Looking back at September 2010

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the 7.1 magnitude Darfield Earthquake, an earthquake so large it was felt across almost the entire country.

The path of the faultline is obvious where it crosses Highfield Road in Darfield.
Photograph by Grant Wilson, CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 

Looking through the CEISMIC archive, it’s obvious that the prevailing mood in September 2010 was one of relief – the timing of the quake, at 4.35 am when few people were out on the streets, meant that there were few injuries, and no deaths, and the phrase “dodged a bullet” was on everyone’s lips.

Residents examine cracks near the Kaiapoi River

Photograph by UC Department of Civil and Natural Resources Engineering, CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

At the time, of course, nobody realised that the real bullet was yet to come.  The earthquake that shook Canterbury awake on Saturday 4 September 2010 was only the start of a series of thousands of earthquakes we’d face over the next few years, the most significant being the 6.4 magnitude earthquake on 22 February 2011 which would kill 185 people, and change Christchurch forever. 

Taking photographs of the cracks 
Photograph by Nick McIlroy, CC BY-NC 3.0

But back in 2010, we were mostly just relieved.  Property had been damaged, with the eastern suburbs and Kaiapoi hit particularly hard, but we believed that EQC and insurance would take care of that, and everything would quickly go back to normal.  So we treated the faultline as a tourist attraction, took photos of each other standing in cracks to show how deep they went, and the Press told stories of lucky escapes and earthquake babies.  For Canterbury, it was truly a more innocent time.

A page from the Christchurch Press, 6 September 2010

UC geology student Dan Hills stands in a crack to illustrate how deep it is.
Photo by Grant Wilson, CC BY-NC-ND 3.0


Thanks to the CEISMIC archive, we can look back over the past decade, and reflect on and learn from our experiences from that shaky time.