by NICK DESHAIS & r & & r & Bretz's Flood & r & by John Soennichsen & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & R & lt;/span & eading Bretz's Flood is like tooling around in our collective backyard. Through the course of the book, the character of Eastern Washington's landscape becomes a vivid character, mainly because of the intricate and precise language deployed to describe it. First, there's the language of the book's author, John Soennichsen, a Cheney author who also penned the well-regarded Live! from Death Valley. Soennichsen obviously takes great enjoyment in our local geology because, through words alone, his explanations of the region paint a very real, almost palpable, illustration. And then there's the language of the book's title character, J Harlen Bretz. A great geological gadabout, Bretz fought the establishment of his chosen profession by fighting for the Inland Northwest's true history. Still, the book falls a bit short of bringing Bretz to life, missing the vibrant descriptions given to the landscape.
As a young geology professor, Bretz visited the Spokane area for just 10 days. As he explored the region, however, something soon became clear to him: The area had undergone a dramatic rending of epic proportions. A massive flood, Bretz quickly realized, had washed away everything on the earth's surface here, leaving only the bare pillars of rock that were once far below the surface. In one of his scientific papers, Bretz described it best: "The popular name is an expressive metaphor. The scablands are wounds only partially healed -- great wounds in the epidermis of soil with which Nature protects the underlying rock." His colleagues reacted in a way familiar to most free thinkers. Here was a man resurrecting the idea of a great flood and its ramifications, just years after the geological scientific establishment had abandoned the biblical explanation of a great flood (that would be Noah's) shaping the earth.
But Bretz wasn't dismayed. For a decade, he visited the region from his post at the University of Chicago and wrote paper after paper about his findings. It wasn't until the 1950s, 30 years after his first visit to Spokane, that his ideas gained acceptance. Now, there's no question about the forces that shaped the geologic Inland Northwest. Bretz was right.