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The New Zealand Evangelist

The Earthquakes

The Earthquakes.

Since the commencement of this colony slight shocks of earthquakes have been felt on an average two or three times in a year; but these shocks were so slight as neither to cause damage nor produce alarm. We have felt none however for a twelvemonth; but during the present month we have been visited with a perfect storm of them—of more than a fortnight's duration, and they are not yet over—alarming and destructive, beyond anything ever witnessed in this country by the oldest settler, or known by tradition to the oldest native. We have had four tremendous shocks, with from one to two hundred slighter ones, varying in all degres of strength from the slightest tremor to a very smart concussion; after some of the page 117 great shocks the earth seemed for hours to be in a constant state of oscillation. The first three violent shocks occurred at low water, and followed each other after an interval of three tides, or about 37 1/2 hours. The first was on Monday the 16th, about 20 minutes before 2 in the morning; the second on Tuesday the 17th, about 20 minutes past three in the afternoon; and the third on Thursday the 19th, about 5 in the morning. The second was more violent than the first, and the third more violent than either. The fourth violent shock did not take place till Tuesday the 21th, at about 2 o'clock in the afternoon, and seems to have been differently felt from the other three; in some places more, in others less than any of them. The motion of the shocks seemed sometimes to be undulatory, and again it appeared to be vertical and heaved and jolted upwards. The shocks were often preceded by a hollow rumbling sound like the distant boom of cannon; latterly the sound was often heard without any shock being felt, and on the other hand the sharpest of the secondary shocks were often preceded neither by sound nor any note of warning. The barometer stood unusually low till after the third, shock; on Wednesday the 18th it stood as low as 20. 14. The shocks were most violent and destructive on alluvial sand, or gravelly formations, as Te Aro and Thorndon flats; on the clay-stone formation, as on the terraces surrounding the town, they were somewhat less violent; and on the Karori-road, at Wades’ town, and Kai Warra, where the houses are nearer the rock, the shocks wore comparatively light. Small clefts were made in the earth in some places, but the water in the wells has not been disturbed. The shocks were felt from Banks' Peninsula to Cape Farewell, on the Middle Island, and from beyond the Wairarapa to Taranaki on this island; but so far as we have heard they were not felt at Otakou, nor at Hawke's Bay on the East Coast. The probability is that the force has been submarine, somewhere to the South or South East of Cook's Straits. The Straits seem to be the centre along which the electric current proceeded, shaking the land on both sides, but most violently at the south entrance, and gradually diminishing in force as it proceeded to the north. From the Heads round to Cape Terawite large rocks were rent, and fragments rolled down and were precipitated into the sea, and on the opposite shore about Cloudy Bay, the ground is said to be cleft in various places.

On the evening of Tuesday the 17th, a light was seen to the North East, and on some of the following nights appearances like the reflection of some powerful light, were seen among the clouds to the south. The appearances, the violence and duration of the shakings, the constant rumbling sounds beneath the earth and other indications led to a general belief that a volcano had broken out in some one of the mountains near the centre of the island, and the hope was fondly cherished that if the dormant embers of some smouldering crater had been kindled up and burst forth—if some closed up volcano was come again into a state of activity, a safetyvalve would be opened by means of which the pent up subterraneus fires, that by their explosive force are shaking the earth in all directions page 118 around us, would be allowed to escape, and the return of similar convulsions in future likely to be diminished; but these conjectures have as yet received no conffrmation, and it is not at all improbable that the lights were simply atmospheric,—meteoric appearances of some kind, arising from the air being surcharged with electricity: such appearances are common during earthquakes.