The New Zealand Evangelist
On Sunday, Oct. 15th, the heavens presented a very agitated and stormy appearance. In the former part of the day there were several slight and partial showers. The phenomena in the afternoon, and at the close of the day were striking, and attracted general attention—the setting of the sun particularly so. The rising of the moon was not less remarkable—a brilliant and variegated page 138 cloud had the appearance of a pillar supporting her. Still there was a perfect absence of anything like serious alarm. But landsmen and seamen, the colonist and the native, all apprehended a gathering storm.
Universal sleep had fallen on both man and beast. Our settlement was in its state of characteristic quietude. The sky was serene, the elements as yet were still, the usual land-breeze but softly blew, when between 1 and 2, the whole town, with few exceptions, was aroused from peaceful slumber, by a violent earthquake. Great difference of opinion exists as to the continuance of this shock. Some say that it only lasted two or three minutes; others prolong its duration to ten minutes. Both these opinions are opposite extremes. There certainly was an unceasing shaking for the space of from five to seven minutes. Before the dawn of day, and during the whole of the day, slighter tremors were felt;—in fact the earth seemed to be for a considerable time in a state of constant oscillation. On Tuesday afternoon a second violent shock occurred—a third on Thursday morning, between four and five—and from that time to the present date (Nov. 15,) slight vibrations have been frequently felt. From the motion of liquids, it was the prevailing opinion, that the shocks came in the direction of North-east. As to the motion sometimes it was undulation, at other times pulsation.
A vivid light, resembling the reflection of flame, was seen in a Southern direction, on the night of Tuesday and Wednesday. A hope was now warmly cherished by many, that some unknown and long inactive volcano had burst out; that the pent-up air or fire would now find vent, and that the earth would soon again be still—others supposed this phenomenon to be the Aurora Australis.
This part of New Zealand has from time immemorial, been subject to occasional earthquakes; but no one of the Europeans who have been longest resident amongst the Natives, nor the oldest of the Natives themselves have ever felt any of equal severity to the recent ones. But though we in this settlement have considered them severe, yet it is certain that we have had them less violent than either Wairau, Cloudy Bay, or Wellington. Several chimneys both in town and country, were shaken down. The houses of Messrs. Campbell, Foy, and the late Mr. Thompson, and the Wesleyan Chapel, all being brick buildings, have sustained slight damage—other brick buildings remain quite uninjured.—Great alarm prevailed. We have already stated that with few exceptions, the inhabitants in the town left their beds. This fear was not partial. The timid and the brave, the heedless and the thoughtful, the illiterate and the educated, the pious and the profane, male and female, young and old, were more or less the subjects of it. A recurrence of shocks on the second night, being forboded, those whose dwellings are of brick felt some uneasiness about retiring to rest. Many persons for two or three nights, took but little sleep. Our degree of alarm however was not at its climax until Thursday evening, between 6 and 7 o'clock. The heavens now gathered blackness—the air was the scene of contending storms—the dark page 139 clouds were skirted with light and red—hail-stones of a prodigious size were falling—a rumbling noise resembling thunder was being heard—slight shocks were occurring—the greatest fear and consternation now seized many; but we are thankful to say that this period of alarm was only of short duration. The sky soon became clear, and the remainder of the night was tolerably fine.
It was thought by many that God's great mercy in sparing us from death, and our habitations from ruin, most imperatively called for special acknowledgement; accordingly, Monday 23rd was observed, by a considerable number, as a day of Thanksgiving. Three public meetings for prayer and praise were held in the Wesleyan Chapel, one at 7 a. m., the second at 12, the third at 7 p. m. The congregations were all large; in the evening we were very full. A sense of the Divine presence rested upon us, and we felt it good to call upon the Lord. Considerable anxiety was felt by many, in behalf of the other settlements, and on the arriving of the painful intelligence from Wellington, the greatest sensation was produced; and it was thought that a more general and formal recognition of the Divine hand was called for. His Honor Major Richmond, was called upon, and solicited to issue a proclamation for a general Fast day. His Honor did not feel at liberty, literally, to comply with the request; but he most cordially approved of such an observance, and promised that all Government offices should be closed, provided a day were thus set apart. The Ministers of the different Churches were unanimous in the matter, and Wednesday the 1st Nov., was fixed upon, and July announced on the previous Sabbath. The day arrived. All the Churches were unusually well attended—numbers were in from the country. It was a day the services of which, will never be forgotten by many who were privileged to join in them. The whole town suspended business—every shop was closed, and almost every hand unemployed.
But while its observance was so general, there were a few who scoffed and ridiculed. Such persons belonged to one of two classes. They were either unread, illiterate men, and thus unacquainted with the moral and natural causes of earthquakes, or they were, if not so ignorant, so morally depraved as to be devoid of all right feeling. But it is recorded with most sincere gratitude, that the greatest good is likely to result. Many of the most careless have been awakened—are turning to the Lord, and giving themselves to the Church by His will. It may be that the impressions of some will be evanescent and short-lived, as was the goodness of Judah and Ephraim of old, “passing away like the morning cloud and early dew!” yet no doubt can be entertained, but that real, deep, and permanent good has already been done. May the Lord still preserve and prosper us.—Amen!