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25 Interesting Earthquake Facts

by Sankalan Baidya
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In our last post on earthquakes, we learned 30 interesting earthquake facts. Now we are going to learn 25 more interesting facts that will sum up some of the most interesting earthquake related data and some interesting mythology related to this amazing natural power. So, are you ready?

25 Interesting Earthquake Facts

1. According to Japanese Mythology, earthquakes are caused by Namazu. Namazu in Japan is a mythological giant catfish that is responsible for this disastrous force of nature.

2. According to Hindu Mythology, the entire earth is standing on the back of 8 gigantic elephants. These elephants are in turn standing on back of a gigantic turtle. The turtle in turn is standing on the coils of a gigantic snake. Earthquakes, according to Hindu Mythology, occur when any of these animals move.

3. According to ancient Greeks, earthquakes were caused when Poseidon (their god of sea) became angry and would strike the earth with his powerful trident. According to Greeks, the behavior of Poseidon was violent and unpredictable and hence, they gave him the name ‘Earth-Shaker’. Ancient Greeks also believed that earthquakes were a result of wind rushing out of caves located inside earth.

4. The ‘best ever record’ of an earthquake took place in Japan in 2011. The reason why it is termed as ‘best ever record’ is that Japan has installed very high-tech sensors throughout the country to identify any earthquake threats. They did this because Japan is world’s one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world.

5. Earthquakes can change the duration of day and night. The 2011 earthquake in Japan caused mass of earth to shift towards its center. As a result, earth started spinning slightly faster. After the earthquake, the day has been shortened by 1.8 microseconds.

6. The 2004 earthquake in Indian Ocean (also known as Sumatra earthquake) shortened the length of the day by 6.8 microseconds.

7. After the 2011 earthquake in Japan, a massive rift was created on the ocean bed. The rift was created 15 miles under the ocean and it is 93 miles wide and 186 miles long.

8. The 2011 earthquake in Japan was the worst ever earthquake in Japan’s history. The byproduct of the earthquake was a tsunami with 30 feet tall waves that seriously damaged a nuclear power plant in Japan.

9. The earthquake in Japan in 2011 had a magnitude of 9.0 and it shifted Japan closer to United States. It also shifted the axis of earth by 6.5 inches.

10. One of the earliest recorded earthquakes in human history dates back to 1831 B.C. It occurred in China’s Shandong province.

11. Alaska is world’s most earthquake-prone state.

12. The first ever recorded earthquake in California was in 1769 A.D. The earthquake was recorded by Gaspar de Portola, who was not only a Spanish military officer but was also an explorer.

13. Alaska’s 9.2 magnitude earthquake in 1964 was devastating. The streets dropped by 6 meters (20 feet) below the normal level. The earthquake occurred for 4 minutes and was responsible for causing floods in Hawaiian coasts that were 3,100 miles away from the epicenter. It was the largest earthquake ever recorded in the U.S.

14. In 1775, Portugal’s Lisbon experienced a devastating earthquake. So massive was the earthquake that Loch Ness in Scotland (1,240 miles) away from Portugal experienced waves on earth’s surface.

15. The fame of being the worst ever earthquake in human history goes to eastern Mediterranean earthquake of 1201 A.D. which killed about 1 million people. The earthquake occurred in SW Syria.

16. We said in our previous post on earthquakes that they can set off volcanic eruptions. This actually happened twice – once in 1980 when Mount St. Helens erupted and next in 2002 when Mount Etna erupted.

17. The first ever seismometer to be invented was in 132 A.D. It was invented by a Chinese astronomer named Zhang Heng. It was named as ‘houfeng didongyi’ which in English translates to ‘earthquake weathervane’. It was an urn-shaped device made of bronze and had a swinging pendulum inside it. The device was actually pretty accurate and was capable of detecting earthquake from a distance of 370 miles or 600 kilometers!

18. In recent history, the largest recorded earthquake took place in 1960 in Chile. It had a magnitude of 9.5 and it was responsible for creating giant waves in ocean as far as 10,000 kilometers or 6,000 miles away.

19. The first every major earthquake disaster to be recorded in photographs was that of California in 1906. It occurred before the invention of Richter Scale but scientists think that it was of 7.8 magnitude on Richter Scale.

20. In 1771, an earthquake in Japan resulted in a tsunami that had the highest ever recorded wave. The wave was 85 meters or 278 feet tall.

21. The worst ever landslide caused by an earthquake was in 1920. The earthquake occurred in China’s Kansu province and the resulting landslide was responsible for killing 200,000 people.

22. The worst ever avalanche to be caused by an earthquake was in 1970 A.D. in Peru. The avalanche had a wave of 250 feet of rock, mud and ice rushing down the Huascaran Mountain at a speed of 400 kilometers or 250 miles an hour. Luckily the area was less populated but still, the avalanche killed well over 18,000 people.

23. California’s Parkfield holds the title of ‘The Earthquake Capital of the World’.

24. The Sumatra earthquake of 2004 (the Indian Ocean earthquake) was so catastrophic that the midsection bulge of the earth (the earth is slightly bulged in the midsection in relation to pole-to-pole measurement) was reduced slightly. As a result, our earth is little rounder than what it was prior to that earthquake.

25. In 2010, Chile experienced an earthquake of magnitude 8.8. The earth’s crust was ripped off as a result of which, the city named Concepción moved 10 feet towards the west.

Okay, this concludes our 25 interesting earthquake facts. However, there are more. So, we decided to give you a bonus reading material. Here is the list of the most massive earthquakes in recorded history:

  • 1139 A.D.: Earthquake in Ganja, Azerbaijan killed 300,000 people.
  • 1201 A.D.: Earthquake in SW Syria killed 1,100,000 people.
  • 1556 A.D.: Earthquake in China’s Shaanxi Province killed 800,000 people.
  • 1662 A.D.: Earthquake in China killed 300,000 people.
  • 1923 A.D.: The Great Kanto Earthquake in Japan’s Tokyo killed 140,000 people.
  • 1978 A.D.: Earthquake in Tangshan, China killed 242,769 people.
  • 2004 A.D.: The Sumatra earthquake killed 230,000 people.
  • 2010 A.D.: The Haiti earthquake killed 230,000 people.

Here is the list of top 5 earthquakes since 1900 A.D. in terms of magnitude:

  • 1952: Kamchatka, Russia – Earthquake of 9.0 on MMS scale.
  • 1960: Valdivia, Chile – Earthquake of 9.5 on MMS scale.
  • 1964: Prince William Sound, Alaska – Earthquake of 9.2 on MMS scale.
  • 2004: Sumatra, Indonesia – Earthquake of 9.1 on MMS scale.
  • 2011: Sendai, Japan – Earthquake of 9.0 on MMS scale.

Alright! We will stop here. If we continue, it may lead to brainquakes! 🙂

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Additional Sources:

  1. Bolt, Bruce A. 2006. Earthquakes. 5th Ed. New York, NY: W.H. Freeman Company.
  2. Colson Mary. 2006. Shaky Ground: Earthquakes. Chicago, IL: Raintree.
  3. Fradin, Judy and Dennis. 2008. Earthquakes: Witness to Disaster. Washington D.C.: National Geographic.
  4. Page, Jake and Charles Officer. 2004. The Big One. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company.
  5. Goodwin, Liz. “Japan’s Earthquake Shifted Balance of the Planet.” Yahoo!News. March 14 2011. Accessed: June 1, 2014.

Image Credits: 1, 2

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