Sixty-five million years ago began the
Cenozoic period, a time in which the Santa Cruz Mountains to the west of
Silicon Valley and the Mount Diablo Range to the east were thrust onto
the scene. As such, the valley became a "structure valley" because of
that building action, as opposed to an "erosional valley."
ancient, snarling, violent birth yielded a valley sheltered and fertile,
a place the Spanish explorers considered to have the best climate in
the world. And its origin as a structure valley arguably turns out to be
more than just metaphoric.
1893, a Wisconsin academic, Frederick Jackson Turner, presented a paper
in Chicago describing the frontier's seminal impact on the development
of America and the American character. Turner feared that the closing of
the frontier might hamstring or destroy American dynamism.
the same time, San Jose's population was exploding 50 years after the
discovery of gold in California. More than 18,000 people lived in the
Santa Clara Valley, and the population was increasing at 30 and 40
percent per year. But California was the end of the road for this
massive, historical migration west. Just over the Santa Cruz Mountains
lay the shimmering blue of the Pacific Ocean, the end of the continent.
There was no more land to explore, conquer, develop and farm. The
frontier was closed. Yet wagon- and train-loads full of people continued
to crash into California, the end of the trail.
Click on image to enlarge.
Old San Jose map
describe something called the aeolian effect. Wind whisks up the top
layer of earth--its finest particles--and sweeps them off somewhere to
be deposited in some form. Often those depositions undergo another
aeolian effect and end up somewhere else or scattered, literally, to the
In Eureka Valley, the aeolian process swept up the
parched, scorched cover layer of an otherwise rocky terrain and has
created a natural wonderland in the Eureka Sand Dunes. When the wind
picks up here, you can hear is the sound of trillions of sand pebbles
whisking across the desert floor or across each other.
white dunes have never dissipated because of their location: The dunes,
surrounded on three sides by mountains, have nowhere to go. Over time,
the wind, rather than just blowing the huge sand hills into memory or
the next county, reforms them as part of this aeolian process....a sand
eddy if you will. The big white elephant shifts, grows, shrinks, wiggles
a little this way or that. But it's always there.
Tale of two valleys
Terman is considered the father of the Silicon Valley or at least of
the dynamic we associate with the Silicon Valley--that relentless drive
to innovate, try, fail, try succeed, and improve, tweak, tinker,
revolutionize. History is dotted with Fred Termans whose genius and
influence migrated away from their place. But there's something
different about this place, a valley shaped by ancient forces...aoelian
and Cenozoic forces.
Click on image to enlarge.
Valley of Hearts Delight postcard
forces of nature have, for generations since the 19th century, swept up
a certain type of people and transported them to the western edge of
the North American continent where they hit a valley bounded on three
sides by mountains -- a "building" valley, not an erosional valley.
There, an eddy of ingenuity, of invention and innovation began and
continues to swirl today, just like the Eureka Sand Dunes. The energy,
the ideas and the people swirl around, reforming, rising, fall and
rising again but never, ever, vanishing.