Featured Image Credit: Anna Redmond via Facebook
By Kira Krall
This past November, an earthquake that registered at a 7.8 on the Richter scale tore through New Zealand. The city of Kaikoura suffered major damage as well as a new coastline: the earthquake lifted the seabed almost 10 feet into the air. The change was so rapid, there were still critters crawling along the exposed seabed when locals made the discovery.
Earthquakes happen because the tectonic plates that make up Earth’s crust are constantly shifting. Occasionally they get rubbed the wrong way and release seismic waves that can travel for miles. One tremor can be devastating enough, but New Zealand was hit with two.
The earthquakes and its effects are a unique case study for all brands of scientists from seismologists to geologists to geographers. The lifted seabed is a goldmine for marine scientists who would normally need to don SCUBA gear to get up close to this unique marine environment.
Kaikoura before the earthquake is pictured on the left, the “after” on the right. Nicola Litchfield of GNS Science estimated that New Zealand’s seabed would have risen those 10 feet in a mere 2 minutes. That’s lightning fast in the world of tectonics, where one tectonic plate will move about 2 inches per year.
The forces of an earthquake are bad enough, but their side effects are often the most destructive. Kaikoura and surrounding areas suffered landslides that trapped residents for days. Recovery plans are in the works by the community. The amount of damage is devastating, but Kaikoura residents are seeing the re-planning phase as a fresh start. 11 recovery sectors have been identified and so far citizens have met twice to discuss and undertake plans for their community.
Read more about Kaikoura’s recovery here.