Mention the name “Murchison” to a Kiwi and they are sure to recall the terrifying earthquake of 1929. Even those of us who were not yet a “twinkle in our father’s eye” would have heard of this disaster. We sat down in the Murchison Museum and watched a video showing slides of the aftermath of that fateful day. The earthquake caused the town clock to stop at the exact time and it hasn’t gone since.
Seventeen people lost their lives when the 7.8 earthquake struck. It caused massive mud slides, hill sides to collapse and rock faces to shatter. An up thrust lifted some land in the area an amazing 14ft 9in.
Almost 40 years later the small town of Inangahua close by suffered a 7.0 earthquake with the loss of one life. Yesterday we drove past the site of the mountainside which collapsed into the Buller River and the scars are still highly visible with little regrowth. The highway was obliterated and the rail track was left hanging.
This area of New Zealand is situated close to the Alpine Fault, where two sections of the earth’s crust grind slowly past each other until they generate enough pressure to generate an earthquake. No wonder New Zealand is sometimes called the Shaky Isles. The memorial to the victims of the Murchison Earthquake has plaques attached to rocks from all the areas where people lost their lives, we were told.
The museum was full of all sorts of interesting memorabilia to check out and there were many items out the back of the building, such as farming and mining equipment. There was certainly plenty to keep the blokes interested. These little museums do a wonderful job of preserving local history and usually run on a shoe string with volunteer helpers.