One of the first things I found in my inbox when I returned to work was the latest library newsletter, which referred to a destructive earthquake in Christchurch in 1888. My curiosity aroused, I thought I might look into the subject. Before I had the chance to however, Geoffrey Rice published a very interesting article in The Press outlining historical references to quakes in Christchurch in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Despite my naive belief that earthquakes are not frequent in Christchurch, the Cathedral Spire had to be redesigned because the Rhodes family got tired of having to pay to put it up again after it fell off during serious tremors.
I thought I would follow this up with a bit of a poke around in Papers Past to see what the news media of the time had to say and almost immediately came across a report by a Mr Hogben in which he states that, of the 748 quakes in New Zealand between 1848 and 1890, the most were around the Cook Strait region (going as far north as Wanganui) and the next region in frequency was Christchurch!
Mr Hogben was also looking for a correlation between the seasons and earthquakes. Unsurprisingly he didn’t find one. I could now tell him that he would have been far better looking for the relationship between aftershocks and bedtime.
The 1888 quake was thought to be located in the Waiau region and it left “a well defined narrow depression in the ground which runs through the Waiau Valley, and almost straight across the country on either side over the hill and hollow” Sound familiar?
Read these articles in Papers Past:
- Earthquake in Christchurch and Lyttelton. Timaru Herald, Volume IX, 2 September 1868, Page 5
- Earthquake at Christchurch. West Coast Times , 7 June 1869, Page 3
- Dr Haast in the earthquake at Christchurch, Daily Southern Cross, 16 June 1869, Page 4
- Probable source of earthquakes Timaru Herald, 10 Sept 1888, p4
- Official report on public buildings. Star, 3 September 1888, Page 3
- Earthquakes of New Zealand. Star, 4 Feb 1891, p4 (Mr Hogben)
- A lady settler’s account of the earthquake. Star, 28 November, 1901, p 3