MICHAEL DAVISON’S 2010 NZABA CONFERENCE REPORT

A good summary of the “conference” (and surrounding events) by Michael Davison:

NZABA was held at Christchurch over the last weekend (3-5 September). As some of you will be aware, there was also a massive earthquake there at 4.36 am Saturday morning (see http://www.nzherald.co.nz/). We are, I think, all fine, no injuries, but I am aware that there is one person I have not seen or heard from since. We did manage to have something of a conference, but under difficult circumstances—there was no power in our area until after 12 on Saturday, and the whole of the University, where we were to meet, was closed and sealed off (and will remain so for the next week). We managed to meet in a motel dining room from 2 pm Saturday, had our conference dinner that evening (not where we had booked), and met again from 9 am Sunday at the same motel. I think that most of the papers were delivered, but we had no projector on Saturday.

Personally, I am glad to be back in Auckland. This was the most frightening experience of my life. Luckily I was awake (animals know when earthquakes are about to happen). It started with a huge bang, and immediately the world started moving violently 8” back and forth—and the lights went out. I shot out of my unit, which was moving and creaking alarmingly, and into the courtyard (meeting others out there). It was almost impossible to stand, and there were fantastic showers of sparks on the horizon as transformers blew. This all lasted about 1 long minute, but it was a while before we ventured back to our units – in my case, to collect clothing and cell phone and anything else I thought I might need (filled up my pockets). And then aftershocks, some very large, causing a fast exit from the room again (lying in bed completely dressed). I can understand how people get PTSD, actually. The aftershocks were still occurring when I left at 2 pm Sunday – airport was working, and surprisingly the cellphones were working throughout, but started to run out of battery during Saturday. Many places lost water supply-and when it was restored, the water had to be boiled for 3 minutes (hard with no power).

What I found interesting was how life went on, pretty well as normal, around the central area of damage – at least, when power was restored and shops could open (cash only!). I saw cabs on the street pretty well immediately after the first shock. The information flow between people was extraordinary – we all very soon knew which gas station nearby was working, which bread shop had started up again, and so on. It was older building that suffered – we have very tight regulations on earthquake proofing new buildings (but I just don’t understand how any building survived such a shake). There was no internet, so news could only be gotten by word of mouth. Things I learned: Keep your phone battery charged (mine was half gone); use your laptop (not booted) as a light source; carry muesli bars just in case; fill something with water when you get to a motel room!

By the way, we are being told that this was not the big one we are expecting—this was on a previously unknown faultline. The big one is expected to be over 8 up the South Island mountain backbone and up to Wellington.

So, a memorable conference. I’m going to avoid any places that have a high probability of earthquakes in future (silly, really, because Christchurch has a low probability).

Michael

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