Canty quake expert honoured

21:26, May 04 2011

The man whose work ensured the Canterbury earthquakes were among the best-recorded in the world has won a top Kiwi engineering honour.

Christchurch civil engineer Dr John Berrill has been awarded this year's New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering's president's award for helping develop a low-cost strong-motion seismic instrument that was installed in 36 places around Canterbury before last September's magnitude-7.1 quake.

More were then deployed and captured a rich vein of data from the Boxing Day and February aftershocks.

The equipment at Heathcote Valley School measured peak ground accelerations upwards of more than 2.2 times that of gravity only three seconds into the February 22 magnitude-6.3 quake.

Berrill, who is retired from Canterbury University's department of civil and natural resources engineering department, was also a leading light in the conception and planning of the region's recording network before the big quakes. That network is now part of GeoNet's grid.

The society's executive officer, Win Clark, said data from the equipment was now being used internationally by engineers and seismologists to push the boundaries of quake research.

Berrill told The Press he was pleased to receive the honour, which he said also recognised the work of two doctoral students, Dr Caroline Holden, now of GNS Science, and Dr Hamish Avery, of Canterbury Seismic Instruments, who designed the seismograph.

Avery had since refined it and made the company an international player, while Holden was carrying out research based on data the equipment had recorded.

''Ours wasn't completely new,'' Berrill said, ''but it was the first to be designed as an internet appliance from the start. That cut out the high costs of maintenance in retrieving records. Before that you had to go round them every six months or so just to make sure the batteries were charged.''                                                                                                                                          


The Press