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Science, Maths & Technology

A personal account of the Kent earthquake

Updated Tuesday, 1st May 2007

An eyewitness account of the Kent earthquake, sent in by an OU student.

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Internet communciation makes me as an Open University academic feel far less isolated from my students than in the 'old days'. Also, students who live hundreds of miles apart can chat and share ideas just as if they shared the same common room in a conventional university. So it is that I came to speak to John Higgins (currently a student on our planetary science course) who was at his home in Deal when the quake (discussed in my previous blog) struck. Here, with his permission, is John's account:

I felt/heard the tremor at about just before 08:20. Both my wife and I were on the ground floor of our house and heard a low rumble which lasted about five or six seconds. The sound intensified slightly during that time then died away. I got the impression it was passing beneath the house from roughly south-east to north-west. The whole house shook noticeably, lights swayed slightly and the windows rattled slightly. Nothing fell down and pictures did not tilt (no more than usual!). I checked the house inside and out but thankfully could not detect any cracks or damage or gas leaks. The house is about a mile from the sea. A friend of ours who has a house on the seafront felt her house shook appreciably - she was on the top floor and felt quite scared. Some of our neighbours appeared on the street and confirmed they had felt the same effects.

Other friends in Folkestone felt a stronger tremor but their house escaped any damage too. They went into the affected area later and saw chimney stacks broken and in the street with people being helped by the Salvation Army.

Later reports put the epicentre at about 7 miles south of Dover and I was relieved to hear the Channel Tunnel had not suffered any damage (or so it was reported!)

All-in-all an unforgettable experience.

How interesting that the rolling motion of the ground gave John a (correct) impression of the direction back towards the quake's epicentre.

The United States Geological Survey have now produced a map of the 'felt intensity' of the quake, based on reports such as John's.

A rather fuller survey map (though not including reports from France) is on a British Geological Survey webpage. The two sources still disagree on the location of the epicentre. In this instance, I suspect the BGS is closer to the truth (currently the French estimate is about half way between the BGS and USGS positions).





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