Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Patrick Parsons 1855 Earthquake

It started with a hunch and some curosity as to whether the 1855 earthquake of the Waiarapa actually had any lasting effect on Hawke's Bay. There appeared to be nothing reported in the newspapers of the time idicating that it had reached Hawke's Bay. However upon researching further into to there were indications it may have been felt as far north as Wairoa. A journey with Richard Schumacher and Bob Bruce out the back of Raukawa show some scarring on the landscape that had not really been noticed before. Mick Stewart then proceded to show me
some large landslides in Valley Road, where 1/2 the hillside had slipped leaving a harsh cliff face remaining. This must have been a result of a major force. Glen Ares Valley show similar scenes and scarring of the landscape. Was this caused by the 1931 earthquake? After talking to the locals, Tom & Lenora McCormick who was raised in Valley Road, He was there in the 1931 earthquake and these crevases were already there. Stories of the Locals and locals before them indicate it was the 1855 earthquake.
At a Tsunami Conference in Napier in March 2002 at the War Memoraial Centre, Gaye Downs an Australia Proessor who has subsequently retired in Wellington, asked about the 1855 Quake and the William Colenso letters held in Kew, telling of the shake in Hawke's Bay. Gaye sent copies to Patrick Parson, the first hard evidence that the quake was felt in Hawke's Bay and the severity of it.
William Colenso letter to Butler:
.. 23 February 1855
Re 1855 Earthquake
We have recently been visited by violent shock of an earthquake on 23 January 1855.
The first shock ocurred 11pm with a very severe jolt sent us spinning, I was as usual sitting down reading at my desk. The jolt and resulting shakes and swaying sent us into a panic. I
ran around the table throught two doors to the outside door. It was only just in time as my bookshelves came tumbling down and all 4500 volumes, my specimen jars, glasses pistols
and all. I thought the chinmey had come down too...
Seeing the eartquake and nature at it best first hand was to be admired... feeling safe about
it was beyond my ability....
... the rocking motion like that of a steamer shuddering, and swaying and the tall weeping
willows with there long weepy branches lashing about the earth and then sweeping the sky
withh post fences rattling and creaking... the rivers angry mood with river levels rising and
falling looking to spill over to the stream of pale light in the sky with fire tails leaping nor more than 3 or 4 feet about the ground, bright bule and white and hurting my eye to look at it...
When I finally found my way back inside I found my table and chair hard snack against the chimney, bookshelves thrown in all directions all the volumes on the floor from the Encyclopaedia Britannica to my Diary, all my china, jars and glasses smashed.
Wellington as usual had big losses, huge damage to buildings, all brick work had come down.
Few buildings were left standing
and so it went on.
Following this another visit to Raukawa and Valley Road. Ian McPhee and Tess White daughter of the McFarlands had huge slips 1/2 hour out the back of the farm. On the west side there
were long clean breaks and huge slumps few metres down. He said its visible all the way along
and you just need to be able to read the landscape.
Poppy White said she rode up the valley after the 1931 earthquake and the massive slips and crevase were already there and had been for years. In fact there was very little change to the valley from the 1931 earthquake.
James Padman in Wairoa said in a letter that the river level had risen several metres during the earthquake.
It is now quite apparent that the 1855 earthquake had a lasting effect on no only the people but the landscape too. Patrick is recording his findings as an official document.


Anonymous said...

A great record of our history Keep it up. JJ

Anonymous said...

An 1855 quake that big amazing. Very interesting blog Kim. Great group you have going, good to see locals interested in their history.
Amy USA.