Stories from a Heated Earth, Our Geothermal Lives
S. F. Hodgson
Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources, Department of Conservation, Sacramento, CA
What do Mexican Indians, the Queen of Sheba, Icelandic Viking religious rebels, and a French village with warm, toasty houses have in common? All are stories from a heated earth.
And they are everyone’s stories, for around the world we all are affected by geothermal heat. Phenomena of heat—volcanoes, hot springs, fumaroles, geysers, hot and steaming ground—and products of heat—hydrothermally derived minerals and rocks such as sulfates, borates, silicate, kaolins and travertine—are ours to enjoy. Heatdriven destructive forces—such as earthquakes, volcanic explosions, crater collapses, lava flows, and ash clouds—are ours to endure. From the start, heat has offered mankind joy and fear, aid and destruction, history and tales, fact and legend. It has molded old customs and helped to forge new experiences through millennia.
Traces of these beliefs remain in stories, art, and architecture, and from them we learn our geothermal history. For example, Prehistoric peoples often held geothermal phenomena in awe. They thought of the Earth as sacred, and terrestrial heat as a gift from the gods to humankind. Hot springs and fumaroles were described asWakan Tanaka (“Great Mystery”) by the American Dakota Sioux and as Tapu (“sacred”) by the Maori. These beliefs—expressed in popular customs, traditions, religious feelings, and rituals—passed through hundreds of generations and still influence people today.
Does soaking in thermal waters cure illnesses? Stories from time immemorial show that people worldwide have thought so.
Geothermal resources have provided raw materials for items both practical and artistic. Obsidian tools and arrow points, once widely chipped for hunting, are still fashioned with ancient techniques in a few remote areas. Buildings and statues formed of hydrothermal minerals endure in beauty.
The stories tell it all, the history of geothermal heat and of our heated earth.
AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90904©2001 AAPG Pacific Section Meeting, Universal City, California