The Earth moved last night. Happens a lot around here. A bit of late-night shake, rattle, and roll that heightens all the senses and leaves us momentarily breathless. No, I’m not revealing any personal information here… I’m talking about Santiago’s latest temblor, or tremor, that literally jolted us awake at 4:05 this morning. (I know Abby felt it too!)
It wasn’t a big one—just IV (Moderate) on the Mercalli Scale in Santiago (III—Slight—in Valparaíso). But the thing about earthquakes is that they are absolutely unpredictable, and once they start there’s no way to know if this is “the Big One.”
Think about it. Hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, cyclones, floods, tidal waves, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and any other kind of potentially disastrous natural phenomenon you can come up with gives some kind of warning, but not an earthquake. It just sneaks up on you when you’re least expecting it at any time at all. Just happens, and in Chile, it happens a lot. Chile has more seismic activity (tremors and earthquakes) than any other country on Earth. Yep! Not only the most, but the biggest too… The 1960 earthquake in Valdivia (southern Chile) registered 9.5 on the Richter scale, the highest in recorded history!
So, it seems reasonable enough to believe that this kind of terrestrial instability would have to have some kind of psychological effect on people, right? And that it could-should-might ripple out to a more globalized cultural effect, wouldn’t it?
I can’t help but wonder if the seemingly generalized tendency toward short- rather than long-term planning, toward patching over fixing, toward the “we could die tomorrow” attitude that I get from my husband whenever I talk about retirement planning has anything to do with the constant awareness that the chain can be yanked, the plug pulled, the rug whisked from under your feet at any moment has anything to do with it. And it just seems to fit.
It’s not easy to make plans when you know that the world can turn upside down at any moment. There you are, just minding your own business, going about your life and wham… London Bridge Puente Arzobispo comes falling down, along with everything else around you… or then again, not… you just never know.
Central Chile’s last big-big earthquake was in March 1985. They say the big ones come every 15 or 20 years, so doing the math, it looks like we’re now overdue for a beaut! But then again, you never know. There’s no way at all to tell. You just have to learn to live with things you can’t control and accept that the things you think you control can come undone in the blink of an eye or a point on the Richter scale.
Richter vs Mercalli?
The Richter Scale measures the magnitude of the energy released at the source of an earthquake and is indicated by numbers generally ranging from <2 to 10+.
The Mercalli Scale is a more subjective measurement of the perceived intensity of the event and is indicated in Roman numerals (I-IX).