Part IV Dangerous Planet
The history of any one part of the Earth, like the life of a soldier, consists of long periods of boredom and short periods of terror.—British geologist Derek V. Ager
People knew for a long time that there was something odd about the earth beneath Manson, Iowa. In 1912, a man drilling a well for the town water supply reported bringing up a lot of strangely deformed rock—"crystalline clast breccia with a melt matrix" and "overturned ejecta flap," as it was later described in an official report. The water was odd too. It was almost as soft as rainwater. Naturally occurring soft water had never been found in Iowa before.
Though Manson's strange rocks and silken waters were matters of curiosity, forty-one years would pass before a team from the University of Iowa got around to making a trip to the community, then as now a town of about two thousand people in the northwest part of the state. In 1953, after sinking a series of experimental bores, university geologists agreed that the site was indeed anomalous and attributed the deformed rocks to some ancient, unspecified volcanic action. This was in keeping with the wisdom of the day, but it was also about as wrong as a geological conclusion can get.