The Big Shake

Forbidden Plateau shivered in the warm June air.
Its gently slopes shuddered.
The small, rugged hills, wobbled.
It’s evergreen clad lakes rippled.
Nearby Courtenay and Comox waited silently.

It struck in the morning at 10:15 A.M
a big one, 7.5 on the shaking scale.
A possible Beaufort Range Fault?
But no evidence appeared on Island Highway.
A possible projection of the underwater Nootka Fault?
But there was no general rising of the seas.

Thankfully only two people died,
but sadly one was Jacob L. Kingston,
aged 69 when his heart stopped.
Daniel Fidler, aged 50, drowned,
his dinghy swamped by a monster wave.

The Earth threatened Vancouver with a deep growl.
and Lions’ Gate Bridge swayed
like a grand old tree in the wind.
In Union Bay, Cumberland, and Courtenay
red brick chimneys collapsed.
Chimneys in distant Victoria cracked.
Port Alberni, and Powell River, trembled.
A home shifted 5 feet off its foundation.

Ships shook as though striking a rock.
Undersea power lines were ripped asunder
in the narrows and waters
of Alberni Inlet and Powell River.
Windows in lighthouses shattered
and dishes tumbled and smashed.
A tsunami seven feet high struck Texada Island.

Forty kilometers to the south of the center
the waters of Deep Bay trembled.
The ground beneath the bay opened up
sucking in a gigantic mouthful of salty water.
The waters rushed in as the sea shrunk.
Its stomach full of salty water it erupted again
flooding the vegetation along the beaches.
The fishing boats tossed and turned upon the giant swells.

Earthquakes, we live with them, but do not fear them.
The beauty of the land and succor of the seas
overpower our fears of it happening again.
The sun keeps us here safe and warm,
The mountains and the trees keep us joyful and content,
but we keep a watchful ear out for Mother Earth’s sighs.

Not sure where Deep Bay got its name but it might have been from the 1946 earthquake that caused the bottom of Deep Bay to sink up to 84 feet in places. The quake struck Vancouver Island with a magnitude of 7.3 on the Richter Scale, the strongest quake ever recorded on land in Canada. The main shock epicenter occurred in the Forbidden Plateau area northwest of Courtenay. This was one of the most damaging earthquakes in the history of British Columbia, but damage was restricted mainly to property because the area was sparsely populated at that time. The Forbidden Plateau Quake was the last big quake on the island.

According to the Canadian National Data Centre for Earthquake Seismology, approximately 400 earthquakes occur each year from the north end of Vancouver Island to Seattle but only about a dozen are felt by people. Vancouver Island is part of the Cascadia Margin, a convergent plate that stretches from Northern Vancouver Island to Northern California. It is part of the North American Plate that is moving slowly in a southwest direction, sliding over the smaller plates as well as the huge oceanic Pacific Plate. In turn it is part of The Ring of Fire, also referred to as the Circum-Pacific Belt, with earthquakes and active volcanoes including Mount St. Helens which erupted in 1980.

The Cascadia Margin appears to be locked and strain could be building. When an earthquake comes it’s likely to be very large but nobody seems to have any idea when the next big one will occur. The 1700 event had a magnitude of over 9, about as large as the Alaska earthquake of 1964. That means severe shaking lasting for several minutes. If you live very close to sea level then there is a possibility of a tsunami and you’ll probably only have ten minutes to evacuate.

On the bright side, we have learned a lot about quakes and volcanoes in the past fifty years. Most of our buildings can now withstand a major quake. The warning signs are now being closely monitored giving us a little more reaction time. The major concern of course is the tsunami; however, the main danger appears to be in the western and northern sides of the island.

My suggestions:

1. If your home or apartment is not quake-proof you may want to leave the building until shaking stops.

2. If you live near the seashore and if the ground shakes so severely that you have trouble standing, as soon as the shaking dies down you should immediately make for safer ground.

3. Figure out either the fastest way to get above an elevation of 20 meters or to a kilometer or so inland from the shoreline. In case the family is separated at the time of the quake, make sure everyone in your household knows the evacuation route.

4. If you do have a tsunami, remember that the shoreline is likely to be hazardous for several hours.