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


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.

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


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

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.

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 ...

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 ...

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.


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.


​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.


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."


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


Ad Feedback
special offers

No end in sight to expansion at Sylvia Park

Kiwi Property Group chief executive Chris Gudgeon will leave the company in September 2018 after 10 years with the company.

Kiwi Property directors don't share concerns about static consumption or the death of shopping malls.

Ninth synthetic cannabis victim

A ninth Auckland death has been linked to synthetic cannabis.

There's been another death attributed to use of the drug.

Breast fondling doctor's court appeal

The Medical Council of New Zealand has suspended Dr Mushfiq Ahmad's practicing certificate.

In 2016 Dr Mushfiq Ahmad indecently assaulted six female temporary workers.

Former politician turns educator video

Sam Lotu-Iiga will join Manukau Institute of Technology as deputy chief executive Pasifika.

Pesata Sam Lotu-Iiga is looking forward to the opportunity to help get people into jobs with his new role.


The secret possum rescuers video

Dawn the baby possum is four months old and thriving.

They're one of our most hated pests. But there's an underground network trying to save them.

Our crumbling capital

A car was crushed by a slip on Palliser Rd, Roseneath,Wellington.

Wellington has become slip city, with about 400 reported this winter already, far more than usual. But why?

Police defend sneaky snaps

Police photograph protesters at the 350 Aotearoa climate change protest outside Parliament in June.

Cops delete their pics of Rex Tillerson protesters, but their actions have drawn criticism.

Log hits forestry worker

A forestry worker was in great pain after being struck by a log in rural Wairarapa. (File photo)

Injured worker struck by log winched out of forestry block and flown to hospital.


Nurse shuns diets, loses 46kg video

Lisa Press says at 55 she feels better than she has ever felt in her life.

She's gone from 114kg and breathless to 68kg and "the happiest and strongest" she's been.

300m Canty car roll

A man has crashed 300 metres down a bank in Canterbury. (File photo)

A man has serious injuries after rolling his car over 300 metres down a bank.

The battle for Christchurch Central

National's Nicky Wagner is the sitting Christchurch Central MP.

Blue jacket vs red swanny: Nicky Wagner and Duncan Webb talk tactics and campaigning in the heart of the city.

Jetty repair edging closer

Fixing the 300 metre-long Governors Bay jetty could start next year, with $700,000 secured so far.

Fixing the 300 metre-long Governors Bay jetty could start next year, with $700k in the bag.


Ferrari clocked at 210kmh

A Ferrari California T similar to the one Hui Zhang was driving when he was pulled over after speeding at 210kmh on the ...

Businessman roared on when cop spotted late model Ferrari California on expressway.

Rennie airs Chiefs' 'hate' video

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie will join Scotland club Glasgow Warriors after Super Rugby.

Chiefs and Crusaders have hardly had a cosy relationship since Dave Rennie took over.

Home burns to ground

Neighbours were the first to spot the flames surging from the 30m by 15m building around 11.30am on Thursday.

Residents were in a nearby town when they heard the fire siren.

Growth gobbles up rural roads

Roadworks on Hamilton's Kay Road are a blessing in that they slow drivers down, resident Sian Wilson says.

Residents ask council for footpaths and lower speed limits on what were once rural roads.


Asbestos removal continues

Ambulances at the ready at their Barrett Street Hospital base in New Plymouth circa 1981.

The demolition work at Barrett St Hospital has no set end date and will "cost us just over a million dollars".

Te reo? No problem

Most Taranaki secondary schools offer both compulsory and optional te reo Maori classes

Did you learn te reo Maori at high school?

The rich and the richer

mazon President, Chairman and CEO Jeff Bezos has been named the richest person in the world.

OPINION: Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos are obscenely wealthy but they've also made the world a more convenient place. Is that enough?

New owners for burger joint

New Prohibition owners Andy Le and Gabby Tran will be keeping the burger restaurant much the same.

A popular New Plymouth burger joint is under new ownership but the burgers won't change.


Wowed over WOW

Jennie Munro in her workshop with costumes that have been finalists in Wellington's international World Of Wearable Arts ...

A Palmerston North designer has made the finals of September's wearable arts show.

No intercepting emails

Horizons Regional Council chief executive Michael McCartney sees no reason to intercept emails, unlike Horowhenua ...

Council chief executives see no reason for intercepting emails - unlike Horowhenua council's boss.

Collar-dragging teacher cleared

Clive Stevens with his grandmother Maureen Stevens.

Teacher who dragged special needs student along floor did nothing wrong, investigation finds.

Back to school

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei stopped to talk with Tanika Jeffery, 14, who was learning speech writing in te reo, at ...

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei talks education at her old high school.


Cafe plans for historic building


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

After 20 years as a greengrocer, a heritage building in The Wood could be home to a new cafe.

Man critically injured

A man has critical injuries after a car hit a tree on the Coastal Highway.

Driver trapped in a car with serious injuries after a car hit a tree near Nelson.

Tool time returns to preschool video

Phoenix Brimble-Morrison uses tools donated by Mitre 10 Mega to Healthkids Preschool after its previous tools were stolen.

Hand drills, hammers and saws stolen from a Nelson preschool have been generously replaced.

Calls to defer Waimea dam plan

Lindsay McKenzie says the degree of uncertainty about the level of commitment to the dam project is of concern.

Lack of binding commitments by other potential funders of the dam frustrates TDC.


'Our niche is Marlborough'

Dog Point Vineyard co-owners and event sponsors Ivan Sutherland, left, and James Healy read up for the Marlborough Book ...

With intimate venues and stunning surrounds, the Marlborough Book Festival is a little different.

Power to the people

Marlborough Lines managing director Ken Forrest shows off the newest addition to the company fleet, an all-electric ...

A lines company is letting residents take a spin in its new electric car.

Bigger planes?

Sounds Air chief executive Andrew Crawford inside the cockpit of one of the company's 9-seat Pilatus PC-12s.

Demand for flights prompts Marlborough airline to investigate "quantum leap" to larger planes.

Blenheim bemoans unfair fares

Air New Zealand said it would not be reinstating direct flights to Christchurch from Marlborough Airport.

"It's almost like we've offended Air New Zealand somehow and they're making us pay." 

South Canterbury

Troops stage op in Waimate

Private  Nathan Hammond keeps a watchful eye out at a vehicle checkpoint in Waimate.

Waimate has been turned into a foreign nation infiltrated by insurgents- but only for a week.

Disease hits top farm

Aad and Wilma van Leeuwen's herd has been struck by the cow disease Mycoplasma bovis, and 150 of their cattle will have ...

Rich-list farming dynasty which owns world's "largest robotic farm" devastated by cow disease.

Teen sentenced to home detention

A teenager who helped to steal more than $41,000 of goods from a dairy, stole vehicles and set a car alight has been ...

Home detention for teenager involved in crime spree across Canterbury.

Region poised for milk boost

While the forecast price rise from Fonterra is good new for South Canterbury dairy farmers, regional Federated Farmers ...

Another $25m added to South Canterbury farmers' milk payout.


Fire guts city house

Firemen at the scene of the gutted house, which was owned by former mayor Eve Poole, on Friday morning.

A fire has gutted the house of former mayor Eve Poole in Invercargill this morning.

Mass killing fantasies

Southland man Tony Gow has been sentenced in the High Court at Invercargill after admitting a raft of firearms offences, ...

A Southland man who fantasised about mass killings could not get the mental health help he needed, court told.

World champs beckon

New Zealand discus thrower Marshall Hall practices ahead of the 2017 IAAF World Championships.

Invercargill discus thrower 'committed and focused' ahead of world championships.

Ice causing crashes

10082016. News.Kavinda Herath. Southland Times/Stuff-Ice on the Winton Lorneville Highway

Police are warning drivers to take it slow and beware of ice on the roads.

Ad Feedback