Posted by: scribe9 | September 16, 2010

Eventual earthquakes

Near our front door we have hung a map of New Zealand. In the information box, it lists “Natural hazards: volcanoes, earthquakes (minor).” That must have been written by an Aucklander. Auckland is the one big city where the risk of volcanic action is far higher than that of earthquakes, because it’s above where the North Island curves northwest, away from where the Pacific and Australia tectonic plates rub each other the wrong way. And we’re north of that; in the last ten years there’s been one shallow quake here, less than 5 on the Richter scale.

The capital, Wellington, is known for its earthquakes, as it’s right on major faults. Back in the ’70s, a lot of it was rebuilt to withstand earthquakes. Not good architecturally, but the government buildings aren’t likely to fall down soon, and everything necessary for running Parliament has been replicated in Auckland. The main problem with Wellington is that it can be rather easily cut off from the rest of the country by slides and bad weather. Maybe the capital—although not all the government jobs—will eventually move back to Auckland just because it’s unlikely to be marooned.

The Christchurch earthquake was on a fault no one had known about, and the geologists say a bigger one is due. This is not bringing much comfort to the locals, who are suffering mentally from the stress and uncertainty. Fortunately the aftershocks are waning.

Our house back in Portland is in a vulnerable spot, due for an 8 or 9 quake in the next couple hundred years, so when we return I should find out what’s under it and the house just above it—soil or rock? I also need to update our earthquake readiness kit, which we bought in 1993, after the relatively minor Spring Break Quake. Ah, the excitement and tension from living on the Pacific Ring of Fire!

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