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THE LATE EARTHQUAKE.
THE earthquake which occurred in England and Ireland on the morning of Tuesday, the 9th of November, presents features of marked interest, not alone from the great rarity of the phenomenon in the British islands, but also from the wide diffusion of the disturbing power, and the peculiar circumstances under which it manifested itself. Happily, the force of the earthquake, or amount of tremulous action, was everywhere very slight. As far as can be gathered from various reports, the area included within the influence of the force in question extended from north-west to southeast, from Newry and Tandragee in Ireland, some sixty miles north-west of Dublin, to the neighbourhood of London. Its centre of intensity appears to have comprised Dublin and its neighbourhood, North Wales, as far as Shrewsbury and Aberystwith, and the basin of the Mersey, including Liverpool and Manchester. It was felt at the Isle of Man, but not, as far as is known, at sea, which may, however, have arisen from the disturbance of the sea itself by other causes at the same time.
The shock appears to have manifested itself in Dublin at about four o'clock in the morning. As in other places, although hundreds of persons distinctly felt the vibration consequent upon the shock, yet, from the novelty of the phenomenon, but very few were aware of its real nature; and it was only as the day advanced, and as people met in the streets and compared observations, that a general conclusion was arrived at, that what at first seemed mere surmise was in truth a stern reality.
It appears that the houses in the city and its neighbourhood were simultaneously shaken to their foundations, and the greater number of their inmates aroused from sleep by the sudden noise and motion. In all cases the windows shook violently, and the delf, glasses, and candlesticks, and in most instances chairs, beds, and furniture, rattled audibly. The motion seemed to pass from north north-east to south south-west, which does not tally with its apparent line of prolongation to North Wales and the basin of the Mersey, nor with the supposition of the British earthquake being the outer wave of some great earthquake which may have shaken cities or kingdoms at a distance from us. The duration of the shock is variously given at from fourteen to twenty seconds. Some described the sensation as that arising from two rapidly succeeding shocks, and not one continuous one. The day was uncommonly mild for the season of the year, and everybody was conscious of the closeness of the atmosphere. The maximum of the thermometer was, on the day previous, 63 deg., the minimum 54 deg., the barometer, 29.820, wind southwest, with occasional rain.
In one instance, a portion of the ceiling fell; in several instances, more particularly at Howth, at Newbridge, and elsewhere, persons were actually thrown out of their beds. At Phibsborough, a stack of chimneys fell, and at Kingstown a portion of the boundary wall of the quay was levelled. In some places the noise was like that of the arrival of a train, at others like an explosion. Sparrows were killed by the shock.
At Kilbride, in the county Wicklow, and at an elevation of 700 feet above the level of the sea, the houses are said to have rocked in a most fearful manner, and the beds to have pitched like a ship at sea.
Subsequent information has shown that the earthquake was not confined to Dublin and its vicinity, but that it was felt also at Newry and Tandragee, some sixty miles north of the metropolis. As also at Carlow, fifty miles to the south-west. Castle Howard, at Arklow, was shaken to its foundations. The western and more southerly counties appear, however, to have escaped the unusual visitation.
The earthquake is described as having been felt at Liverpool at 4.30, and the shock appears to have been strongest along the line of the river, particularly at Bootle, a village at the north end of the docks. The vibration was also felt at Birkenhead, and in the villages on the Cheshire side of the Mersey. The phenomena accompanying the shock were confined mainly to rumbling noises, tremulous motion of houses, shaking of beds and furniture, and stopping of clocks. In one case only a soap-box was shaken from a dressing-table, and broken to pieces. In Liverpool, as at Dublin, the earthquake was less sensibly felt without the houses. A police-officer, leaning against one of the landing-waiters' huts, describes the hut to have shaken so much that he thought he and it would have fallen into the dock. The weather had been wet and sultry for some days past; on the 9th the day was dark and misty, with a drizzling rain.
Pretty nearly similar phenomena were experienced at Manchester at, or about, the same time, and very naturally caused no small consternation.
Earthquakes, which have been very justly described as "the most terrific of all natural phenomena," are happily of such rare occurrence in these realms, that we cannot feel surprised at the sensation caused by a first intimacy with a visitation of such a fearful description. These feelings are well portrayed in a private letter from a young lady visiting at the time a relative in Manchester, and with the perusal of which we have been favoured:
"I fear I shall scarcely be believed when I say that I felt the shock very distinctly. I was awakened by the room shaking violently; I started up, and felt (for I could not see, as we do not burn a light) the furniture in the room was vibrating in a very strange manner; this, however, I naturally attributed to the passing of some heavy waggon. The vibration appeared to continue for about a minute after I awoke. There was no rumbling or any perceptible noise accompanying the shock, but the windows shook as they do at home when a heavily-laden luggagetrain is passing. One of the servants was awakened with the idea that the house was on fire, and falling down. The city of Manchester is thrown into a great state of excitement, and people can talk of nothing but the earthquake: we might be living in the neighbourhood of Vesuvius. The weather continues excessively warm and damp, and not a breath of wind to stir the air; the evening before the earthquake was extremely oppressive. The thunderstorm of Friday, though it did not do any mischief, is generally acknowledged to have been as severe as any experienced here this year, and seems to have been a kind of a forerunner of the earthquake, for, instead of cooling the atmosphere, the heat has been increasing ever since."
The earthquake was, it appears from the reports of the newspapers, the subject of much conversation in the Exchange throughout the day, and in all places of business. A gentleman at Sale, who, from a previous
residence at Saint Domingo, was familiar with the phenomenon, recognised the sensation immediately, and, like our correspondent, describes it as lasting about a minute. A young lady residing at Davyhulme Hall, having a lighted lamp in her room, saw the dressing-table vibrate. Several persons spoke of a sensation of sickness. Dogs trembled, and were much frightened.
The great physical geographer De Humboldt argues that the deep and peculiar impression left on the mind by the first earthquake which we experience, even where it is not attended by any subterranean noise, is not the result of a recollection of those fearful pictures of devastation presented to our imaginations by the historical narratives of the past, but is rather due to the sudden revelation of the delusive nature of the inherent faith by which we had clung to a belief in the immobility of the solid parts of the earth. We are accustomed from early childhood to draw a contrast between the mobility of water and the immobility of the soil on which we tread, and this feeling is confirmed by the evidence of our senses. When, therefore, we suddenly feel the ground move beneath us, a mysterious and natural force with which we are previously unacquainted is revealed to us as an active disturbance of stability. A moment destroys the illusion of a whole life; our deceptive faith in the repose of nature vanishes, and we feel transported, as it were, into a realm of unknown destructive forces. Every sound, the faintest motion in the air, arrests our attention, and we no longer trust the ground on which we stand. Animals, especially dogs and swine, participate in the same anxious disquietude; and even the crocodiles of the Orinoco, which are at other times as dumb as our little lizards, leave the trembling bed of the river, and run with loud cries into the adjacent forests. ("Cosmos," Bohn's edition, vol. i., p. 212.)
Comparing the different accounts from Manchester and its neighbourhood with one another, it would appear that the shock was mainly characterised by a sort of upheaving motion, followed by others horizontally, which are variously described as shakings, undulations, vibrations, tremblings, and such concussions as would be caused by a heavily-laden waggon passing close by a slightly-built house. Though it shook doors and windows, agitated pieces of furniture, and made crockery-ware rattle, it does not appear to have been accompanied with any very audible sound of its own. It was preceded for some days by a temperature unusually high, close, and oppressive; but, as in the last observed earthquake at the same place, in March, 1843, it does not appear to have caused any sudden rise or fall of the barometer. On the former occasion the barometer gradually fell; on the present it seems to have risen gradually till after the earthquake, when it began to fall. That kept by Mr. Casartelli is registered thrice daily, at ten A.M., and four and ten P.M.; and at these hours on Sunday it indicated 29.49 inches, 29.52 inches, and 29.65 inches; on Monday it was 29.75 inches, 29.80 inches, and 29.98 inches. On Tuesday morning, at ten o'clock, it had reached 30.05 inches, but soon commenced falling, and at four P.M. it was 30.02 inches. The highest temperature on Sunday was 58 deg. Fahrenheit; on Monday the minimum, at an early hour in the morning, was 54 deg., and the maximum 61 deg.; and on Tuesday morning, about the time of the earthquake, the
minimum temperature attained, according to Mr. Casartelli's self-registering thermometer, was 50 deg.
As to the direction of the shock, a writer in the Manchester Guardian says, there appears every reason to believe, from concurrent and independent testimony, that it was north and south; but this we have seen reason to doubt. It may, indeed, if not connected with some distant commotion, have been a circle or large ellipse of movement, in which the vibrations were propagated with decreasing intensity from a centre, which would appear to have been situated in the Irish Channel, nearly midway between Dublin, the Isle of Man, and North Wales. The shock appears to have been felt at Aberystwith quite as early as in Ireland. Such was also the case in the Isle of Man, in Oxfordshire, and, as far as local time can be corrected, in other places.
The shock was felt northward from Liverpool along the coast to Southport, Blackpool, to Fleetwood. From North Wales it seems to have swept eastward through Shropshire, Worcestershire, and Gloucestershire. It also traversed Cheshire, Staffordshire, and Warwickshire, and extended in an easterly direction from Lancashire into Yorkshire, where it was felt at Harrowgate and Stanningley, near Leeds.
At Holyhead, the shock was accompanied by a very loud noise; the wind was south-east; cloudy. The same thing occurred at Bangor; wind in the same direction; weather foggy. The shock is said to have been more violent in the mountainous districts of North Wales than has ever been previously experienced. The air is described as having been unusually sultry. Towards midnight it is said to have become almost stifling; and people complained of a lassitude and oppression altogether unaccountable. The air is also said to have been surcharged with electricity to such an extent that the bells in many parts of the town of Caernarvon kept up a vibratory motion, and produced a peculiar humming sound. Early in the morning (writes a person who was awake at the time) a most unearthly quiet brooded over sea and land, broken, at length, by a sound more fearful than the most violent thunder could have produced. There were no premonitory perceptions of slighter shocks, as is frequently the case in earthquakes, but all at once a roaring, louder than breakers at sea or tempests on land could ever produce, was heard around, and continued for perhaps twenty or thirty seconds with undiminished power, and then gradually faded away into a state of perfect silence. The loudness of the sound was like that of the passage of a brigade of fire-engines at full gallop over the stones of a quiet London street. During the continuance of the sound a powerful and continuous vibratory motion was perceptible; not like what is felt in many houses during a storm of wind, but a very peculiar tremulousness, which communicated itself to both animate and inanimate objects.
The shock is also described as having been very severe at Aberystwith, where it was stated that several persons were seriously ill from fright. At Shrewsbury, a portion of wall near the Castle Forgate fell, and another portion of wall at the goods station of the railway terminus sunk considerably. The shock appears to have been severe also throughout Shropshire, exciting considerable alarm, ringing bells, and throwing down a wood bridge over the Severn. Here the direction is described as being west south-west to north north-east, but weakest in the west.
Its intensity is also said to have been limited to a narrow line or strip of country. The shock was also felt at Knutsford, Northwich, Congleton, and at Chester. The movement was also felt at Oldham, Harrowgate, and Stanningley, near Leeds, in Yorkshire. Also at Wolverhampton, Brewood, and in Birmingham, and its neighbourhood in Warwickshire. At Balsall Heath, the Wellington Road, and at Hockley, several of the inhabitants describe tremulous movements, accompanied by noises, as having occurred somewhere about four o'clock in the morning.
The earthquake is also described as having visited Worcestershire at about four o'clock. The report says, however, that there is some little discrepancy in the time given by different persons as to the exact period of the shock, which has led to the belief that more than one must have occurred. The weather was close and oppressive, and there was a vibration, or undulation of the ground, accompanied by a rumbling noise. The shock was chiefly felt at Worcester, Malvern, Kidderminster, and Bewdley. The Severn had been flooded for some days previously.
In Oxfordshire the shock was felt chiefly in the neighbourhood of Moreton-in-the-Marsh-at Stretton, Ditchford, Aston, Blockley, and Bloseley. According to the Oxford Journal, the shock was felt about four o'clock in the morning. The earthquake was preceded in this district, on the 5th of November, by a voltaic hailstorm, in which the hailstones were as usual crystallised, and as large as walnuts.
One remarkable instance has come within our own knowledge of the shock having been felt in Middlesex, at Hammersmith, near London. A lady, whose sleep is a good deal broken by ill-health, was roused at or about half-past four o'clock in the morning of the 9th by the shaking of her bed, and the rattling of a candlestick and glass placed on a chair near her bed. She was so much alarmed that she got out of bed and lit a candle. The circumstance was mentioned to us before the earthquake had been heard of or thought of. Possibly many other cases occurred, if known; but occurring as it did at a time when nineteen-twentieths of the population were asleep, it was passed over in many places, and still more so towards the extremities of the wave.
Mrs. Somerville, in her work on 66 remarks:
Physical Geography," justly
"There must be some singular volcanic action underneath part of Great Britain, which has occasioned 255 slight shocks of earthquake, of which 139 took place in Scotland. The most violent of them have been felt at Comrie, in Stratherne. Of the rest, 14 took place on the borders of Yorkshire and Derbyshire, 30 in Wales, and 31 on the south coast of England. They were preceded by singular phenomena, as a sudden fall of the barometer, fogs, and unusual sultriness."-Vol. i., p. 261.
In an old book of remarkable events, called "Trusler's Chronology," the following earthquakes are noticed as occurring in England:
"One thro'out all England, followed by a great variety of fruit and a
late harvest in 1090.
"One in Shropshire, 1110; one in December, 1116; in September, 1120; in August, 1134. One that overthrew the church in Lincoln and others, in 1185. A dreadful one in February 14, 1428. One in Somersetshire, in 1249. At St. Alban's, 1250. A general one that threw