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Abandoned Mine Shaft On Cal Campus Could Help Warn Of Coming Quakes

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Scott Shackleton opens the entrance to the Lawson Adit. (CBS)

Scott Shackleton opens the entrance to the Lawson Adit. (CBS)

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BERKELEY (KPIX 5) – University of California, Berkeley seismologists are digging into the school’s past in hopes of creating a better warning system for California earthquakes.

Behind a sturdy, rusted door, scrawled with ‘Don Not Enter’ signs lies the key to learning more about the Hayward Fault. What’s known as the Lawson Adit actually looks like a dungeon for naughty Cal students.

“The Lawson Adit goes 200 feet into the side of the Cal campus, but we can only go about 15-20 feet, because it simply isn’t safe without the proper crews and safety equipment,” said Scott Shackleton, Assistant Dean of the College of Engineering.

The tunnel was blasted out in the early 1900’s by the college of mining. It looks like an old mine shaft, damp, dark and covered in cobwebs. But the underground structure boasts one key geographical feature – it runs right next to the Hayward fault.

At one point the shaft was 900 feet long, but numerous cave-ins have shortened it. Cal will soon cover the brittle shale rock near the entrance with concrete and install seismic gadgets to track movements along the fault. Quake watchers say the spot is better suited for the project than just about anywhere on campus.

“We like to put our seismic equipment in very quiet places, because that means we’re measuring the earth’s noise,” said Cal Geophysicist Peggy Hellwig. “We like to be close to the Hayward fault, but the Hayward fault is full buildings and cars and homes and things…the old mine is actually very secluded. So when the Hayward fault starts moving, we can hear it doing something.”

Cal officials hope to have the seismic equipment installed inside the mineshaft in the next six weeks. It’s all part of a plan to provide warnings for future quakes.

 

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