Earthquake?Christchurch, Fall 2009
I woke up this morning and checked my email (as I am trying to make habit) to see that my sister in LA is asking me if I am safe—she seems to think there has been an earthquake somewhere. It was early and I was a little groggy, so I didn’t think much of it. But I arrived to my first class, a geology course called Understanding Earth History, to find out that there was in fact an earthquake in NZ, and not too far from Christchurch. However, I had not felt the ground under me move, nor did anyone I talked to, so I assumed it was the David Eckstein of earthquakes. Wrong. It just so happens that my lecturer’s specialty is in earthquakes (you can imagine how giddy he was) and according to him, this earthquake was one of New Zealand’s most significant in 100 years.
The earthquake hit in Fiordland (red dot on map above), the southwest tip of New Zealand, at 9:22 PM (NZST) on July 15, 2009. It lasted over a minute and reached a 7.8 on the Richter magnitude scale, which is considered “major,” can cause serious damage over a large area, and happens about 18 times a year.
In a class of over 200 students, only two felt any effects of this quake (and neither lived in the heart of Christchurch). Luckily, Fiordland has about as many residents as David Hasselhoff has fans, and therefore, there have been no fatalities, injuries, or significant damages reported yet. This may, however, change by tonight when authorities make their way down there and survey the surrounding area.
My lecturer said something this morning that put into perspective the geological significance of such an earthquake. While most people are worried about the loss of lives and evacuation of the area, our lecturer told us that when he woke up this morning his inbox was flooded with emails from colleagues in the US asking if they should be on the next Air New Zealand flight to study the effects of this earthquake. I thought that was pretty cool. While we’re worried about possible tsunamis (the largest wave turned out to be under 20 cm), these geologists want to go into this danger zone to study the effects of the earthquake in hopes to learn more about our planet.
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