Wednesday, 28 September 2016

When the Earth Moves

At a couple of minutes before midnight on Tuesday September 27th the earth moved. No, not for the often-cited intimate reason, unless, that is, there was an extraordinary degree of synchronicity going on that particular evening; no, rather because we had an earthquake to the strength of 5.4 on the Richter scale.

Within minutes the most popular social media site was teeming with comments from locals seemingly wanting to beat everyone else to it... 

"Did you feel it? I wash brushing my teeth."
"All the windows rattled as I washed up."
"Didn't feel a thing, I was propping up a bar at the time."
"My dog howled."
"Wow, s**t scared or what? I was reading in bed."
"What was all the fuss about? Did I miss something while I watched CSi..?"

Apparently, if you ever want to know what half of Rhodes is doing at 23.58pm, best arrange for an earthquake because they'll all rush to their phones, tablets and computers to let the world know. 

Can't see what all the fuss was about if I'm honest. The epicentre was a few kilometers north of Halki, not far from Tilos. The local paper says it was of sufficient strength to worry the inhabitants of the local islands.

You can say what you like about all the things that the Greeks don't do properly, the hugely cumbersome bureaocracy here, the holes in the road that are repaired, only to reappear a few weeks later, the way the traffic signs are sometimes mounted on poles at just the right angle to confuse vehicles coming from two directions into not knowing who has priority, there's so much more.

Something, however, that they do get right (well, most of the time) is that their buildings are built to earthquake-resistant standards that actually work. Concrete skeleton houses may not be the prettiest buildings on the planet, but they stay where they are, with perhaps just the odd piece of masonry working lose, when a fairly robust shaking of the earth occurs.

You may argue that a falling chunk of masonry, should it strike you on the head, could well ruin your whole day, but it's a lot better than the whole building falling in from above you. The fact is, we get tremors here on such a regular basis that one tends to take them for granted. By far the majority of them last a millisecond and they give one the impression that an aircraft has just gone through the sound barrier a few miles above. I can use that comparison because I'm old enough to remember when that rather elegant aircraft Concorde was being put through her paces before going into public service. There was a time when a sonic boom could be heard above South West England quite regularly, causing many of us to stare up at the skies in wonder, searching for that sleek delta-shaped arrow as she glinted in the sun while darting across the skies above us, no doubt with Brian Trubshaw at the helm.

Earthquakes of much lower ratings on the Richter scale than we get here have caused huge destruction and loss of life in other parts of the world, usually because of substandard building methods, or simply because the buildings that collapsed were very old.

Interestingly, I found out only recently that the Knights who built the Old Town of Rhodes, even back in the 14th to 16th centuries, incorporated earthquake protection into the design of the houses and streets. They knew what they were doing, because after 500 years and counting the Old Town is largely intact to prove it. How did they do it? Take a look...

Have you, like me, ever wandered the old town musing over those small arches that are ubiquitous in the tiny streets? They're much too small to walk across and anyway, they aren't positioned anywhere near any upstairs windows. I remember asking someone once how the Old Town had managed to survive five hundred years of tremors and quakes and the answer came back, "Those arches are there to shore up the buildings in just such an event. It's one of the advantages of the streets having been constructed to be so narrow, it enables the buildings to support each other when the earth moves."

Makes sense to me and it seems to be born out by the way the place has lasted. 

The largest quake we've had in the eleven years that we've been living here was at 6.26am on 15th July 2008 (Wiki link). It measured 6.4 and lasted for about twenty seconds, which I can assure you is a very long time when the ground beneath you is shaking. My wife and I actually got up from our bed, threw on dressing gowns and walked out of our bedroom, into our lounge and out the front door on to the drive before it stopped.

Quakes of much smaller magnitude have been responsible for huge loss of life in other areas. So, this and our more recent one were chicken feed in reality. People back in the UK do sometimes ask us about the "dangers" of living with tremors and quakes. I often reply that they're much more preferable that grey skies and freezing cold winters!

Today we got to spend a few hours on our local beach, recuperating of course...

And before you ask, no that's not us!!! I just liked the composition this presented.
Then, this evening we decided to recover from the trauma of last night with a much-needed cocktail in the evening sunshine...

Like the table? Amazing what you can do with an old cable drum.
If you think I'm going to discuss whether the earth may move again tonight, you've got another think coming.


  1. We felt it in Pefkos. 'Earth tremor' , we thought and carried on reading!

  2. Great article, John - glad no damage was done. My husband and I were on a ship docked at Rhodes last week, unfortunately, only for a day. Yeia mas!

  3. Never felt it was in the bar at the Ekaterini there were at least 20 people there and no response from any of them

    1. Just shows what alcohol can do then, e Stuart? 😅

    2. No was sober honest