Monday, August 28, 2006

Earthquake In Paradise

Well, after moving to Hawaii from California 13 years ago, it finally happened . . . I felt an earthquake this evening. My clock said 8:12 pm when my house gave a little wiggle. Daughter #2 said it felt as though the house had been picked up just a little bit and then dropped. In response, my wonderful wife said that that would have been like Dorothy's house landing in OZ! Daughter #3 was upstairs with my wife and was walking across the room at that moment and did not feel a thing. I immediately went outside (to see if the house had landed on a witch or anything) and was immediately struck by the sound of silence.

Back in California earthquakes are always accompanied by the sound of barking dogs. The neighborhood dogs were so quiet that I began to suspect that it hadn't been an earthquake at all.
Until my wonderful wife checked the internet and discovered that there had, indeed, been an earthquake somewhere between the Big Island of Hawaii and the island of Maui. It registered as a 3.2 magnitude quake and, as one researcher commented, it must have been "deep" for it to have been felt throughout the island chain (I have not yet heard if it was felt by anybody on Kauai . . . although I doubt that it was felt that far away).

There have been one or two small jolts that have been felt by a few people here and there on Oahu over the past decade. All these temblers have originated around the perimeter of the Big Island where active volcanic activity still stirs and belches deep beneath the earth.

Earthquakes in Hawaii are not like the California variety which are caused by faultlines in the earth's crust. Hawaii is different in that the entire island chain is drifting westward on a large crustal plate that is constantly being formed and thrust forward by magma rising up from a geological "hot spot" near the Big Island. Every island in the Hawaii chain, from Hawaii to Midway, has been formed over the years at the same spot . . . and then drifted an inch or a few millimeters each year towards Asia (where the crustal plate strikes another, attached to Japan, and dips back under the crust to be recycled).

I have felt large quakes in California and they are very terrifying. The small shake we had tonight was just "interesting." For my children it will be an experience that will help them to put the movement of the earth's surface into perspective.

Tomorrow's newspapers will have quotes and explainations by geologists, vulcanologists, and (undoubtedly) the mayor of Honolulu discussing the what, where, how and why of the whole thing. There will probably even be some mention of Civil Defense and emergency response preparation for when the "Big One" might come.

In Hawaii, the danger of damage or destruction from a large earthquake is far less of a concern that the death and destruction that would result from the tsunami that such an earthquake might create.

Even so, I did not hear any of the civil defense sirens going off this evening so, apparently, no one seems to be concerned about any sort of "chain reaction" from one thing leading to another.

So . . . I'll soon be going to bed and will probably wind up dreaming about Elvis Presley. Most likely he will not be singing about "Blue Hawaii." I expect that tonight's tune will be "Shake, Rattle and Roll!"

UPDATE: The latest news at 9:45 pm places the origin of the quake somewhere between Oahu and Molokai and with a magnitude somewhere between a 3 and a 4. This location seems very peculiar to me and will be fascinating for me to read a good explaination of how it came about. I am puzzled by the confusion over its magnitude, however. There is a huge difference between a 3 and a 4 on the Richter scale. Perhaps they will not know the actual size of the quake until they determine how far "down" it was!