Saturday, January 14, 2012

QUAKE # 9494

Quake #9494 hit Christchurch this morning at 2.47am – mag 5.08, 5.9 km deep ("deep" is not the right word actually, that's too shallow for comfort) and it was centred in the ocean more or less opposite my place. That's where too many of the recent, smallish quakes have been located, and I really, really want to know what Them-Up-There have got against moi.

#9494 was the first of seven quakes today – so far, and it's only 9am. Counting from the beginning, from 4th September 2010, we have reached #9501. According to the latest predictions we will have to continue counting until 2032 or thereabouts.

All this means that we have been through many stages of responses and reactions. It started with the "OMG what was that?" stage. It was short and sharp, only lasted two or three days, because we found out very quickly what "that" was, and that there would be more to come. Around quake #2647 the "OMG that was a biggie!" stage kicked in, because the biggies kept muscling in amongst the less violent shakes. That period went on and on and on, giving the residents of Christchurch time to become reasonably skilled at guessing the magnitude of the quakes, a skill which we have been honing ever since. It's quite competetive, like the fairground competition – guess how many jellybeans in the jar, and the nearest to getting it right wins the jellybeans. Only there are no jellybeans.

We began to get tired. At about #5908 we drifted into the "Oh no not again" stage as we grabbed babies and ornaments and monitors and pots of simmering soup off the stove for the umpteenth time. I sit at a desk beside a filing cabinet, the drawers of which slide out too readily in a quake. Too far and the cabinet rocks and sways because the cabinet becomes front-heavy and unstable. I have learned not to leave a mug of coffee on the top, and to lock the cabinet when I've finished work for the day.

Then came the angry and impatient roar of the "for heaven's sake, enough is enough!" stage which could be heard throughout the Canterbury region. That was at about #7493. Then, believe it or not, came boredom: the "Was that another one or was it the wind rattling the windows?" stage. This, I feel, is about to morph into the "Really? I didn't feel a thing!" stage, because as the saying goes, you can get used to anything given time. We have had ample time to get used to living with earthquakes – nearly seventeen months – and we hardly notice them now unless they thunder in at magnitude 5 or more, are shallow, and centred within 10km of where we are. Like #9494 at 2.47 this morning. The wretched thing woke me up.

The picture is Landscape (detail)

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