When nature whispers

Quakes happen in my city, Wellington, all the time. Little ones. We had one this afternoon, even. We’re shaken, rattled and rolled quite often.

I had to take copyright action when this book of mine was infringed.
I wrote the last book on the 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake, over a decade ago…

Bigger ones, not so much. The last one that sent us diving under tables was in December 2011. My wife and I were in a masonry building when it hit – ouch.

But there’s been nothing too damaging since the Second World War, and nothing to compare with the twin quakes of 1848 and 1855. The latter – we now uneasily believe – was probably set up by the former. And at a magnitude of 8.2 it was also the largest quake known in New Zealand

I discovered today that Wellington is being struck by the biggest quake since then. Not that anybody noticed.

It’s magnitude 7, under Kapiti Island – and it’s slow. Very slow. It’ll take a year at least to pass through. It follows other ‘slow slip’ quakes in 2003 and 2008.

Slow quakes. No drama. No fuss. Yes, it might tension the fault lines and provoke the proverbial Big One that will leave Lambton Quay three stories deep in glass and kill 1600 people. We don’t know. But just now, the latest quake is happening very, very quietly.

And when I look at the mess left in Christchurch – when I look at the historical record and hear stories of my own family’s experiences when Napier was flattened in 1931 – I can’t help thinking it’s good that nature is just whispering to us  at the moment.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2013


8 thoughts on “When nature whispers

    1. This ‘slow quake’ is an unprecedented phenomenon. We get used to the little quakes, but the larger ones – well, you never quite know whether they’re the start of something else. Usually not. Usually! The poor folk in Christchurch have had to put up with thousands of these for the past couple of years – literally – and nerves have frayed.

      The other side of it is that we never know whether a quake’s local or not. These days our seismograph network auto-reports locations and strengths within a few minutes and publishes them on the internet (pretty awesome tech, that), But that’s recent, and before that we’d often feel a quake and never quite know who’d been hit until the national duty seismologist got on to the data – maybe a delay of an hour or so before it was published.. When the first Christchurch quake hit in 2010, my wife and I were both woken up by it in Wellington – a pretty heavy shake, even here. We thought it might have been local. But then my wife’s phone went – it was our relatives in Christchurch, figuring Wellington must be totalled.

      On the Christchurch experience, if you survive it, the main problems afterwards are going to be sanitation, water, power ,,,and then dealing with local authorities and insurance companies, (Sigh).

    1. Thanks…I hope so too. The science behind these ‘slow quakes’ is fascinating – our seismologists had suspected them for a while but it’s only lately that we’ve had the tech to pick them up.

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