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Tuesday, 11 May 2010

The Wellington Fault with LEARNZ

LEARNZ is a unique kiwi organisation that runs 'virtual' field trips for primary and secondary schools in New Zealand.

Using videos, audioconferences and internet based information, school kids are able to interact with scientists and other expert professionals in different parts of New Zealand. LEARNZ even runs virtual field trips to Scott Base in Antarctica.


Last week, Shelley Hersey and Andrew Penny from LEARNZ were investigating the Wellington Fault. Russ van Dissen, Julia Becker and Hamish Campbell from GNS Science joined me to assist them. We looked at the way scientists work with planners and emergency services to understand the earthquake risk and prepare for the possibility of a 'Big One' striking Wellington. There is nothing like a detailed description of the potential impact of a natural disaster to remind you to re- check your personal Civil Defence emergency preparedness!

In addition to the many other active fault lines in the region that could cause an earthquake, there is a small but real possibility of a Wellington Fault earthquake occurring. This would cause a rupture along the fault line with perhaps 5 metres of sideways movement and one or two metres of vertical dislocation. Houses built across the fault would be ripped apart, and the whole city shaken violently, resulting in severe building damage, streets full of glass and other debris, broken water, gas and electricity supplies, roads, railways and the ferry terminal out of action and communications largely cut off. Did you click on that emergency preparedness link yet?

Over three days we visited a number of city viewpoints and structures, the emergency operations centre of the Wellington Regional Council, the fault line itself, and the water supply lakes at Te Marua. It was reassuring to see how much thought and effort has been put into planning for the earthquake risk by the authorities. In this photo of the place where the fault runs right below the Thorndon overbridge and the Wellington Railway, you can see the steel re-inforcement casings around the motorway support pillars and the large concrete slabs that are designed to prevent the motorway segments from collapsing.

The take home message is very much that local government and other organisations are doing their bit, and it is up to us individuals to make sure that we have our personal survival plans in place as well.

Over one hundred school classes participated in the event.

The GNS Science website has a lot of information about the Wellington Fault, including a tour guide, a fault line field trip, a photo gallery , a Google Earth flyby video


as well as our Wellington Fault short doco movie:

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Hey Julian - really enjoyed my time in Welington, hanging out with the GNS Science crew (well, some of them), and learning about the Wellington fault. I liked Megan's video - picked up some handy tips!

Best

Andrew