No damage as earthquake shakes islands

  • Jan. 4, 2006 7:00 p.m.

If you felt the earth move just before New Year’s, you weren’t the only one.
Just before 3:00 am in the morning on December 28 Richard Clarmont in Masset woke to feel his house creaking and moving.
It was a very windy night and the next morning, when no one else at his workplace had felt the shaking, he questioned his own experience.
But his teenage daughter had witnessed the chandelier and the Christmas tree shaking as well. He was gratified to see the report on the Natural Resources Canada website.
“Wind doesn’t make the inside of the house move,” he says.
The earthquake hit 30 kilometres off the north coast of the islands, in Hecate Strait at 2:40 am.
Seismologist John Cassidy of the Geological Survey of Canada described the quake as reasonably sized, with a magnitude of 4.1.
His office received 15 “I felt it” reports from Masset, Port Clements and as far away as Sandspit, many from people living in mobile homes. An earthquake of this magnitude is usually felt within a 50 to 100 kilometre radius, he says.
The reports are filled out on their website and often come in immediately after a quake.
“It’s amazing. People have their computers working at all hours of the night,” says Mr. Cassidy.
The earthquake caused no damage, normal for its magnitude.
The largest earthquake ever reported in Hecate Strait was a magnitude of 5.3 in 1990. But the most active earthquake area on Haida Gwaii is on the Queen Charlotte fault where Canada’s biggest earthquake, an 8.1, was recorded in 1949.
Mr. Clarmont is no stranger to seismographic activity on the islands.
He was sleeping in a tent in Rennell Sound in June of 2004 when a magnitude 6.4 earthquake hit.
“The ground rolled right underneath us,” he said. Although Mr. Cassidy explained that Queen Charlotte fault quakes are usually of the strike/slip variety that doesn’t create tsunami waves, it didn’t stop Mr. Clarmont from worrying.
“It kept me awake thinking about it,” he said.
Mr. Cassidy says earthquakes must cause vertical movement on the sea floor and be over 7.5 in magnitude to generate a wave. He notes that other earthquakes can cause landslides both underwater and above that generate large, localized waves.
He suggests the safest thing to do if you feel the earth shaking with significant force is to move above sea level.