NOTE – Not to detract from Stephanie Osborn’s great series, but I just came home to find out we’d lost Jerry Pournelle, great author, occasional commenter here, and a beloved friend. I’d hoped to see him one more time in this world, but we’re not always given a choice. I know I’ll see him again.
Meanwhile, my condolences go out to his family. And the rest of us who loved him will strive to make him proud of us, so we can face him unblushing some day.
Rest in peace, Jerry. I’m going to miss you.
Rock and Roll: The New Madrid Fault System Part V: The Immediate Effects and Extent By Stephanie Osborn
Excerpted from Rock and Roll: The New Madrid Fault System, ©2017
By Stephanie Osborn
Images in this article are public domain, unless otherwise specified.
This whole collection of writings started off with an email exchange, months ago. Our illustrious hostess was part of the discussion, and expressed interest in my converting the info to one or more blog articles. Then, when the LibertyCon programmers heard about it, they asked me to give a presentation on same, which I did.
The presentation was a full house, and at the end, there was a request for me to convert it to blogs and/or an ebook. I asked how many would like to see an ebook of the material; virtually every hand in the lecture hall went up.
A little over a month later, with additional research under my belt and factored into the manuscript, the book has gone live. And as promised, I am providing Sarah a series of blog articles on the subject. This series of blog articles is only a small fraction of the material contained in the ebook; it may be considered in the nature of a series of informative abstracts of the information contained therein. For additional information, may I recommend that you check out Rock and Roll: The New Madrid Fault System.
Part V: The Immediate Effects and Extent
The historic temblors, Winter, 1811-12
The principal temblors were as follows:
- 16 December 1811, 2:15am local, M ~7.2–8.2, epicenter in northeastern Arkansas;
Multiple aftershocks continued every 6-10 min after this temblor until the next major tremor, 6 hrs. later.
- 16 December 1811, 8:15am, M ~7.2–8.2, epicenter in northeastern Arkansas;
- 23 January 1812, 9:00am, M ~7.0–8.0, epicenter in the Missouri Boot-heel;
- 7 February 1812, 4:45am, M ~7.4–8.6, epicenter near New Madrid, MO.
There were uncounted multiple lesser foreshocks/aftershocks in the swarm.
I have also read eyewitness accounts which claimed that, in the central part of the affected area, the ground did not STOP moving for a period of 3-4 weeks (generally considered as being in roughly the January timeframe). This caused significant difficulties in evacuating heavily-damaged areas, as the horses often refused to move due to the uncertain footing. The time of year did not help matters, as the devastation was high and extensive, and most local inhabitants lost their homes (shelter), possessions (clothing/blankets), and food stores.
Since 1812 vastly predates the invention of the seismograph, let alone the positioning of same, geologists have used later photographic imagery and contemporaneous eyewitness accounts to reconstruct intensities. The mapping of the central area of effect produced some interesting results.
But the total region affected by the quakes—the so-called “felt” region—is far bigger.
According to the USGS, the area of damage sustained (Modified Mercalli Intensity ≥ VII) was at least 230,000 square miles (600,000 sq. km.). Shaking strong enough to alarm the local populace (Modified Mercalli Intensity ≥ V) occurred over nearly a million square miles (>2.5million sq. km.). The “felt” region easily covered most of the eastern half of the continent.
The main quakes were felt in the Front Range of the Rockies per some anecdotal reports, though populations were scanty and mostly consisted of mountain men.
Church bells were rung by the shaking, up and down the East Coast. This was especially noticed, since in that period, church bells were commonly used as a fire alarm.
The Mississippi River and her tributaries, including the Ohio River, were greatly disturbed.
[Residual forest debris resulting from falling trees, landslides, etc. Photo ~1906.]
Residents of Montreal, Canada felt the temblors.
Residents of various Caribbean islands were awakened by the nighttime quakes, running into the streets in fright.
Remember the first Mississippi River steamboat, the New Orleans? (We talked about it in a previous installment of this series.) And how they were on the Ohio River when the earthquake series began, and traversed the Ohio and Mississippi rivers during the series of quakes? Whatever happened to them?
Along the way, they were tied up at Yellow Bank near Owensboro KY on the Ohio River, laying in a supply of coal when the first shock hit; the boat’s crew and passengers thought it felt like the boat had run aground, despite it being tied up. The wave motion made even the most experienced crewman nauseated.
[The centennial replica of the New Orleans steamboat,
As long as the steamboat was under way, its own machinery drowned out sensation of subsequent tremors. However, the locals, both white and Native American, were badly unnerved; some even blamed the strange vessel’s appearance for the quakes. Oddly-flooded regions (that should not have been flooded — likely from the various uplifts damming the rivers in spots) and copious debris in the rivers — all caused by the quakes’ aftermath — impeded progress.
At every stop for fuel for the boilers, locals begged to be taken aboard and fed, as all homes in the area had been demolished, along with winter food stores.
Canoes full of angry, frightened Indians from the local settlements chased them along the river, blaming them — and their strange water craft — for the destruction.
All persons on board remained unnerved for the rest of the trip, to the point of only speaking when necessary, and then only in whispers.
To obtain a copy of Rock and Roll: The New Madrid Fault System by Stephanie Osborn, go to: