Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Ready for the Big One?

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  • Lucy Stewart,

    Those two who broke into the chemist shop to get diabetes medication and were shot for looting - would that happen?

    If it had been long enough, probably you'd get a few vigilante crazies. I'm more inclined to let that slide because it worked story-wise, and it was fiction.

    Lucy: I saw that docudrama and I thought it was quite unrealistic that they closed off the Wellington region at Otaki and didn't let anyone near the Miramar peninsula or the main affected areas. People would walk, climb and clamber, or steal jetskis to get to their families.

    I bought that. You'd get a few people through, but with the roads out it'd be nearly impossible, and the last thing you want in that sort of situation is people coming *into* the zone who aren't part of an organised rescue plan. They'd have to at least try.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • Caleb D'Anvers,

    This looks like an interesting read:

    New Zealand is a group of islands that sits astride the boundary between two major tectonic plates. It is therefore highly vulnerable to earthquakes, volcanism, landslips, and tsunamis. While the consequences of earth processes on human communities in modern times are beginning to be well understood, that understanding has not yet been applied to Maori communities in pre-European times .... it is now apparent that Maori were living in a very unstable landscape, one periodically rocked by volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. This geological activity set off chains of events that had hugely detrimental impacts on the communities caught up in them.

    As does this: Cosmogenic mega-tsunami in the Australia Region: Are They Supported by Aboriginal and Maori Legends?.

    London SE16 • Since Mar 2008 • 482 posts Report Reply

  • Alien Lizard (anag),

    The internet won't fail though? It was designed to withstand nuclear war, so surely earthquakes and supervolcanoes wouldn't break it.

    But will the surviving alpha species - cockroaches - be able to operate the computers (and generate the power)?

    The Arrrgh Complex • Since Jan 2010 • 158 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    Caleb D'Anvers - my heart sank a bit when I noted Ted Bryant was a co-author of that paper...for what it's worth, James Goff, Bruce McFadgen and self co-authored a paper entitled "The Mystic Fires of Tamatea" *refuting Bryant's claim that a meterorite had struck Tuatapere, wiping out S.I Maori and destroying the moa etc. and partially attempting to prove this by using *any* Maori name(including one from the Nelson area) that had the syllable 'ka' in it indicated
    the fire-from-heaven. You know - Owaka? That'd do...when Dr Bryant was questioned by the media about this, he sputtered that the language these place names were in *wasnt Maori.*

    *available as a pdf on-line

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Ashby,

    @John Fouhy

    I have a wind up torch too, it's part of the wind up radio that sits in my garage workshop (no cable to hog limited outlets and get in the way of power tools). At a pinch I can smash the window and grab it from outside. Not that I would want to be in this house in Eastern Scotland if a proper earthquake hit. Far too much heavy, inflexible stuff around and above me.

    In NZ you may have to have your house lifted up and put back on its foundations after a quake, but it will be essentially intact. Provided as Russ says, it doesn't slide down the hill. NZers do seem rather cavalier about cantilevering living quarters out over steep descending hills. Even above the Hutt Valley, fault line central. I suppose you take your chances, but what about the poor sods who live below you? And why were people granted permission to build like that? in an earthquake zone?

    But then there's Greymouth and its CBD below river level, still not moved up the hill. We humans are strange, if nothing bad happens for a few years we think we're bulletproof then act all surprised when Nature takes a swipe at us.

    Russ, I wish I had sent you that assessment of the effects of a new vent in the Auckland field years ago when I first found it. Was ignorance bliss?

    Dundee, Scotland • Since May 2007 • 425 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    The Greymouth District Council built a bloody great river wall to prevent river inundation about a decade & a half ago: it has, thus far, worked.

    My self-built house has ridden out - it moved like a ship - a 6.7. Not a single book fell off my many many shelves. Nor did a cupboard open (they're all latched.) Foundations bolted to concrete, and a contained shingle base under them. Water cylinder seismic-strapped. V. tall range chimney (goes up 12 metres) secured to my north-facing wall.
    With that degree of earthquake, no probs.

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Water cylinder seismic-strapped

    Emma may seek advice..

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19719 posts Report Reply

  • Caleb D'Anvers,

    Thanks, Islander! I've tracked down your paper and will read it this afternoon. Blundering innocently into contentious subject areas due to a lack of knowledge of underlying terrain: I'm good at that. But the whole subject is utterly fascinating.

    London SE16 • Since Mar 2008 • 482 posts Report Reply

  • recordari,

    In related news, sort of "Locals Audition for Darwin Awards During Melbourne Flash Flood".

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    The water cylinder was strapped when newly-installed, and my range was being assembled = plenty of space to do the job.

    Caleb D'Anvers - cool! I find the subject fascinating too- if you want, I have one of Catherine Chague-Goff's papers where she investigates a meteor-generated site (supposedly 15th century) and discovers Victorian brickwork underneath it. There is also a wonderful ANZ book, came out a couple of years ago (title momentarily escaped) which covers earthquakes, eruptions and especially tsunami, and includes the Maori tales and legends associated with them. Bruce & James & Catherine figure largely in that. Incidentally, the area under discussion in the paper is Tapanui: one of my guests was talking about Tuatapere at a crucial moment, and my fingers obediently typed that...

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Russ, I wish I had sent you that assessment of the effects of a new vent in the Auckland field years ago when I first found it. Was ignorance bliss?

    What makes you think I'm not still ignoring it?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • SteveH,

    @Rich:

    Basically, the whole of Yellowstone is a volcano. A volcano so big, you can only see the whole thing when you're in orbit. Apparently it's overdue for another blow.

    Calling Yellowstone overdue is really just fear-mongering. It's based on three data points: the VEI 8 eruptions 2.1Ma, 1.3Ma and 640ka. And if you do the maths you'll find that those eruptions are, on average, 730,000 years apart. So, on average, it's not due for another 90,000 years. However trying to come to any prediction based on extrapolating three data points is the worst kind of statistics abuse. About all we can really say is that it'll probably produce another VEI 8 eruption within the next half million years or so. It could be tomorrow, or the human race might already be extinct when it happens.

    @Lucy:

    Most earthquakes are caused by the plates of the earth's crust sliding past each other, getting caught, and then releasing and shifting (a little simplistic, but essentially correct).

    Earthquakes where two plates are sliding horizontally past each other are generally not that powerful (relatively). The really big quakes are called megathrust quakes and occur when one plate is subducting under another. Both this latest Chiliean quake and the quake that caused the Boxing Day tsunami are in this category. The bad news is that the North Island is atop just such a subduction zone.

    Since Sep 2009 • 444 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    "Locals Audition for Darwin Awards During Melbourne Flash Flood"

    Find religion, misunderstand power of moving water

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19719 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    Earthquakes where two plates are sliding horizontally past each other are generally not that powerful (relatively). The really big quakes are called megathrust quakes and occur when one plate is subducting under another. Both this latest Chiliean quake and the quake that caused the Boxing Day tsunami are in this category. The bad news is that the North Island is atop just such a subduction zone.

    I think this is another of the things Russell is trying not to think about.

    Calling Yellowstone overdue is really just fear-mongering.

    Calling any natural disaster "overdue" is fear-mongering to some degree, given that they don't work to schedules. But the fact of the power and uncontrollability of that scale of eruption is real, and it *will*, at some point, happen. And we won't be able to do a damn thing about it. That's worth knowing about - and that's where the real fear lies, even if it's highly unlikely to happen in any given year.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Wellington, we're looking at you..

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19719 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I've got a kit, but the main thing of use in it is really the water.

    It's pretty hard to plan for an unspecific emergency. There's virtually no assumption you can make, including whether or not your preparations will even be available. I guess mental preparation is the only thing you can be sure to have on you, and even then only if you made the effort, and renewed it occasionally.

    Incidentally, if you still have power or gas, or even wood, then fresh water is not that hard to make from salt water. Boil it off, directing the steam at something cold, and fresh water will drip off it. Also, sterilizing water that has gone bad is pretty easy. I find it pretty hard to believe that there wouldn't be a lot of plastic bottles floating around even if you didn't have the foresight to hoard them. One thing to be said for recycling is that I always know where there's a handy supply of plastic bottles. A disaster would probably conveniently scatter them around.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10653 posts Report Reply

  • Just thinking,

    I doubt the PET bottle sterilizing process and wouldn't have anyone use it if there was any alternative.

    To my mind it's just another reason to have household roof fed watertanks.

    Putaringamotu • Since Apr 2009 • 1158 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I doubt the PET bottle sterilizing process and wouldn't have anyone use it if there was any alternative.

    I think most people who do use it don't have much alternative. In a disaster, I think I'd risk it. If it was that or just drinking dirty water....

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10653 posts Report Reply

  • recordari,

    Perhaps we should start some community programmes and invest in several of these. Being surrounded by ocean, we should last a while.

    Scrap that, this one has wireless internet access, so we can keep checking on PAS.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    SODIS
    As mentioned in WIKI it has been under investigation for a few years. It does appear to work. And the beauty of it is that it is so simple. I am aware of some cunning sod putting a form of activated carbon (charcoal) on a filter substrate that is inserted into the bottle. The sunlight acts on the carbon and splits organics a lot faster than heat only. Others have put a colour activated paint on the bottle to indicate when the temp has got hot enough for strerilisation.

    The link to the Swiss research (Wegelin) is here:

    The bottle will get hotter if a sheet of plastic is put over it with a small air gap between the sheet and the bottle that insulates it. But I suspect with a black sheet of paper on the back half of the bottle and a bit of foam behind the paper the temperature should cruise on up PDQ - Give me sun lots of sun but!!

    Keep the idea in mind when the dunny water runs out!!!!

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1590 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    And Titanium Oxide works as well

    And Wegelin has done a bit more(2001) and more (2008). Obviously there was a concern about plasticisers leaching but it appears not to be any more than 'normal' bottled water.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1590 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    Sun is a problem here but water- aint-

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    The bottle will get hotter if a sheet of plastic is put over it with a small air gap between the sheet and the bottle that insulates it. But I suspect with a black sheet of paper on the back half of the bottle and a bit of foam behind the paper the temperature should cruise on up PDQ - Give me sun lots of sun but!!

    Put it on a dashboard, or a rear window of a car. Or lay smaller bottles in the corrugations of a piece of darker colored corrugated iron.

    I don't think it really needs to get that hot. It's pasteurization that is required, not boiling.

    You can cook with solar power too. A premade one would be light and easy to pack in an emergency kit, but it's another thing for which the parts can easily be found.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10653 posts Report Reply

  • recordari,

    But what about the BPA?

    Oh well, long term degenerative disease is the least of our worries I guess when the big one comes.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Yeah I'd be a bit more concerned about the organisms in dirty water than the chemicals in the plastic bottle. Given the realistic alternatives to plastic are metal or glass, you'll be able to carry a lot more water if it's in plastic.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10653 posts Report Reply

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