No doubt you all know that our peace was once again shattered by Ruaumoko stirring in his sleep just after midnight on Monday morning 14th Nov. (nearly 15 days ago). It was that rock and roll of someone shaking you awake from deep sleep but it went on and on, everytime we thought it was about over it would start up again. So we new it was big, bigger than the Christchurch earthquakes but a lot further away. Having checked the GNS website to learn it was near Hanmer Springs (low population, no highrise) it was back to bed in an effort to get some sleep between the aftershocks before the early Monday morning drive south.
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Once again we (NZ) are lucky to have had a major earthquake occur in the dead of night when the roads are almost empty and no one was out walking the streets of Wellington to be sliced and diced by falling glass. It was sad that 2 people did die but it could have been so much worse. The geologists are saying the rupture was probably over a 200km length merely starting at Hanmer and then connecting across several faults to run north toward Wellington, our capital city, where one of the bigger aftershocks has caused significant damage.
Of course it’s not surprising, they don’t call the current mountain building phase the Kaikoura Orogeny for nothing and if this wasn’t the fastest rising real estate in the world, there wouldn’t be picturesque mountains rising out of the sea with sperm whales lolling around at their base feeding on giant squid a convenient 1000ft dive below.
Rockfall has changed the face of the coast around Kaikoura and it sounds like Kaikoura and the coast in the immediate area have been given some much needed insurance against rising sea levels having been hoisted 2m into the air, with the uplift affecting at least 100km of coastline.
Had it struck 12 hours later there would have been at least 100 cars and trucks buried or pushed into the sea, and 20 or more tourists would have perished with the seal pups swimming under the waterfall at Ohau Pt (I’m being very conservative here).
With the human drama easing off, my thoughts are turning to the ecological impacts, how many seals and penguins lie under the rockfalls?
Did the Hutton’s shearwater breeding area high on the mountains survive or did the mountainside collapse taking them nearer to extinction?
Just a little north did the shingle cliffs that hold the last coastal tree broom in the wild crumble or are those contenders for real life Dr. Seuss trees still standing? Disturbingly I was listening to a geologist saying it looks like the coastline has been raised by 3 – 4 metres at Waipapa Pt which is pretty close to the stronghold of coastal tree broom. In the same interview they talked about walking on a dry reef which hitherto had never been exposed by the lowest tides. Apparently tons of paua (abalone) and koura (crayfish/spiny lobster) were left stranded high and dry. Incidentally Kaikoura means ‘to eat crayfish’.
The whole area of South Marlborough is home to a host of endemic plants and animals many of which are now restricted to precipitous terrain, much of which seems to have fallen into the valleys below including bluff weta, black-eyed gecko and the Chalk Range cress.
Over the hill in the Clarence Reserve, how did the historic Quail Flat cob buildings fare? and in particular the monstrous bread oven made of river stones? I’m sure we would have heard if the one family that lives in here was in trouble, and perhaps for them it makes little difference as a quick trip to town meant getting in a plane or helicopter anyway, but to get their cattle out from Muzzle Station to market they have to drive them over the Seaward Kaikoura Range, a breathtaking journey for those who get the chance.
Further north than either of these, there’s been rumour of a massive slip damming the Ure River (named after it’s English counterpart) and if that’s the case what of the sawcut gorge in Isolation Creek and another host of rare and undescribed plants.