October 14, 2009


(This is part of an ongoing series chronicling memories of my life growing up as a missionary kid in Vanuatu. For links to previous posts you can click here)

Reading Rachael's posts about earthquakes and tsunami warnings reminded me about the earth quakes we experienced.

Tsunamis weren't in the worlds consciousness the way they are now, it was not something we ever really worried about (through we knew they did happen - friends of our had witnessed a 'big wave' on one of the littler islands after an earth quake). It was the earthquake that we felt and concerned us.

Our first earthquake happened within a few weeks of our arrival at Talua. Joshua and I were doing something at the kitchen table and it struck - we didn't know what had hit us. We sat screaming in the kitchen clinging to each other. Emma our house girl walked in after it had finished and laughed at us. I remember being rather indignant, how did we know that the house wasn't going to fall down around our ears?

Through the years we got use to them. They weren't very common, but they weren't a surprise either.

You can hear an earthquake before it comes. It's a low rumble, almost like a large semi trailer trying to get up a hill. When we moved back to Australia our house was near a busy road. There were times when I would hear the sound of the trucks and my body would involuntarily brace itself.

Within a few seconds of hearing the sound the earth would move side to side, a rythmic rolling sensation. When you tried to walk your feet tripped over themselves, but if you held onto a wall or furniture and braced yourself you were ok. Ornaments would tip over, and pictures might fall from the wall.

We were lucky we never experienced a really ferocious earthquake. Most of them were small and over within a few seconds.
In Vanuatu it's very rare to hear of major damage from an earth quake. The traditional houses of bamboo and wood has enough of a give in them to be okay. Most other buildings are only one story high and have steel running up within the walls to protect it in earth quakes. I use to worry about a tree falling on our house, but I'm not sure if that's even possible?
While we were there the worst thing we heard of was a concrete water tank which watered a village on a nearby Island split in two, and was useless. A new water tank had to be made and water carted over on canoes for a few weeks.

The water in the water tank near our house would still move within it even after the earthquake had finished. It would slosh out one side, then the other. Slowly less water came out as the water level dropped and the momentum lessened.

Earthquakes are generally accompanied by earth tremors. You might get a small tremor, which was followed by the main earth quake, then in the following hours a few more smaller ones as the earth settled itself into it's new position.

1 comment:

Kacie said...

sounds like your earthquakes were slightly harder than ours were in Papua. We always thought they were a bit fun, adn if one ever went for a longer than a few seconds we'd look at each other with wide eyes and it would be discussed in town, and that was about it.