ll take our hurricanes over earthquakes any day.