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The Earthquake in Switzerland

    Naturevolume 35page442 (1887) | Download Citation



    PROF. FOREL, the meteorologist, of Morges, on the Lake of Geneva, has just issued a report on the earthquake of February 23. He classifies the shocks under three heads—namely, preparatory shocks, strong shocks, and consecutive shocks. It is difficult, in the absence of trustworthy data, to indicate the precise locality of the first-named, but Switzerland was undoubtedly the region of the second; but it was to the third—that is, the consecutive shocks—that all the mischief was due. The professor traces the course of the phenomenon in Switzerland over a radius of at least four hundred square miles. Its force was greater in the southern parts of the country than in the north, though the shocks were felt throughout Geneva, Berne, Neuchâtel, Fribourg, Vaud, Valais, and Tessin; and observations go to prove that these shocks travelled almost due north and south, although the direction of the oscillations does not coincide with this course. The oscillations in Switzerland were characterised by their number and repetitions. In some localities they were longitudinal; that is, running parallel to the meridian; in others they were transverse, running or flowing from east to west. The vertical movements were marked by their feebleness where indicated, but in the greater part of the territory affected vertical oscillations were entirely absent. One of the peculiarities of the oscillations generally was the length of duration, which is set down as varying from 10 to 30 seconds. But the collected reports prove that the mean of these figures more nearly represents the prevailing duration. The intensity of the shocks was greater in the central and southern areas of the disturbance, and it would seem as if the shocks only just failed to attain the necessary strength which would have produced disastrous effects. As it was, church bells were rung, in some places violently; windows were rattled, doors thrown open, ceilings slightly cracked, and morsels of plaster were brought down, and here and there stacks of wood were thrown over. One of the most striking features of the phenomenon was the extraordinarily large number of clocks that were instantly stopped, and this fact has afforded the best possible means of determining with something like perfect accuracy the time of the shocks, which varies from three to four minutes past six in the morning, Berne time. The large astronomical clock of the Observatory at Basle stopped exactly at 6h. 4m. 7s. This, taken as representing Berne time, corresponds with 5h. 43m. 35s. of Paris, 5h. 55m. 43s. of Marseilles, 6h. 3m. 2s. of Nice, and 6h. 24m. 3s. of Rome.

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