Solid Ground

We use the term ‘on solid ground’ without really thinking abut the firmness of the earth beneath our feet, roads or buiidings. This week’s partial colla[se of a twelve story condo in Florida must have caused many people to worry about the ground they live on. How solid isit? How likely is it to subside or to shake? We have seen or read about plenty of examples of both.

Since I live in a condo building about ten years younger and four stories shorter than the Florida one, I did wonder about my chance of survival when the structure began to shake, sink or collapse. If we were lucky, my husband and I might have tim to get out on our terrace where we could be rescued by a cherry picker. but then taller parts of the building behind us might crash down on our terrace even though they are not directly over it. We are on the 5th floor so that jumping woud not be recommended. Disasters that happen in the middle of the night are the worst. How can you navgate your way through broken walls and piles of rubbe when it’s so dark you can’t even see? There shoud be a law that earthquakes etc can only occur during hours of daylight.

I was born and grew up in a shaky country. I rememer as child seeing the light bulbs which hung from the ceiling start to sway and knowing we werehaving an earthquake. As a child they didn’t bother me because I had no idea of the loss of life and damage that could be caused. Sometimes the quakes were long and swinging while at other times they were short sharp jolts. Foreigners found them scary but we were used to them especilly as I lived in an extra shaky part of the country. At school, we were instructed to crawl under our desks or to stand in a doorway where there was extra support..

My opinion of quakes changed when I started university and took Geograhy 101. The university was in Wellington where in e i 1856 a very large quake had brought up land from the harbour, It did not cause sue much damage as there were very few people living in the area in those days. Our lecyurerg in WEllingto at the time. Our lecturer watned us that we were dangerousbly overdue or a majr shake and this time the results would be disastrous with great loss of life. That ceetaint scared me and many of my fellow students. As older adults, we all saw the catastrophic effects of the Christchurch earthquakes.

I had four famiy membeers who were involved in the Napier 1931 quake. My cousin was a baby so he didn;t remember anything but his father’s electrical apliance shop burned down in the fire tht followed and my aunt and the baby were evacuated tto a town any miles south. I still have the telegams sent to her arets saying that th whole family was safe. Not everybody survived. I read that 256 people died. My mother was at boarding school and they were lucky to be outside at recess when the quake struck. She saw girls being injured and watched workers fall from a building under costruction, The students from her town came home by sea as all the roads were damaged or even missing.The town was quickly rebuilt and the new land that rose up became the site of the airport.

So, maybe the expression of ‘Solid ground’ shoud be banned unless we can be really sure that we know what we are talking about The troubke is we find out that the land is not solid fter the fact. Mother Earth likes to surorise us.