In the 40 years since I first came to live in Hope Ness I’ve seen, heard, and felt a lot of memorable natural occurrences: a few specially intense, zero-visibility blizzards; the sky turning green over nearby Hope Bay as a tornado approached; a ball of lightning rolling across the kitchen floor after the house was struck; the explosive crack of a thick, old hardwood beam as the old drive shed collapsed under the weight of snow; half a dozen deer caught nibbling on my rows of beans in the glow of my flashlight. They ran off, and we continue to co-exist peacefully.
But I never heard and felt the earth rumble and roar, as in an earthquake. Never, that is, until yesterday evening, December 13, 2019. And yes, it was a Friday. But just a coincidence, of course.
I was in the kitchen and in the midst of making pizza for expected family visitors. Nothing unusual about that, happens at least once a week, following the usual routine of preparing the toppings, rolling out the dough, preheating the oven, while the dogs, Sophie the cockapoo especially, kept a close eye out for any morsel that might fall off the cutting board.
And then suddenly, without warning, the house began to shake with a loud, rumbling noise. It lasted for two or three seconds at most. I had a sense until it stopped that it could be heading for something a lot worse. My first thought was that part of this old farmhouse was collapsing, quite possibly the newer (1941), kitchen add-on section where we spend most of our time. It was a relief when the noise and shaking stopped. No cups or glasses had fallen off the shelves or out of the cupboards. The dogs stopped barking and, like me, were looking around to see what had happened. Did a truck coming down the driveway slide off on some ice and hit a corner of the house?
I pulled on a paid of boots, donned my toque and went outside with a flashlight, and the dogs, for a quick look around the house. Nothing amiss, no collapsed roof, no big fallen tree. I walked up to the 125-year-old barn, half expecting it had fallen down. Relief, again. That had not happened.
Back in the house there was no obvious sign of any damage. The electricity was still working. The water was running; so, apparently whatever it was had not affected the new well drilled just a few years ago. So, I don’t have any damage photos to show a waiting world.
A while later on Facebook my neighbors were starting to ask others, “Did you feel that?” And some had already replied, that yes, they had. So, I too, joined the social media chorus, and the speculation: what could it have been?
Somebody suggested an over-flying F-18 must have gone to afterburners and caused a sonic boom. Somebody else said they’d heard there had been a 6.0 earthquake in Virginia, a good thousand miles south if I’m not mistaken. I tended to go with the sonic boom idea. The possibility of an earthquake didn’t seem to be high up among the possibilities, if it came up at all.
But low and behold, today, several local media outlets, including the Owen Sound Sun Times, were carrying the on-line news that Natural Resources Canada had confirmed that a “small” earthquake, registering just 2.1 on the Richter scale, had happened. From what I’ve just read in the information on-line, that is barely above the level that can be heard and felt by people in the affected area.
In which case, I have a suspicion what we felt in this area was of greater magnitude than that.
But ff that’s what a “small’ earthquake feels like, I can hardly imagine something in the order of 6, 7, 8, or even higher on the scale. One also has to keep in mind that the Richter scale numbers are easily misunderstood regarding the actual magnitude of an earthquake. “Each increase of one unit on the scale represents a 10-fold increase in the magnitude of an earthquake,” says the Encyclopedia Britannica.
While the Richter scale is still routinely used for the news media, there are newer methods that more accurately convey the greater danger of larger quakes, compared to small ones. An earthquake the size (up to 3.0) of the one that took place in the Hope Ness/Hope Bay area 24 hours ago happens somewhere in the world on average 100,000 times per year. A very dangerous, 8.0 quake happens just three times.
Let me just say this: 2.1 – if indeed that’s what it was here — is enough, thank you.