The South Sandwich Islands and surrounding areas brace for a massive earthquake. Our planet’s seemingly stable surface is made up of enormous pieces of rock that are slowly but constantly moving. Those pieces continually collide with and rub against one another, and sometimes their edges abruptly crack or slip and suddenly release huge amounts of pent-up energy. These unsettling events are called earthquakes, and small ones happen across the planet every day, without people even noticing. But every so often, a big earthquake occurs, and when that happens, the pulses of energy it releases, called seismic waves, can wreak almost unfathomable destruction and kill and injure many thousands of people
Though earthquakes have terrorized people since ancient times, it’s only been in the past 100 years that scientists have come to understand what causes them, and to develop technology to detect their origin and measure their magnitude. In addition, engineers and architects have worked to make buildings more resistant to earthquake shocks. Someday, researchers hope to find a way to predict earthquakes in advance, and perhaps even control them.
Technically, an earthquake is a vibration that travels through the Earth’s crust. Quakes can be caused by a variety of things, including meteor impacts and volcanic eruptions, and even sometimes caused by things man can control like mine collapses and underground nuclear tests. But most naturally occurring earthquakes are caused by movement of pieces of the Earth’s surface.
In 1948 in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan there was a 7.3 magnitude quake with approximately 110,000 deaths. This quake brought extreme damage in Ashgabat (Ashkhabad) and nearby villages, where almost all the brick buildings collapsed, concrete structures were heavily damaged and freight trains were derailed. Damage and casualties also occurred in the Darreh Gaz area in neighboring Iran. Surface rupture was observed both northwest and southeast of Ashgabat.
In 2010 there was a 7.0 magnitude quake with an estimated 222,570 people killed. According to official estimates, 300,000 were also injured, 1.3 million displaced, 97,294 houses destroyed and 188,383 damaged in the Port-au-Prince area and in much of southern Haiti. This includes at least 4 people killed by a local tsunami in the Petit Paradis area near Leogane. Tsunami waves were also reported at Jacmel, Les Cayes, Petit Goave, Leogane, Luly and Anse a Galets.
Originally, the warning for the pending earthquake to the south east of the South Sandwich Islands, a sub-Antarctic volcano chain was 7.2. This is right in the middle of the aforementioned quakes. This warning has recently been lowered to a 6.8 magnitude and hopefully before it hits will drop even further. The islands appear to be volcanic and only occupied by birds (including all sorts of penguins). Currently no widespread tsunami is expected.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)