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Rocky shelves risen over one metre from the seabed were startling evidence of November 2016’s 7.8 magnitude Kaikoura earthquake for seasoned fishermen used to skimming the waves over those very same locations.


A Dynamic History


For geotechnical scientists and engineers, the earthquake which changed Kaikoura’s foreshore and seascape forever, is only the latest in a centuries-long string. New Zealand’s intense history of activity, it seems, more than justifies it’s nickname – the Shaky Isles.


The ruin caused by the Hawke’s Bay 1931 earthquake (7.8 magnitude) is burned into the psyche of many Kiwis. Killing 256 people and flattening the town centre, Napier was said to have been ‘wiped off the map.’ The event remains New Zealand’s number one deadliest natural disaster throughout recorded history. Its occurance has shaped many of our nation’s building codes and put us at the forefront of earthquake engineering and research.


Even before colonisation, the Māori people recognised the capricious nature of their land. In other cultures a God of Earthquakes might seem very specific, but Rūaumoko, responsible for movements below the earth, is a cornerstone of Māori mythology. Read more about Rūaumoko here.


Other major quakes New Zealand has faced include the Īnagahua earthquake in 1968 where roads collapsed and over 50 bridges were destroyed, the 1929 Arthur’s Pass and Murchison earthquakes which shook the mountainous region for four minutes (!), and the 1987 Edgecumbe quake. The largest recorded earthquake was back in 1855 when a huge 8.2 rolled through Wellington and the Wairarapa region. It’s significant internationally for the 5000km2 of land that was lifted (in some parts land was raised over 6m) the largest displacement along a vertical faultline in international records.


In more recent times, the Canterbury earthquake series which began with a 4:30am 7.1 rumble on 4 September 2010, have posed a massive challenge. Cantabrian’s and New Zealand as a whole have shown remarkable resilience and camaraderie, rebuilding the region stronger than ever before.


And what better place in the world to study seismic engineering than one with such a dynamic earthquake history, and a community understanding of their effects, the importance of people and collaboration. The strong academic and commercial sectors, and their keen interest in working together, produces world class solutions to seismic issues – and that’s what the Quake Centre is all about.












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