Friday, February 25, 2011

Christchurch: a city of earthquakes

The following comes from the Christchurch Star issues (unless otherwise stated) down to 1908, then from other papers, via Papers Past. Christchurch would appear to be as earthquake-prone as Wellington, surprisingly enough.


(This article was found by Andrew of Timaru, and comes from the comments below. Thanks, Andrew! From the Timaru Herald, 2 September 1868)

The following account of the earthquake felt at Christchurch and Lyttleton on August 17, we take from the Lyttleton Times.

Since the great earthquake which at Wellington was so destructive to life and property, Christchurch has not been visited by a shock so violent and generally felt as that which startled the inhabitants yesterday. The mean time at which the tremor occurred, is a matter of doubt; and the fact that scarcely half a dozen chronometers in the city are set from the same observation, renders it difficult to assert with any degree of confidence at what moment the first indication of an earthquake was experienced. Some will be found to declare most positively that it was felt at a minute to ten; others at a minute earlier; and others at three minutes before the Government clock struck that hour. The people of Napier, Greytown, Wellington and Blenheim felt the shock, as the telegrams inform us, at 9.55, while at Castle Point (which is on the coast between Wellington and Napier), Featherstone in Wellington province, and White’s Bay, the time is stated to be 9.56. Nelson time is 10 am, Hokitika 9.58.

As to the point from which the vibration came, there is a great difference of opinion. Most people are inclined to think that it was from east to west, and this is corroborated by the intelligence from Castle Point and Wellington. Our Napier correspondent tells us that the shock was from north to south; and from Blenheim it is described as baring been from the nor'-west. At White's Bay there were two severe shocks in close succession, the first at 9.55, and the second at 9.56, which lasted 15 seconds.. There is a wide difference as to the duration of the shock. Probably the telegraphist at White's Bay means that the two shocks lasted for 15 seconds, but Dr Haast assorts that it was all over m two seconds. We are inclined to the opinion that the earthquake occurred at three minutes before ten o'clock, that its duration was between four and five seconds, and that its direction was from south to north.

The excitement created in the city was most intense. People imagined that the houses were about to fall upon them, and many of those employed m the Government buildings, the banks, and counting houses, immediately ran into the street. Articles which were hanging up in offices, shops, and dwellings were made to swing to and fro with considerable force. The shock was most severely felt in the vicinity of the Avon. In Mr Osborne's furniture warehouse, at the corner of Worcester street west, the timbers creaked to an alarming extent, and chairs which were suspended to the ceiling moved backwards and forwards for some minutes after the shock. Those employed at the bonded warehouse of Messrs Walton & Warner (a stone building) . were greatly alarmed by the falling of a quantity of chests of tea which had been packed 'on the upper floor. They ran out, fearing that a portion of the building was falling. We examined the building yesterday afternoon, and found that some of the stones had been separated to the extent of half-an-inch, while one or two of limestone were cracked right through. No other damage was sustained. We were informed that the Avon had risen some inches at the time and fallen as suddenly, but in the absence of reliable information, we can only think that the observation was nothing more than an imaginary one.

In our office the clock stopped at two minutes to ten and the clock at the Police depot also stopped about the same time. We have heard of numerous instances besides were the stopping of clocks indicated the time at which the tremor was felt. It is satisfactory to know that no material damage has been sustained.

At 9.57 a distinct shock of an earthquake was felt m Lyttelton. Many of the inhabitants residing m the upper end of the town rushed out of their houses in a state of the greatest alarm. The shock was felt most severely by persons residing m the northern part of the town, although it was also felt by many residing in London street and Norwich quay. Mr W. B. Jones' store was severely shaken, the match-board lining of the counting-house being split. At Messrs Heywood's stone store, the clerk rushed out of the office, thinking it was coming down on him. At the Union Bank of Australia, the shock was sharply felt; the floor was upheaved, and the varnish on the wood was cracked. Messrs Miles' store was also shaken. At Mr Ellisden's, chemist, all the .bottles on the shelves were moved. At Mr Taylor's store the floor rocked violently, and at Mr Walker's store the people of the house rushed out, thinking the large windows were coming out; the Queen's also was shaken. In Exeter street, the inhabitants rushed out of their houses in evident alarm, thinking they were going to fall on them. The Rev. F. Knowles and family had to leave their 'house, fearing it might fall, No damage has been done to the buildings.

The current in the harbour is very strong, the water is rising and falling rapidly. The train due in Lyttelton at 11 o'clock did not arrive until 11.40. It appears that the shock was felt so severely on the other side, that it was considered prudent to send the engine through, first to see if any of the tunnel had fallen in; it was found' to be all right. Captain Gibson informs us that all the beacon buoys on the Heathcoate river, are out of their place, and cannot be trusted; this has been occasioned by the earthquake wave


5 June 1869
A very severe shock of earthquake, confined, so far as we have been able to make out to this province, was experienced at about five seconds past eight o'clock this morning. The exact time is, of course, disputed, but we take it from a person who noticed that the clock in the Government Buildings had just struck the fifth stroke of the hour above-mentioned when the shock began. While houses were still shaking, and chimneys falling in almost every direction, men, women, and children were rushing terror stricken into the open air, and one person living at a short distance from the city describes the mingled sound borne through the air to the rush of a large railway train with the steam-whistle giving forth its shrill shriek.

There are few quarters in Christchurch in which evidences of the shock are absent. In most cases, however, the damage is confined to rent or fallen chimneys. The Government Buildings, more especially the new Council Chamber, have undoubtedly suffered most. To repair the damage there will cost a considerable sum. It was feared that the banks and other more substantial buildings would have been severely damaged. We are glad to say, however, that this has not been the case to any very considerable extent.

The new offices of the New Zealand Insurance Company, in Hereford street, have sustained damage, and so have the offices belonging to Messrs Matson and Co close by. The offices of the New Zealand Trust and Loan Company, also in Hereford street, are damaged, and we have heard that one side of a small brick house on the town reserves, standing in a road running between Madras street and Manchester street north, has been shaken completely out. The church of St. John the Baptist, and the Town Hall, have been severely shaken. We are thankful to say that we have not heard of any injury to life or limb. Few private houses in town have altogether escaped. In most, there is some damage to record; in a few, the damage has been very considerable. some of the shopkeepers, particularly those in the china and glass trade, have been heavy losers. As an instance of this, we may mention that Messrs Weir Brothers, in Colombo-street, china and glass merchants, estimate their loss at £100. Most of the chemists and druggists are losers to some extent.

Our Lyttelton correspondent writes as follows : — At 8 a.m. the inhabitants were aroused and alarmed by hearing a loud noise, resembling the rumbling of heavy waggons. Immediately after the ground began to vibrate, and the houses to shake; men, women, and children rushed out of their houses in the greatest terror. The shock was a most severe one: clocks were stopped, bells rung, and crockery smashed in the various houses. The direction of the earthquake was from south to north. The railway employees on the various wharves felt the shock severely. The wharves were considerably shaken, and the vessels loading alongside were knocked up against them, although there was not a ripple to be seen on the water, or a breath of air blowing at the time. The trucks on the breastwork, and also on the line, felt the shock, and bumped against each other. The large chains of the derrick were put in motion. With the exception of one fallen chimney, and the smashing of crockery, &c, we have not heard of any damage being done. The shock lasted about 30 seconds. It was feared that some accident had occurred in the tunnel, and that, as the shock had been so severe, part of it might have fallen in. Precaution was however taken at the Heathcote end, and the engine was sent through first; happily it was found that there was nothing wrong. The shock has caused great excitement in port.

7 June 1869
Sir, — May I suggest that enquiry be made, and evidence taken, as to the amount of damage done to brick and stone buildings in the city by the earthquake, and to report thereon for public information, with an opinion thereon as to whether or not there is any injustice done, or probable additional danger to life, by enforcing the observance of the Building Ordinance. The report might also be accompanied with a recommendation in reference to the necessity of further legislation as to the thickness of walls built of brick or stone; also to limit the quantity of sand to be mixed with lime for mortar, and whether circular chimneys would not bear the movement of earthquakes better than if made square.
Your obedient servant,
E. B. BISHOP. June 7, 1869.

25 June 1881
Earthquake. — A slight shock of earthquake was experienced at Rangiora yesterday, at 3.25 a.m. The apparent direction was from east to west.

 5 July 1881
Another slight shock of earthquake was felt at Rangiora yesterday afternoon at about six minutes past three. The shock was preceded by a rumbling sound like distant thunder. It was distinctly felt at Kaiapoi at the same time, and the direction appears to have been between east and west.

5 December 1881
The Middle Island of New Zealand has for so long a time enjoyed immunity from anything like an appreciable shock of earthquake, that the vibrations experienced this morning have been — during the day — the one topic of conversation. In the innumerable items of intelligence there has been a large amount of exaggeration, owing no doubt to the fact that many people suffered themselves to become unduly excited. Happily it can be stated that the damage done has been extremely small, and that the general inconvenience has been scarcely more than the stoppage of pendulum clocks, and the shaking down of pictures, &c.

In Christchurch the shock was felt at about 7.37 a.m., the direction of the successional waves appearing to be — according to some observers — from north to south, and according to others from north-east to southwest. The duration of the vibrations is variously stated at from 25 to 35 seconds. Several buildings were seen to oscillate considerably during the continuance of the shock, their motion being described by one spectator as "like that of a ship at sea." The most serious damage done has happened to the spire of the cathedral. A piece of the stone cap beneath the finial, weighing about a dozen pounds, was broken off and fell to the ground, knocking off a portion of the moulding of the spire about six feet from the apex. A part of this moulding fell on the asphalt pavement in Cathedral square, making an indentation about an inch and a half in depth, and as wide as an ordinary saucer. Some absurdly exaggerated accounts of the damage sustained by the tower were current in town during the forenoon, and large numbers of persons visited the Cathedral yard in consequence; and the hole in the pavement proved a source of unlimited attraction to the passers-by.

The Durham street Wesleyan church was somewhat shaken, and a large stone from one of the chimneys of the schoolroom was thrown down. One of though chimneys of the Normal School was slightly damaged, and some of the plastering within the building was shaken down. The block of buildings at the corner of Manchester and St Asaph streets was very much shaken; a largo crack appears in the Manchester street front, and smaller cracks have been made in several other portions of the block.

The explanation of the damage done to the Cathedral spire is very simple. From the detailed accounts which were given of the work of construction, it will be remembered that the iron rod which supports the ornamental cross was brought down through that portion of the stonework which is solid, and then made fast, by means of stays, to the sides of the spire. When the vibration was set up, the extreme rigidity of the upper portion of the spire, as compared with the remainder, caused a disruption of the stonework, less, perhaps, than might have bean anticipated. The great bell of the Cathedral gave one toll, and other bells were also sounded. Panes of glass were broken in a few houses; articles on shelves were thrown to the ground, and water in open vessels was spilled.

About 7.35 this morning the residents in Lyttelton were startled by a sharp earthquake, in a direction north and south. The vibration was very severe, and caused much alarm. As far as can be ascertained no damage has been done in the town. The steamer Wakatipu, lying alongside the screw piled jetty, was heeled over on to the wharf in a most perceptible manner. There has not been such a sharp shock experienced in port since the heavy shake prior to the fire.

6 December 1881
(Christchurch City Council meeting)
A conversation ensued as to the state of certain public buildings said to have been damaged by the late earthquake, and ultimately the Mayor said that he would undertake that a report be made thereon.

19 December 1881
Earthquake. — A slight shock of earthquake was felt in Christchurch at about ten minutes before 10 o'clock on Saturday night. In the northern part of the city it was disagreeably perceptible.


19 January 1888
A smart shock of earthquake occurred at 1.17 this morning. It seems to have been felt with peculiar distinctness in the Avonside district, where some of the residents became quite alarmed on account of the oscillating motion, and some few hurriedly left their houses. In other parts the shock was comparatively inappreciable. The direction appeared to be from north to south. Our correspondent at Kaiapoi states that the shock was smartly felt there.

31 August 1888
A sharp shock of earthquake was felt in Christchurch about three minutes past ten o'clock last night. The direction was from North-west to South-east, and the duration was estimated to be fully half a minute. The impetus given by the shock was so great that a gas pendant, of unusual length, freely hung, continued swinging for seven minutes. A clock in the Working Men's club was stopped by the shock at three minutes past ten. The water in the large tank on the roof of the City Council buildings was spilled by the shock, owing to the tank being brimful at the time. Some alarm was felt until it was found that the tank was not injured or displaced. …From Rangiora we learn that the severest shock of earthquake experienced for some years past was felt there at about ten o'clock last night. The vibration, which appeared to be East and West, lasted for several seconds.

1 September 1888
The violent earthquake shock, which be rudely roused everyone from sleep at a few minutes past four this morning, may possibly not be the severest on record in this part of New Zealand, but it has certainly been by far the most destructive since the "Canterbury Pilgrims" landed. In the first place, what everyone feared would happen some day has actually happened, the spire of the Cathedral has come to grief. Its tapering, graceful outline, a landmark for every dweller on the plains within thirty miles, and a beacon for the mariner crossing Pegasus Bay, no longer cuts the sky. Twenty-six feet of the cross and upper spire have given way, and the melancholy appearance of the wreck strikes every eye. Hanging by the iron bands built into the stonework, the cross and parts of the finial still remain aloft, the cynosure of all eyes in the crowd which constantly gathers and melts away in the square below. Fortunately, the rest of the building has suffered no serious damage. Even the-lower part of the spire, as far as is known at present, is perfectly sound. The blocks of stone fell mostly towards Cathedral square, and spared the building, though bright white spots on the grey masonry of the tower and ornaments show plainly where they struck in their descent, in some cases breaking off large splinters in their course. One hole has been made in the high roof of the nave, but it is not large; the more noticeable damage occurring in the lower roof, which is broken through in several places. The falling stone, it is curious to note, struck clear of the memorial font to Captain Stanley, coming to the ground on either side of it, and spoiling nothing but a single arm of one of the tall gas-standards. Details, however, will be found under the heading "Cathedral." It may, nevertheless, be stated here that services will not be held at the usual hours to-morrow, the City Council having been advised that with the tower in its present state it would be unsafe to do so.

We have said that the shock this morning was possibly not the severest that has been experienced here in Christchurch. A comparison of notes with people who remember the very alarming shake which occurred early on the morning of June 5, 1869, leads us to that conclusion. One of the most vivid memories remaining in the minds of those who remember that phenomenon is the hideous fear that was exhibited by animals. The unearthly noise caused by the barking of dogs, the lowing of cattle, and expressions of fear on the part of other dumb creatures, can never be forgotten by one who heard it. Nor is it easy to forget the waving of trees, the uncanny wave-like motion of the hedges, or the twisted and fractured chimneys that were to be seen in many quarters of the town. Still, the characteristic feature of the Cathedral City had not then been reared, and the damage done on this occasion, therefore, at once assumes a magnitude beyond that of former days.

The Cathedral.
At the time of the shock a man named Ross, employed by Mr Brightling, was walking along the middle of the road through Cathedral square in front of the Cathedral. He states, that the spire began to sway and the bells to ring almost with the commencement of the earthquake, and when the shock reached its climax, the upper part of the structure seemed to collapse, and came crashing to the ground. One of the pieces of stone fell very near to Ross. Most of the stone struck the footpath, south-west of the tower, between the fence and the drinking fountain, about eight feet from the fence, and about on the spot where the small piece of stone which was detached from the spire by the earthquake of 1881, fell. The mass of stone which came down this morning seems to have exploded like a bombshell, for fragments, some half as large as a man's body were strewn all over the footpath, and even on the road. The asphalt was smashed to pieces, for an irregularly shaped patch of nearly a yard in extent. A considerable portion of the debris fell into the Cathedral yard on the northern side of the tower.

A young man, whose name could not be ascertained, was also an eye-witness of the disaster to the steeple. He was on the footpath near the Godley Statue, and bolted, under the impression that the entire tower was coming down. Finding it did not fall, he returned, and was soon joined by others, anxious, like himself, to see the extent of the damage. In a few minutes a crowd of considerable size was collected around the building. Many persons picked up the smaller pieces of the stone which were scattered about, to preserve as mementoes of the event. All devoted themselves to examining the tower as well as they could in the dim light, and many expressed the opinion that it was considerably out of the perpendicular. When however, the morning began to dawn, it was seen that the graceful shaft which has long been the architectural pride of Christchurch was, although truncated, erect.

Mr Anderson, the steeplekeeper, went to the cathedral with the utmost promptness, and was inside it about ten minutes after the shock. He lighted the gas and found that there was only one place of leakage — from one of the standards near the font. One of the branches of this had been broken off by a large splinter of wood, detached from a roof beam by the concussion of a blow on the roof by some of the falling masonry. Having stopped the leak, he proceeded to make an examination of the building. He has had some experience of South America, par excellence the land of earthquakes, and knew what to look for. That was dust at the bottom of the walls inside. It seems that when a wall is injured by an earthquake, the shock dislodges certain particles of mortar, &c, which form tiny heaps and ridges on the ground. Mr. Anderson's examination was satisfactory. Dust there was none. The walls were uninjured. Together with Mr A Morton, and another gentleman, Mr Watkins, who joined him, he pursued his investigations. He ascended the spire, to find that nothing was injured below the break. The cross, which, was hanging against the side of the steeple, lie secured as well as he could with a rope. The four largest bells of the peal which had been " rung up," were " rung down" by the earthquake, and it was those which caused the clamorous peal which added so much to the startling effect of the shock.

During the morning the debris was cleared away from around the base of the tower, and arrangements were made for lowering the cross from its insecure position. Barriers were erected across the footpath to prevent people approaching too near, and a constable placed as a sentry over them. The gates of the grounds were also fastened to prevent the public from intruding on what might be dangerous ground. It will be necessary to remove about six feet of the remaining stonework of the spire, as it has become loosened.


11 May 1893

A very slight shock of earthquake was felt at Christchurch and Lyttelton at about seven minutes past six o clock this morning.


3 December 1894

At 2.43 p.m. an alarming shock of earthquake was experienced in this city. It was accompanied by a terrific noise, and lasted some seconds. The spire of the Cathedral was seen to sway considerably. The shock was also felt at Rangiora.


A shock of earthquake, which was sharp enough to a large number of people and very perceptibly shake the beds, in which they were lying, occurred at a quarter to five o'clock yesterday morning. The direction seemed to be north and south. The earthquake, which occurred at a few minutes before five o'clock yesterday morning, was felt throughout North Canterbury, and is considered to be the severest since the shock which damaged the Cathedral tower. A loud rumbling preceded the shock.


16 November 1901

About thirteen minutes to eight this morning Christchurch was visited by one of the most severe shocks of earthquake ever experienced here, and those who remember the two previous heavy shakes — that in 1868, which damaged the Provincial Buildings and injured the old Town Hall in High Street to such an extent that it was condemned, and that in 1888, which brought down the top of the Cathedral say that for severity it was quite on a par with them, while it was of much longer duration.

The tremors first began from north to south, and then changed to east and west. The vibrations were at first light, but gradually became stronger, and after lasting for about thirty-five seconds gradually died away. The main shock, however, was succeeded at intervals by more or less slight tremors for nearly half an hour. A very large number of persons were in their beds at the time, and women and children were very much scared by the falling of pictures and crockery which was shaken from shelves. As far as can be ascertained, no one was injured. Of course, the first thought of everybody was for their own safety, and many people rushed out of their houses in their night attire. After the first shock was over the Cathedral tower was the general topic of conversation, and many were the rumours which quickly spread as to the extent of tie damage done to it. During the whole morning people flocked from all parts to see it, and a large crowd gathered in Cathedral Square and craned their necks in looking up at the cross, while the ubiquitous photographer was very much in evidence.

The officials at the railway station who were close by the huge railway tank, state that the water first washed over at the northern and southern ends, and then did likewise from east to west, and continued agitated for more than a quarter of an hour. The only case of a falling chimney reported is that of one at Mrs Holmes's boarding-house, in Manchester Street south. The crown of the chimney, which ran up the back of the three-storey building, broke off and fell to the ground, the bricks just missing a young girl who was passing, Throughout the morning crowds gathered in front of the tall buildings in town, and examined them critically, and it was amusing to hear the remarks of some of those who professed to be building experts. According to them, several of the three-storey buildings were out of plumb. However, the only damage noticeable to the layman's eye were one or two small cracks in some of the fronts of brick and stone buildings.


8 December 1908

At six minutes to twelve to-day a prolonged shock of earthquake was felt in Christchurch. Although the disturbance was not a violent one, nor was it preceded by any appreciable rumble, as is often the case, yet it was very marked and indicated the probability of having been felt over a large area. The earthquake had a north-easterly and south-westerly direction, but was preceded by a less distinct tremor in a north-westerly and south-easterly direction, which gave an elliptical vibration at the start. The more prolonged and severely felt disturbance was estimated to have been of nineteen seconds' duration.

Inquiries at the Observatory indicate that the earthquake has doubtless some connection with the recent disturbances at Whakatane, and volcanic activity at White Island, but at the time of going to press the records on the seismograph had not been developed and consequently no definite information was available.

The proceedings at the meeting of the Presbytery were interrupted by the earthquake shock to-day. The clerk was reading a letter, when St Paul's Schoolroom began to rock violently and the windows to rattle. The shock lasted for several seconds, and caused some comment. The earthquake caused a momentary cessation of the work of the Arbitration Court at the Provincial Council Chambers although nobody seemed exactly to know why there was a pause. The building shook considerably for several seconds, apparently from north to south, accompanied by creaking noises arid the sound of small pieces of falling mortar.

Shortly before noon to-day a sharp, short earthquake shock was felt at Lyttelton. It only lasted a couple of seconds or so, but it was violent enough to ring the bell of the town clock. At Kaiapoi a double shock was distinctly felt. A few chimney-pots fell, but no other damage was done. The "Star's " correspondents at Sumner and Rangiora telephoned that an earthquake was experienced at both places shortly before noon, and was of exceptionally long duration.


(This from the Evening Post, 31 March 1910)

An earthquake occurred in Christchurch last night shortly after 8.15. The record taken by the seismometer at the local magnetic observatory was developed this morning, and it shows that two very slight shocks were registered. The first lasted about thirty seconds, beginning at 18.4 minutes past eight and ending at 18.9 minutes past eight. The second shock lasted about thirty-six seconds, beginning at 19.6 minutes past eight and ending at 20.2 minutes past eight. The first shock seemed to have had the stronger motion of the two.


(This from the Ashburton Guardian, 23 November 1914)

At 7.45 last night Christchurch received a rather infrequent visitor in the shape of an earthquake. A slight tremor, accompanied by a rumbling noise, preceded a fairly sharp shock, which lasted about half a minute. The direction appeared to be from northwest to south-east. Apart from alarming the more nervous people, the quake does not appear to have been severe enough to cause any damage.

Two strong earth tremors were felt in Sumner last night. The first shock was felt at 7.46, lasting about 15 seconds. The second shock occurred about two minutes later, and lasted only 10 seconds, but it was of a more severe nature. At All Saints' Church the vicar (the Rev McKenzie Gibson) had just commenced the sermon when the first shock was felt. This gradually died away, and little notice was taken of it. When the second shock was experienced several members of the congregation sprang to their feet and for a moment a small panic seemed probable. The vicar ordered the doors to be opened and then gave out a hymn. While this was being sung, a portion of the congregation left quietly. The vicar then announced that the service would he concluded by singing the closing hymn.

At Kaiapoi the preliminary to the main shock was of some length, but the shake was not severe enough to do any damage.

Lyttleton had a similar experience, the second shock being plainly felt. At Rangiora the shocks were not very severe. A rumbling sound preceded the first tremor, which was slight, but the second shock was more pronounced, and it also was preceded by a loud rumbling noise.


(Ashburton Guardian, 7 November 1921)

A very strong earthquake shock was felt in Christchurch at 8.45 a.m. yesterday, those people who were indoors at the time experiencing a most uncanny sensation, as the tremors appeared to die away and then re-commence. The shock caused windows to rattle and hanging lamps to sway in a manner which showed that the earthquake was of more than usual severity. The observatory seismograph showed that the first shock commenced at 8hrs 46.1min a.m. Strong motion continued for several minutes, and minor movements until at least 8.45 a.m. The maximum , amplitude (instrumental) occurred at 8hrs 47.8min, and the origin was evidently not very distant. The felt movement was in the east-west direction. The complete amplitude of boom motion of the Milne seismograph at maximum was very nearly 11 millimetres, and at commencement about three millimetres.

A second distinct shock occurred at 9hrs 15.9min, persisting for about 1.1 min. This also was felt, but the second shows that its energy was very much less than that of the first shock. There seems a strong probability of a minute change of level to the eastward, about 14 minutes previous to the first shock, and it would be interesting to know whether any such effect was found on the Wellington seismogram.

A further mild shock was felt at 8.45 p.m., of intensity between the two above. Yesterday morning's earthquake shocks were felt at Rangiora, but to a less degree than in the city.


(Evening Post 27 December 1922)

Detailed reports of the earthquake from Christchurch show some interesting episodes. Soon after the final effects of the 'quake had passed off, attention generally was turned to the Christchurch Anglican Cathedral, mainly on account of the fact that the top of the spire has been shaken down twice. There was no service in the Cathedral when the shock came, and nobody, not even the verger, was in the building, but several individuals and small parties of people were standing on the footpath in front of' the western end and on the street there. Their attention was attracted first by the 'quake, then by the noise of the moving building, and finally by the Cathedral bells, which were set ringing merrily. They saw the spire begin to sway menacingly to and fro. Some young men, who were talking together, cast one glance at it and then sprinted across the street to the tramway shelter. Two ladies, who were standing close to the western door, were paralysed with fright for a few seconds, but soon recovered and moved off quickly. For a comparatively long time after the 'quake the spire was an attraction to many upturned eyes, and it was given a wide berth long after it went back to its normal vertical position.


(Evening Post, 11 March 1929)

An examination this morning disclosed the fact that the old Provincial Council Chambers, recently presented to Canterbury, had suffered severe damage as the result of the earthquake. The keystone of the north gable has broken, and has dropped half an inch. The north wall is in danger of falling.


Evening Post 24 April 1937

Causing apprehension out of all proportion to their magnitude three small earthquake shocks rocked Christchurch citizens out of their sleep early this morning. The tremors were small ones and were felt so distinctly only because of the nearness of the earthquake centre. That was situated at sea off Akaroa Harbour, 40 miles away from the Christchurch magnetic observatory.


Evening Post 13 April 1940

An earthquake believed to have been of purely local origin was felt in Christchurch at 10.13 this morning. The shock was sharp and distinct and rather more severe than any of those which occurred in the series earlier this year. The thrust appeared to be vertical.


Evening Post 3 August 1942

An earthquake lasting several seconds was felt in Christchurch shortly before 1 o'clock this morning. It was preceded by rumbling. There are no reports of damage.


  1. Just been over on GeoNet counting up the 15 quakes (to current time) in CHCH today alone.
    I seriously do not think I could remain in a place that has become so volatile.

  2. Neither could I. There are many who are indeed leaving.

    The pattern of aftershocks, though, go right back to the 1850s. I just list all of those reported on, however briefly.

    All a great pity. I did like Christchurch a lot while I was there.

  3. Thanks Lisa for your posts and their special perspective on what has happened in Christchurch. Apart from the terrible loss of life, its awful to see the damage to this beautiful city. My Dad, though born in Dunedin, grew up in Christchurch and the city has strong family connections for me. I was last there about 4 or 5 years ago - we walked the Banks Peninsula track. I don't have many relatives there now but the few that are are all safe I understand, thank goodness.
    John, Blue Mountains NSW

  4. I’ve just got an email link to a site about the 1868 quake that you don't have listed, but is referenced in a later article.

    And active fault lines under Christchurch are news to GNS?

    I live in Timaru on very solid volcanic rock/blue stone and the 6.3 here was similar to a 3 aftershock in Christchurch, hardly noticeable.

  5. Thanks, Andrew. I'll add that to the post. I should have checked the Timamru Herald!

    I was amazed, as well, when GNS expressed surprise about the fault lines. They probably just didn't expect to see new ones.

  6. Hi, Thanks for the info do you think you could track down anymore, I have lived in CHCH all my life and remember a earthquake in the late 60's, it may have been the 1968 Inangahua earthquake, I also remember 2 in about 1996 or there abouts. Can you help thx CHelle

  7. Hi Chelle. I'm limited as to what info I can find for more recent stuff. I'm up here in Auckland, the info's in Christchurch ... trouble is, the timeline published by Christchurch Library doesn't mention anything re earthquakes for 1968 (we know there was the Inangahua) -- and doesn't extend to 1996. I would love to have more info, from anyone reading this, to add to the post.

  8. Hi, I have been looking through old news papers etc looking at some of the older quakes here in NZ. It seams there were a lot, many of which aren't in the usual lists.
    I find 1868 interesting. That was the year that Chile caused a tsunami on 13/15 Aug 1868. Here in Christchurch there was a quake at 3am, (reported by Van Haast The Press 17th Aug 1868), and then again at 958am on the 17th Aug. The second was felt over much of NZ from Napier to Timaru and the centre was not known.
    There was another on Aug 24th in Akaroa.
    There was one felt in the Kermidaces in June 1868 on board ship.
    The August one's sound like the whole pacific was shaking.
    The East Indies had "Frequent Voilent" quakes 20 Aug 1868.
    Sydney Auzzie had one on 18th Aug 1868.
    Mag 7.5, Cape Farewell, October 19, 1868
    21 June 1868 theres a report of a quake in cape st Lucus among reports form Usa calafornia and Mexico.
    On the recent Earthquakes on Land and Sea.
    By Julius Haast, Esq., Ph.D., F.R.S. September 9, 1868

    Even in 1901 the newspaper reports sound like there was a local quake in Chch amoung the ones from Cheviot.
    Yours Owen

  9. Thanks very much for all that info, Owen.