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Stories from History: A Year Earth Tried to Shake us Off

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By Unknown - www.archives.gov This media is available in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration, cataloged under the ARC Identifier (National Archives Identifier) missing.This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information.

It all started on January 31st, 1906 with an earthquake. Ecuador and Colombia were rocked by an 8.8 earthquake and the ensuing tsunami that battered the shore. The maximum height of the tsunami was five metres tall, and, in the ensuing destruction, there were 500 confirmed casualties. The tensions rising around the world seemed to be mirrored in the action of the planet itself. As Germany and England entered into a race for who could build the largest navy and we saw hints of the future World War, the planet itself seemed to be trying to voice its displeasure.

The next major event was the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, that great symbol of destruction from history, on April 7th. Naples was devastated by these eruptions, with over one hundred deaths. The eruption was the biggest ejection of lava in the recorded history of the volcano, and the preparations for the Olympics in Italy resulted in the requirement of millions of diverted funds.

By April 18th, things were really starting to pick up. San Francsico is rocked by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Over 80% of the city was destroyed and over 3,000 people died between the initial damage and the ensuing fires that took days to to brought under control. One of the most destructive natural disasters in American history caused widespread devastation, and is not even the worst event of the year. 

After a few months of relative quiet on a geological scale, Chile was wracked by yet another gargantuan earthquake on August 16th. An 8.2 magnitude earthquake caused over 20,000 casualties, destroyed cities and homes, and continued the Earth's apparent efforts to rid itself of so many cities.

A month later, a typhoon and tsunami, possibly caused by the earthquake thirty two days earlier, caused an estimated 10,000 deaths in Hong Kong, as well as yet more widespread destruction. Buildings were swept away, and newspapers in Australia reported a mere 1,000 bodies were recovered from this disaster.

It is curious that all this happened on the year that Richard Oldham first argued that the planet we all live on has a molten interior. His work on geology and earthquakes may have seen this terrible year as a boon in forms of data, that careful distance between himself and the deaths carefully established and maintained. From all these deaths, he was able to assist in the development of seismographs, resulting in many lives being saved since then.