Ignorance is bliss – Canterbury earthquakes

PhotoOne 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 Before I had the chance to however, Geoffrey Rice published a very interesting article in The Press outlining historical references to quakes in Christchurch in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.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:

4 thoughts on “Ignorance is bliss – Canterbury earthquakes

  1. Glenn Coster 28 September 2010 / 5:06 pm

    One newspaper report at the time reported that people as far away as Belfast could see that the Cathedral had lost its spire – don’t think this would be possible today!

  2. bronnypop 29 September 2010 / 4:18 pm

    You made me laugh, Bernice! “The relationship between aftershocks and bedtime” – genius! And, I think, a real indication of just what impact this thing has had and is having on all of us. It certainly highlights both our lack of knowledge about our surroundings, AND the difference between seeing something happen on the TV, to other people, and living it day by day (or night by night!).

  3. Rachael King 30 September 2010 / 1:22 pm

    Ahem, not wishing to blow my own trumpet but Magpie Hall features the one and only 1888 Canterbury earthquake (and coincidentally some fictional contemporary ones as well). So after all my research I wasn’t at all surprised when the big one struck.

    • bronnypop 30 September 2010 / 3:23 pm

      We are quite happy to blow your trumpet for you, Rachael! Magpie Hall is a great book, and a great read, and clearly less ‘fictional’ than you thought! I just can’t believe we’ve twice now failed to have a chat to you at Writers Festivals – if we plan another meeting, should we expect a hurricane?

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