The earthquake sequence of late February and March 1972 involved movement along the San Andreas fault and within the crustal wedge enclosed by the branching San Andreas and San Benito faults near Bear Valley, San Benito County, California. Activity was mainly confined to three distinct zones of strike-slip faulting: the short north-trending aftershock zone of the M 3.5 earthquake of February 22, 1972, the aftershock zone of the M 5.0 Bear Valley earthquake of February 24, 1972 located along the San Andreas fault, and the west-trending aftershock zone of the M 4.6 earthquake of February 27, 1972. The north-trending and west-trending zones lie between the two major splays of the branching fault system. Focal mechanism solutions from events in these zones are consistent with the transfer of horizontal, dextral displacement from the San Andreas fault to the San Benito, Paicines and Calaveras faults within the Bear Valley region. During the 18 months preceding the February 1972 sequence, the hypocentral regions of both the M 5.0 and M 4.6 shocks were characterized by concentrations of small earthquakes. Aftershock source areas of these two events progressively expanded during the course of the aftershock sequence. Estimates of the mainshock rupture surface for these events based on the distribution of aftershocks range over a factor of 4 owing to the irregular distribution of aftershocks and the rapid growth of the aftershock zone.

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