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Posted on Saturday, February 18 - 2006

" Long ago, according to Indian legends of the inland Pacific Northwest, the twin sons of the Chief Spirit, Wyeast and Pahto, dwelt on opposite sides of the river now known as the Columbia. Mostly, they lived in peace, but occasionally they fought for the attention of a beautiful maiden kn..."

 As interpreted from the Bible, Noah's ark came to rest on Mount Ararat, now in eastern Turkey. Geologic evidence supports the idea of rising water 7,500 years ago in the Bosporus Strait.

Long ago, according to Indian legends of the inland Pacific Northwest, the twin sons of the Chief Spirit, Wyeast and Pahto, dwelt on opposite sides of the river now known as the Columbia. Mostly, they lived in peace, but occasionally they fought for the attention of a beautiful maiden known as Tah-one-lat-clah.In the heat of combat, they hurled rocks and fire at each other, scorching the land and frightening its residents until the Chief Spirit came back to restore order. As a sign of truce between the brothers,the Chief Spirit built a beautiful stone bridge across the river, not far below the site of today's Bonneville Dam near Portland.Then he went away again, and soon enough, the brothers resumed their quarrel. Tah-one-lat-clah tried to intervene but was severely burned in the fray.

The bridge was destroyed, and the brothers, chagrined, withdrew to the locations where they remain today, as the mountains white explorers later called Adams and Hood. Tah-one-lat-clah, now known as Mount St. Helens, also moved away, far from the other mountains. There she nursed her wounds, and there she remained, even after the Chief Spirit returned to heal her disfigurement. It's a great story (probably somewhat Paul Bunyanized by white missionaries who collected it in the 19th century), but it's just a myth, right? Atale to entertain children and maybe teach a lesson about sibling rivalry? Maybe not, say geologists. Such myths were once discounted, but these days scientists are paying more attention. There's even a new field called “geomythology” that draws on everything from Aztec legend to Biblical lore in an effort to better understand the Earth's turbulent history by correlating old stories to actual geological events. As far back as 1805, Lewis and Clark knew there was something odd about the Bridge of the Gods region. Approaching from upstream, they found the Columbia River to be curiously sluggish, with deep, calm waters in which the boles of dead firs rose from 20 feet below the surface. Aware that the water couldn't have been that high when the trees were alive, Clark figured that something must haved......


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