The 1929 Grand Banks Earthquake

The Grand Banks event was Canada's most tragic tragedy known in its history. It was an event that changed the lives of everyone who felt it in Atlantic Canada. On November 18, 1929 at 5:02 pm Newfoundland standard time, an earthquake occurred 250 km south of Newfoundland along the southern edge of the Grand Banks. The earthquake triggered a large submarine slump and communication disruptions.

Figure 1.1(epicenter of Grand Banks Earthquake by NRCAN
Figure 2.1 Newspaper Articles Relating to the Event.

This magnitud e 7.2 tremor was felt as far away as New York and Montreal. On land, damage due to earthquake shock was limited to Cape Breton Island where chimneys were destroyed or cracked and some highways were blocked by minor
landslides. A few aftershocks, one as large as magnitude 6 were felt in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland but caused no major damage.

Figure 3.1 shows a house swept ashore by the tsunami. image by NRCAN

The earthquake triggered a large submarine slump, which ruptured 12 transatlantic cables in multiple places and generated a tsunami; Most submarine telegraph cables from North America to Europe at the time passed south of Newfoundland. A sequence of breaks occurred in these cables following the Grand Banks earthquake at distances up to 500 kilometers from the epicenter; meanwhile cables along the continental slope and south of the epicenter were broken. Two and a half hours later the tsunami hit the southern end of the Burin Peninsula. Three main pulses caused the local sea levels to rise 2 to 7 meters and in some parts of the narrow bay, water rose up to13 meters high. The giant tidal wave claimed 27 lives, on the Burin peninsula. A female victim died from injuries caused by the event and another casualty was reported in Nova Scotia. This has been the highest death toll accounted to an earthquake in Canada.

Figure 4.1 A Boat Pulling a House Back to Shore *now thought to be 29.. by NRCAN

Waves caused by the tsunami smashed and destroyed many buildings; it simply lifted others off their foundations and floated them away as shown on figure 4.1. Damage of waves was not restricted to the land; also it tore up the seabed. This destruction of the seabed was believed by many Newfoundland fishers to be the dominant factor in poor fish catches during much of the Great Depression. All means of communication were cut off by the disaster and aid was delayed even more by a blizzard that struck the day after. The only telegraph line from the Burin Peninsula had gone out of service a few days before the earthquake and hence word did not get out. The help came three days later. The S.S. Meigle was dispatched from St. John's with aid from the government which included doctors and nurses, and arrived at Burin on the afternoon of the November 22. Long before the coast was reached wreckage was met, evidence of the disaster which had fallen upon the region. The tsunami destroyed many south coastal communities on the Burin Peninsula leaving 10,000 people homeless.

Figure 5.1 One of the many breaks in the transatlantic cables caused by the submarine slump
Figure 6.1 Map of the North Atlantic Ocean showing the location of the 1929 Grand Banks earthquake epicenter (star) and the sites where the 1929 tsunami was recorded or seen by eye witnesses, map by NRCAN

Peninsula and Tsunami

It is a widely known fact that when tsunamis meet peninsula areas, the devastation tends to be greater due to peninsulas' particular geographic characteristics. Tsunamis, also known as tidal waves, encroach landmass at horrifying rate, submerging large area of land. As experienced in peninsula areas vulnerable to tsunamis such as the island of Okushiri in Japan. Okushiri was hit by a massve tsunami in the year of 1993. Aonae cape, a peninsula on the southern coast of the island was completely swept by waves reaching heights of over 10meters.

Link to USC tsunami research group's video.
Figure 7.1 1shows The Grand Banks are a group of underwater plateaus.

This area is shallow where the cold Labrador Current meets the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. The Grand Banks were once the most productive fishing area on earth. Today the cod stocks are depleted to the point of collapse and their dependant fisheries such as swordfish are also in major trouble. There is no doubt that in 1929 the Grand Banks Earthquake was a huge tragedy and aid came late, but now on present day an earthquake of that magnitude would cause damage but not as much chaos due to new technological advancements in every aspect. Telegraph cables are not use anymore; we now have various types of communication systems to rely on including cell phones, landline, internet.

2006 West Java Indonesia Tsunami Earthquake

more than seventy years after the horrifying event in Grand Banks, earthquakes and tsunamis have not lost their stings. In West Java of Indonesia, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake accompanied by tsunami claimed more than 500 lives leaving about 400 injured and more than 50,000 people without home. It is unwise to assume that we are better prepared or protected against natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis than we have been in the past. However, after the incident, helping hands reached Indonesia from all over the world and quickened the recovery process.
Figure 8.1 The Location of epicenter of the 2006 Indonesia Earthquake. By. W
Figure 8.1 The Location of epicenter of the 2006 Indonesia Earthquake. By. W

1929 Grand Banks Tsunami. Web. Accessed November 2, 2009

The Magnitude 7.2 1929 "Grand Banks" earthquake and tsunami.Web. Accessed November 3, 2009

The Grand Banks landslide-generated tsunami of November 18,1929. Web. accessed November 3, 2009

GSW:"Source mechanism of the magnitude 7.2 Grand Banks". Web. accessed November 20, 2009.

New Workd Encyclopedia."Grand Banks".Web. accessed November 21, 2009. Banks