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<div class="article">
<h3>If He Does Confirm Your Fears, Hang Up and Call Dial-a-Prayer</h3>
<div class="article-info">
<li>Author: Carrie Dolan</li>
<li>Date: 06/05/90</li>
<p class="article-leader">Northern Californians don't have to just wait and wonder
when the next big quake will strike. Now they can simply make
a toll call -- or count stray dogs.
Jim Berkland, the Santa Clara, Calif., County geologist,
predicts earthquakes via a 900 toll-call phone service called
"Quakeline." It gives folks a service "more complete and
timely than provided by the government," says Mr. Berkland,
who claims to have predicted quakes since 1974 with an
accuracy rate of more than 80%.</p>
<div class="article-body"><p>His unique system is based on the position of the sun and
moon, tidal and geyser activity, and the number of pet
animals advertised as missing in local newspapers. Critters,
he claims, can sense something amiss in nature and flee
before a quake strikes.</p>
<p>Business has been "marginal as 900 lines go," says Ryan
Wood, president of Quakeline. Still, he plans to expand to
Southern California and other earthquake "hot spots."</p>
<p>Most seismologists, however, don't buy Quakeline's
methods. "It's bull," says Ed Bortugno, a senior geologist
with the Governor's Office of Emergency Services. Though he
calls Mr. Berkland a "very good geologist," he says selling
predictions is "very upsetting." He adds: "People are scared
enough. . . . In science, we know we don't know enough {to
predict big quakes} and we admit it."</p>
<p>"We've known this guy throughout his professional life,
and he's distinguished himself by being a clown the entire
time," says Jerry Eaton, a seismologist at the U.S.
Geological Survey. Mr. Berkland's ideas, he says, are
"Reader's Digest science . . . these marvelous animals,
deprived of being human, are given other sensibilities. It's
pure hokum."</p>
<p>Counters Mr. Berkland: "I am a scientist. I observe what
goes on in the real world." He has collected prequake
accounts of people who get bad sinus headaches, whales that
beach and homing pigeons that can't find their way home.
Once, an organic gardener told him that before a quake she
saw earthworms crawl out of the ground and die.</p>
<p>When he saw ads for 27 missing cats and 58 missing dogs in
local papers last October, he called the Dispatch, a
newspaper in Gilroy, Calif., to predict the quake that struck
four days later on Oct. 17.</p>
<p>But the science establishment says "it sounds too simple,"
says Mr. Berkland. "All I want is a fair shake."</p>