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I'm a Science Teacher, Nature Photographer, Husband, Father, and Grandfather who loves to explore the natural world by traveling, photographing and thinking. 


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Turbulent Times

Today's post takes me back to a very "turbulent" time of my life. Back in July of 2009, I was lucky enough to have the chance to fulfill a lifelong dream and visit New Zealand. I spent 3 weeks there. The first week was centered around my presentation at an educational conference on the North Island. The next two weeks were spent touring the South Island specifically to photograph some of the amazing scenery there. Several days of our trip were spent in and around the "Adventure Capital" of New Zealand, Queenstown. I spent little time in the town proper except to sleep as the great sights were away from the city center. I did happen to be in my hotel on the night of July 15th. At 9:22 pm, I was in my bed watching TV (we were planning a dawn photo shoot for 7/16!) when the turbulence started! At first my bed started to feel like a waterbed and then I heard the bottles and glasses in the mini bar start to jingle. As soon as I realized what was happening, I got up and opened the door of my 4th floor hotel room and stood there. The motion of the earthquake was a rolling one, and felt as if I was on a ship in rough seas. The scariest part for me was standing  in the door and thinking that I did not want to "ride" the building down in case of a collapse, but I also did not want to be in the lobby area if there was a collapse. Of course, the quake was over before I had a chance to settle my potential "lose - lose" situation.  Thankfully, there was no damage to the hotel and all returned to normal after a bit and my nerves settled. 

Given the amazing level of connectedness we have, I knew within minutes of  going online the location and magnitude of the earthquake. It was a 7.8 magnitude that struck 115 miles away from Queenstown in the Tasman Sea off of the coast of the New Zealand near Dusky Sound. (Click here for technical details). This quake was one of the top 4 most powerful earthquakes in the world that year! 

Rosy Fingered Dawn Over the RemarkablesLake Wakatipu, New Zealand
Rosy fingers Dawn Over the Remarkables
(Click the image to see it in the original Blue Lion Gallery)

The image you see here was taken the next morning from the shores of Lake Wakatipu. The mountains are called the "Remarkables" and host a large ski area on the back side.  The morning was a very calm one which was a definite contrast to the excitement of the previous turbulent night! 

Thankfully, the quake was remote enough that no people were injured and property damage was minimal. By comparison, the devastation of a smaller quake in an urban area can be extreme. The Haitian earthquake of January, 2010 measured "only" a 7.0 on the Richter Scale and the deadly Christchurch earthquake in February, 2011 was "only" a 6.3 on the Richter Scale. I know I remain grateful for the location of the Dusky Sound earthquake and also for New Zealand's strict building codes which dramatically reduce the damage of earthquakes. 

I'm curious as to what earthquake experience my Blue Lion Blog readers may have had. Please feel free to share your experiences in the comment section below. 


Karen said...

This is a remarkable image!

Al said...

The strongest earthquake I've ever experienced was a 3 in the New York area, it felt like a train going by. And I'll be happy if that's the strongest earthquake I ever experience, earthquakes are definitely not on my to-do list.

I love that photo, The Remarkables are something I would love to experience one day!

Kerri said...

Amazing image!! Love it!

My first earthquake was February 28, 1990. Like you, I was on a business trip. Staying in California in a hotel my bed started to shake back and forth for what seemed like a VERY long time. It was a 5.7 - and scared me silly!

Deb said...

you have a awesome blog...nice to meet a fellow Texan...and DFW area blogger

Mom of M&Ms said...

was in LA for the loma Prieta quake.. Flew medical supplies up to San Fran... it was a war zone type atmosphere... and then living in the bay area of California for a number of years, it was not uncommon to feel small rolling quakes... very unique feeling.. My dogs always knew it hours before it hit

eileeninmd said...

Beautiful shot, I love the mountain scene and the beautiful sky. I was at work recently when Baltimore felt its biggest earthquake. It felt like the building was swaying, very scary. Luckily nothing bad happened, they are checking all the memorials in Wash, DC for structure damage.

John S. Mead said...

Thanks for the comments! I have found earthquake stories to be of interest as quakes catch us off guard and are such a potential reminder of the power of Mother Nature! My first Quake was the big (6.8 on the Richter scale) Northridge Quake of 1994. I was in Las Vegas with friends and staying on the 14th floor of the Excalibur Hotel when the quake struck at 4:30 am. We thought someone was trying to get into our room and was pushing & pulling on the doorknob. By the time we were fully awake the hotel speaker system informed us that all was safe and live in Vegas seemed to go on as if nothing happened after that.

I'm hoping I get no more opportunity to experience any more earthquakes!

Julie G. said...

Wow, that must have been a most terrifying experience. I've been fortunate to feel a few slight tremors over the years, nothing too scary.

The photograph is exquisite and breathtaking!

Joyful said...

Wow that is am amazingly powerful earthquake. Thank heaven you were okay. I've been in a few less powerful quakes and they were scary enough. Most recent one here last month.

Johnny Nutcase said...

crazy! That photo is just plain awesome! What a sight -lucky! And quite the earthquake too.
One hit Eureka, CA when we were living there a couple years ago (a 6.5 i think), but we were in Trinidad and Tobago. I was looking through the local paper there and saw a picture of our local health food store in the 'world' section and it got pretty trashed. I freaked out cause one of my cats was being boarded nearby..anyway, everything was fine and only one of our plates broke which is pretty crazy. Another one hit Eureka soon after, like 2 afters I left - i keep missing 'em! :) (kind of anti-climatic, heh)

Anonymous said...

Wow - what a dramatic and totally stunning shot!

Christine said...

Amazing shot...terrifying story. I actually experienced my first earthquake this year. I live in Pennsylvania, as most people know, we're blessed because we typically do not have earthquakes. Most of us had no idea what was going on as when we felt the trembling that day. I'm not even sure we had any damage in the immediate area, but it was still scary! I can only imagine how you felt or how others feel who deal with such tragedies on a regular basis. Glad you're o.k. Thanks for sharing!