Why quakes weren't caused by seismic blasting or 'unzipping' faultline video

STUFF.CO.NZ

When the earth shook in a massive magnitude 7.8 earthquake early on Monday morning, November 14, it was the beginning of a traumatic series of events.

Big earthquakes like the ones experienced this week can be unnerving and often lead to people searching for answers in unconventional places.

During the days since the earthquake, a handful of theories have emerged in an attempt to explain why the country shook early Monday morning.

We'd usually ignore these types of theories, but conspiracies and hoaxes as to the cause of the quakes are circulating on social media, so we think it's important to address the rumours.

Earlier this week there was a lot of talk about the moon causing the North Canterbury quakes. We will be looking at why the moon myth, along with talk of seismic blasting ships and an unzipping Alpine Fault aren't worth your worry.

READ MORE:
Live: 7.8 New Zealand earthquake
New video shows just how damaged SH1
Geonet releases future scenario forecasts, there will be more quakes
Video: The quake - and everything after

UNZIPPING ALPINE FAULT

The shock of Mondays's big earthquakes has everyone searching for answers, but some are looking in the wrong places.
EMMA DANGERFEILD/FAIRFAX NZ

The shock of Mondays's big earthquakes has everyone searching for answers, but some are looking in the wrong places.

Most Kiwis are aware of the imminent danger posed by the Alpine Fault - when it ruptures, it's expected to be a big one.

However, an "unzipping" fault is not responsible for the latest spate of quakes - if the Alpine Fault had gone, we'd all know about it.

GeoNet seismologist Dr John Ristau says the term "unzipping" isn't one scientists use, but it refers to the fault rupturing.

The theory that the Alpine Fault on the South Island's West Coast is "unzipping" is just another myth.
SUPPLIED

The theory that the Alpine Fault on the South Island's West Coast is "unzipping" is just another myth.

"Eventually the Alpine Fault is going to have an earthquake on it. Maybe even the entire fault will break."

Ad Feedback

The fault, located beneath the South Island, is currently building pressure, Ristau says.

But it hasn't done anything since 1717.

Statoil and Chevron's ship the Amazon Warrior has been seismic blasting off Wairarapa coast for the past three years and ...
SUPPLIED

Statoil and Chevron's ship the Amazon Warrior has been seismic blasting off Wairarapa coast for the past three years and has the option to continue. Experts are calling for more regulation and research around potential harm to marine life. (File photo)

Based on past patterns, the fault ruptures every 329 years, on average. We will be at 300 years next year. Though there is a margin of error of about 70 years either side.

The Alpine Fault marks the boundary between the Australian Plate to the west and the Pacific Plate to the east. Ultimately, the movement of these plates causes earthquakes in New Zealand but the Alpine Fault itself wasn't involved this time.

Ristau says it's natural for people to look to the Alpine Fault whenever there's an earthquake in New Zealand, especially in the South Island. 

While many will have questions about what caused the quake, it's best to head to verified official sources for data and ...
ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ

While many will have questions about what caused the quake, it's best to head to verified official sources for data and analysis related to the quakes.

"There's a fairly high probability of having that earthquake," he says. But thankfully, that's not what happened this time.

SEISMIC BLASTING SHIP

Another theory doing the rounds on social media is one of a ship stationed off Wellington's coast being to blame.

What's being touted as the world's largest seismic blasting ship, the Amazon Warrior, was stationed off Rarangi in Cloudy Bay, in the Cook Strait, when the quake hit.

A raft of bloggers and social media users have since blamed the quakes on the ship's activities.

One of the Facebook posts linking te seismic blasting ships to the earthquakes. CREDIT: FACEBOOK

The ship was contracted by Statoil and Chevron to look for oil off Wellington's coast. And as part of their exploration, the ships send energy down into the earth through explosions or the use of an airgun.

Theorists say the Amazon Warrior was on top of a faultline and the blasts were enough to make the country shake.

But Ristau says the Warrior isn't to blame for Monday morning's quake.

Firstly, the quake originated about 100 kilometres south of where the ship was stationed.

There is also no way the blasts were deep enough - quakes originate well beneath the earth's surface.

And the energy from the explosions or airguns wouldn't have had the power to cause a shake, he says.

For context - South Island quarries constantly set off explosions bigger than those the ship would have used.

FRACKING

​Seismologists have repeatedly stated there's no known link between the oil drilling practice of fracking and earthquakes.

Despite these reassurances from the country's leading earthquake researchers, Stuff has received comments and questions from readers about this supposed link since Monday's big shake.

In 2012, GNS Science released a study – commissioned by Taranaki Regional Council – in response to growing public and media scrutiny of fracking.

The report stated that there was no evidence that hydraulic fracturing activities have had any impact on natural earthquake activity, nor would it cause any future earthquakes.

However, opponents of the oil drilling practice were unmoved by the report.

While many are opposed to fracking and oil drilling for a variety of reasons, the science doesn't show any link between the activity and earthquakes.

THE MOON

We've touched on this one already this week, but let's revisit the moon.

Put plainly, there's no link between the current supermoon and the magnitude-7.8 earthquake.

More than a hundred years of scientific research into the relationship between the moon, tidal forces, and earthquakes has not produced any reliable evidence of a link between the moon's gravitational pull and quakes.

Tidal stresses and their effects on the earth are tiny, but measurable, although many scientists remain unconvinced by the theory of "tidally-triggered earthquakes".

University of Melbourne associate professor Mark Quigley and University of Melbourne applied geoscience lecturer Brendan Duffy addressed this very point in a recent post.

"Given the earthquake happened on the eve of a supermoon full moon, and the closest the Earth and moon will be since 1948, it wasn't long before some tried to make a connection," they write.

Basically, they say there's a small chance tides could have a small effect on the size of a rupture.

"But the specific time, magnitude and location of this or any other large earthquake has not been successfully predicted in the short-term using tidal stresses or any other possible precursory phenomenon.

"Deliberately vague predictions that provide no specific information about the precise location and magnitude of a future earthquake are not predictions at all. Rather, these are hedged bets that get media air time due to the romantic misinterpretation that they were valid predictions."

THE HOAX

In a bizarre twist, a person took to social media on Thursday morning claiming to be a GeoNet employee.

The impersonator claimed seismologists are being muzzled by the government and that there is really a 70 per cent chance of the Alpine Fault rupturing due to the recent quakes.

GeoNet's Ristau says sometimes it takes a while for New Zealand's earthquake scientists to get information to the public because the data is very complex.

"But we're not trying to hide anything."

As soon as GeoNet has information, they did their best to get it out into the public arena.

His best advice to people worried about all the quake rumours circulating online is: get your information from the experts.

Visit verified social media accounts and websites of organisations like GeoNet, GNS Science and Victoria University.

 

 - Stuff

Comments

Ad Feedback
special offers
Auckland

Real estate agent loses appeal

Aaron Drever needs to wait five years before he can reapply for his licence.

A west Aucklander has lost a High Court appeal to get his real estate agent licence back.

Changes to New Lynn roadworks

15082017 Photo: John Kirk-Anderson/Stuff

Roadworks on the intersection of Fitzgerald Ave and Worcester Street.

Auckland contractors complete first stage of culvert work on flood-damaged intersection.

Ambo travels 1200km for patient

A special ambulance was driven from Auckland to Christchurch to carry a patient weighing more than 300 kilograms. (File ...

A special ambulance was driven more than 1200km to carry a patient weighing more than 320 kilograms.

'Business as usual' soon video

Energy Minister Judith Collins says Auckland airport's fuel crisis is coming to end.

Wellington

Prestigious Hutt home gallery

The former Upper Hutt home of one of New Zealand's most distinctive residential architects, James Chapman-Taylor, is on ...

Celebrated Lower Hutt architect's home back on market.

Families 'not coping'

In May 2017, there was an average of six months between initial contact and follow up appointments for youth accessing ...

Teens seeking non-urgent mental health appointment would have to wait at least eight weeks.

NZR tackles homophobia video

New Zealand Rugby boss, Steve Tew, wants to create an inclusive environment where players can openly "express their ...

There's never been an openly gay All Black, but that could change with NZR's more inclusive attitude, says Steve Tew.

Man on fire dies

Cordons were set up around Parliament after the incident.

The man who reportedly set himself on fire outside Parliament has died overnight, police say.

Canterbury

What's with the giant spray cans?

Some of the cans will be used for workshops and for young street artists to practise.

The 4.5 metre-high cans are part of a new space coming to central Christchurch.

Ram raid car theft video

Corrie Dewagt, Panel shop foreman at Andrews & Gilmore Panel & Paint looks down at broken pieces of a gate. A Nissan ...

Thieves smashed way into a panel beater's and took a Nissan Skyline GTR.

Ambo travels 1200km for patient

A special ambulance was driven from Auckland to Christchurch to carry a patient weighing more than 300 kilograms. (File ...

A special ambulance was driven more than 1200km to carry a patient weighing more than 320 kilograms.

Toddler's disappearance baffles

Amber-Lee Cruickshank, pictured age one, went missing on October 17, 1992.

Police travelled to Aussie outback for answers about what happened to Amber-Lee Cruickshank.

Waikato

Mack cheats death, again video

Sharla Pearce was terrified her dog would die after falling down a Waikato River bank. Fire rescue came and rescued Mack ...

After surviving death row, a "goofball" pooch found himself in another spot of trouble.

Footbridge a priority

A footbridge across the Waikato River could connect central Hamilton to Parana Park and Memorial Park. Pictured is an ...

There's a push for more work on plans for a pedestrian bridge to link central Hamilton and Parana Park.

Killer highway's $6m salve

Two people were killed on SH3 between 2005 and 2014.

Rumble strips, side barriers and intersection improvements on the way for SH3.

A year's rain in 9 months

Waikato residents have been forced to find shelter where they can over the past nine months (file photo)

Rainfall records tumble as Waikato wades through wettest year ever.

Taranaki

The 'downhill slide'

11092017 News Photo ANDY JACKSON/STUFF.  The Ticking Timebomb, a series looking at the rising issues of Alzheimers ...

He's forgotten how to peel potatoes but fears forgetting his children most.

Armed cops in street

Firefighters don hazmat suits at the scene on Turakina St.

Officers who entered a suspected clandestine lab have been put through a decontamination shower.

Home stretch awaits Hareb

Paige Hareb is looking to make her presence felt in her final two events of the year.

She's been in contention all year, now the Kiwi surfer knows it's time to lock in her qualification to the world tour.

Dementia: a love story video

11092017 News Photo ANDY JACKSON/STUFF.  The Ticking Timebomb, a series looking at the rising issues of alzheimers ...

Tom Matiaha's 24 years as a soldier could not prepare him for his family's battle against a hidden foe: Alzheimer's disease.

Manawatu

Car and train collide

The scene of the crash at Ohau, where a motorist died when their car collided with a northbound train.

A car driver died after a crash with a train on State Highway 1, south of Levin.

Car catches fire

The car caught fire on Napier Rd, just out of Palmerston North.

Smoke was seen coming out from under the bonnet moments before the car caught fire.

No more snooping

Horowhenua mayor Michael Feyen refused to vote on a new email blocking policy.

The Horowhenua District Council is changing the way it screens emails.

83-year-old dies in crash

A car and a truck crashed at an intersection in Levin.

The man died on Monday after his car collided with a truck in Levin.

Nelson

Makos legend back in the fold

Robbie Malneek last played for the Tasman Makos during the 2015 Mitre 10 Cup season.

Robbie Malneek, the only player to reach 100 caps for the Tasman Makos, has been handed an unlikely recall.

Car-free summer

Kerry and Garry Ford of Ford's restaurant and bar in upper Trafalgar Street, which will become a pedestrian zone over ...

The top of Nelson's Trafalgar St is going to be traffic free for four months this summer.

New SHAs approved

12072017 NEWS PHOTO MARTIN DERUYTER/ STUFF

The former Green Grocer Store on the corner of Grove St and Tasman St in The ...

Seven new SHAs approved by the Nelson City Council including a tiny house project.

Bugged by litter bugs

Ali Lawley and her son Charlie Calderbank, aged 10, on Franklyn St next to Nelson College.

Braemar Eco village residents want littering outside Nelson College to stop

Marlborough

Environment judge called in

Leachate run-off and ponding from grape marc dump sites in Marlborough. (File pic)

A prominent winemaker and a new company he is linked to - dubbed the "complete solution" to grape marc - are to be dealt with by the Environment Court.

'Stupid thing to do'

Blenheim District Court.

A man has admitted shooting out a window at the health hub in the central business district.

Police called to polling booth

Kaikōura Labour candidate Janette Walker delivering pamphlets at Dillons Point Rd, in Blenheim, earlier this week.

"He wanted my details. I gave him about half of them," says Kaikōura candidate as she refuses to leave.

Leap in rateable values

New capital values across Marlborough show a big increase for Picton properties. (File pic)

Some properties have seen their capital value incease by a whopping 28 per cent.

South Canterbury

Timaru's next tourism attraction?

In May a High Court Judge ruled the Rangatira be sold to pay off more than $170,000 owed to PrimePort.

Fisherman hopes community will save ship with Hollywood connection from the scrap heap.

Building on King visit

Mike King speaks to Timaru Girls' High pupils in July. The health board is looking to build on the momentum created by ...

SCDHB looks to build on ties with mental health sector as a result of Mike King's visit.

Time to spring forward

Butcher Jim Bower's early mornings will be even darker and busier when Daylight Saving kicks in on Sunday.

Dust off the barbecue, it's time for long evenings as Daylight Savings starts.

Hatchery positive of salmon returns

Phil de Joux watches the salmon enter McKinnon Creek following incubation in July last year.

Volunteers of South Canterbury salmon hatchery hope for a better season.

Otago

Budding booze baron busted

Richard Gray in the Dunedin District Court

A Dunedin man says he feels better after he was busted for selling home brew to two teens who later ended up in hospital.

Six-figure golden handshake

Aurora Energy boss Grady Cameron's exit package means he will make nearly $1 million in a year.

Otago lines company boss's 'excessive' exit package means he'll make nearly $1m this year.

Whale sounds wash over Dunedin

Caro McCaw, of Otago Polytechnic, listens to the recorded sounds of whales at an exhibition in Dunedin.

It'll be easy having a whale of time in Dunedin, just don't forget an umbrella.

Waterfall search for man

Police are searching for missing Dunedin man Stephen Lowe.

Police divers search a Catlins waterfall and river for missing Dunedin man Stephen Lowe.

Southland

Investigators baffled by child's disappearance

Amber-Lee Cruickshank, pictured age one, went missing on October 17, 1992.

Police travelled to the Australian outback looking for answers about what happened to toddler Amber-Lee Cruickshank 25 years ago.

70 years strong

John and Joan Welsh with their wedding day photo from 1947.

On September 22, John and Joan Welsh celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.

Munro connection to boat

In May a High Court Judge ruled the Rangatira be sold to pay off more than $170,000 owed to PrimePort.

Fisherman hopes community will save ship with Hollywood connection from the scrap heap.

Trust announces it will seek review

Community Trust of Southland chair Margot Hishon

The Community Trust of Southland will seek a ministerial review into the circumstances surrounding the departure of its former chief executive. 

Ad Feedback