Monthly Archives: February 2011

Earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand


This was the view of the ChristChurch Cathedral from our hotel window in February 2009. Cathedral Square, which was heavily affected by the February 2011 earthquake, was a center of city activity.

My heart goes out to the wonderful people of Christchurch, New Zealand.  The death and destruction is terrible. I’m sharing in this post some of my photographs of this beautiful city and its residents from a visit there in early February 2009. At the bottom is a link to the Red Cross in New Zealand, originally posted by Greg Royal, known online as Kiwi Bloke.

I’ve posted a link below to another traveller’s blog post showing the beautiful ChristChurch Cathedral interior.

A 6.3 magnitude quake struck Christchurch, New Zealand, just before 1 p.m. local time on February 22, 2011.   Earthquakes often rattle New Zealand, but this earthquake was shallow and close to the city, which is New Zealand’s second largest city and the largest on the south island.  The February 22nd earthquake was less powerful than a 7.1 quake that struck before dawn on September 4, 2010, that damaged buildings but killed no one.  Experts said Tuesday’s quake was deadlier because it was closer to the city and because more people were in the high-rise buildings.

According to the New York Times of February 24, 2011:  “The bodies of at least 113 people, including two infants, have been recovered from a number of heavily damaged buildings since the 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck central Christchurch in the early afternoon on Tuesday. Most of the victims have not yet been formally identified, but they were thought to include many of the 228 people still listed as missing, but feared dead.”

New Zealand is at the southwestern tip of the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area where large numbers of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur in the basin of the Pacific Ocean. The eastern part of the ring runs along the west coast of North America, Central America and South America.  A friend was in Lima, Peru, during a devastating earthquake in that country in August 2007 that killed hundreds of people.  His home in Peru at the time was in Ica, which took the brunt of the earthquake. When he was finally able to return to his home in Ica,  he learned that a huge chunk of concrete had fallen on the pillow on his bed.

This photograph shows the damage to the Christchurch Cathedral on February 23, 2011. (AP Photo/New Zealand Herald, Mark Mitchell)

New Zealand is a beautiful country with magnificent scenery, including alpine-like mountain peaks that were created from the earthquakes and volcanic activity resulting when the Pacific and Indo-Australian Plates clash. This process continues, which leads to the earthquakes that seem to shake off humans like ants from a giant’s shoulders.  New Zealand’s Alps and other scenery can be seen in the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy.

It’s hard to find a place on earth that isn’t vulnerable to some kind of impending doom, but some human settlements seem especially vulnerable. When we traveled the South Island of New Zealand in February 2009, guides always mentioned past and possible future earthquake activity. One guide said the country was overdue for a big earthquake, yet  no one there seemed to be ready to flee the country to avoid the inevitable.  As humans, we all have our fingers crossed and usually live in a state of denial.

My husband I recently visited another very seismically active area — the Big Island of Hawaii, which is still being created as lava slowly flows from Kīlauea.  Since 1952, Kīlauea  has erupted 34 times, and since January 1983 eruptive activity has been continuous along the east rift zone.  According to the United States Geological Survey, Kīlauea is one of the world’s most active volcanoes and may even top the list.  Within the last month, lava flows reached a house and barn, destroying them.  The island is also vulnerable to tsunamis from earthquakes elsewhere and has been hit hard a few times in the past hundred years.  I’ll post my volcano and lava photographs in another post.  We in the U.S. Midwest aren’t immune.  One of the biggest recorded earthquakes in our country was in the St. Louis area.  A link to my post about that is below, called “What a Relief!”

Here are performers in Cathedral Square at the World Buskers Festival in Cathedral Square in Christchurch, New Zealand, in February 2009. The 2011 Festival concluded on January 30 this year. The festival is held every year in cathedral square. With so much earthquake damage in this area, what will happen to the 2012 festival?

In February 2009, the annual World Buskers Festival was held in the square in front of the ChristChurch Cathedral. The area around Cathedral Square, which is the heart of the city, suffered a great deal of damage during the February 2011 earthquake.

The Christchurch Art Gallery in February 2009. I don't know whether it survived the February 2011, but it was very close to the area of great damage.

Christchurch, New Zealand, looks like an English town with its architecture and lovely parks full of flower beds.

A tourist tram makes the rounds in Christchurch, New Zealand, in February 2009.

This bride laughs as she stops her wind-blown veil with her foot. She's on her way to a park in Christchurch to get her photograph taken.

People wait in line to attend a performation at the World Buskers Festival in Christchurch, New Zealand, in February 2009.

Christchurch, New Zealand, is known as the Garden City. This flower bed in a park not far from Cathedral Square shows why.

Red Cross in New Zealand.

About New Zealand.

World Busker Festival.

Kiwi Bloke’s Website is here.

What a Relief! My post about the New Madrid Fault.

Blog post showing interior photos of ChristChurch Cathedral before it was damaged.

Link to a story about Queenstown, New Zealand, I’d saved for a possible blog post.

Below, in February 2009, a bridal couple rested along the Avon River in Christchurch after a photography session.

Wedding Couple on Avon River Postcard postcard 


Filed under Natural History, New Zealand, Photography, Travel

Why Did The Mongoose Cross The Road?

When it stands, this mongoose looks like its relative the Meerkat.

Years ago in a biology class, I learned about the Indian Mongoose’s introduction to Hawaii (in 1883) as a predator to kill the rats that were thriving in sugar cane fields.  Well, like so many ideas like this, it was a disaster (rabbits to Australia, for example…) The mongooses ate the native birds and their eggs instead.

I’d forgotten about the mongoose  until I recently saw one dashing across the road on the Big Island of Hawaii, where they are pests. As it dashed, it looked like a small ferret.  Every so often, my husband and I would see another one running like mad across the road.  I was never fast enough with my camera.  Finally, I did get a few blurry photographs of a mongoose that seemed to live in the bushes of someone’s yard outside of a botanical garden.  When it stands, it looks like a meerkat, which is one of its relatives.

Standing here, he looks like his relative the Meerkat. He may have a burrow in the yard of this house.

From wikipedia: The 1800s were a huge century for sugar cane, and plantations shot up on many tropical islands including Hawai’i and Jamaica. With sugar cane came rats, attracted to the sweet plant, which ended up causing crop destruction and loss. Attempts were made to introduce the species in Trinidad in 1870 but this failed. A subsequent trial with four males and five females from Calcutta however established in Jamaica in 1872. A paper published by W. B. Espeut that praised the results intrigued Hawaiian plantation owners who, in 1883, brought 72 mongooses from Jamaica to the Hamakua Coast on the Big Island. These were raised and their offspring were shipped to plantations on other islands. Populations that have been introduced to these islands show larger sizes than in their native ranges. They also show genetic diversification due to drift and population isolation.

Only the islands of Lana’i and Kaua’i are (thought to be) free of mongooses. There are two conflicting stories of why Kaua’i was spared. The first is that the residents of Kaua’i were opposed to having the animals on the island and when the ship carrying the offspring reached Kaua’i, the animals were thrown overboard and drowned. A second story tells that on arriving on Kaua’i one of the mongooses bit a dockworker who, in a fit of anger, threw the caged animals into the harbor to drown.

The mongoose introduction did not have the desired effect of rat control. The mongoose hunted birds and bird eggs, threatening many local island species. The mongooses bred prolifically with males becoming sexually mature at 4 months and females producing litters of 2-5 pups a year.

If that isn’t bad enough, Mongooses can carry the infectious bacterial disease Leptospirosis.

About the mongoose.

More about the mongoose.

News report about trapping Mongooses.


This mongoose ran back and forth on this road on the Big Island of Hawaii near Hilo several times. He kept checking to see whether I'd left.


Filed under Animals, Biology, Life, Natural History, Nature, Travel