Friday, March 11, 2011

The world is a shakin'

My thoughts go out to the people of Japan tonight, as news of the quakes (and tsunamis caused by these) to strike there today emerge. Having just endured two large quakes here in the space of half a year, and the continuing aftershocks (including the many which have still been coming in today), I can fully sympathize with what those in the midst of this massive natural disaster now are going through.

Seeing footage of the destruction is really nothing like actually witnessing it live in front of you, in full 6D glory (or should that be "in all its gory details"). Indeed, the aftershocks, which continue for ages after the "main event" and very frequently in the first few hours (like, a few point-magnitudes smaller, once every few minutes for a few hours), are something that you generally don't hear about from the media. They're a factor in the whole "quake experience" that you don't really know about till you've been through it, sitting/trembling/huddling while miserable and cold, waiting for "the essentials" to come back so that you can begin to try and assume some normality to get over the event and/or to know what's happening.

Is it just me, or is the "ring of fire" really starting to wake up again recently after years of dormancy?

Several big quakes here in Christchurch, my home town, a place where I (like many Cantabrians) had always been told we may be hit by the (fictional sounding) "big one" (they were always telling us it would be the "Alpine Fault", something the government scientists seem to be hell bent on spending all their research funding on), but had always assumed that it wouldn't happen or not now, and that there wasn't much to fear from earthquakes (they had always been tiny little 0.5 second quivers that wouldn't have harmed any flies). Earthquakes in Chile too, but much deeper, and apparently with less damage as a result. Hawaiian volcanoes erupting in fierce displays of firepower. A devastating quake in a region of China. And now, large quakes in Japan...

What's next? Well, just like they've been telling us that Christchurch was "long overdue" for a large shake for the past few years, the same has also been said of California. Yes, California lies on the edge of the "ring of fire", as a Pacific coast. Yes, there are some large faults running down the length of the place, including those which famously wrecked havoc in San Fran. I certainly hope not... for the sake of family living there...

My thoughts drift back to the installations on the wall outside the geology department at the university that I saw as a kid, with flashing red lights on a world map illustrating the ring of fire and it's effects shown . What once seemed quite a distant novelty has taken on a living, breathing reality in the past few months. Is this the new "normal" for years to come?

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