Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Earthquakes in Montreal

Front page of Le Soleil
after the 1925 earthquake
I felt my first earthquake this morning. I was woken up by at at 12.15am this morning. I say it is the first I felt, as there has been at least 1 other earthquake since I arrived here, but where I was at the time meant I didn't feel it (although others in the same building did). These happen from time to time, as Montreal is on a fault line of sorts. Actually, there are a couple of seismic zones in Quebec, with Montreal being situated in the Western Quebec Seismic Zone.



Historical Earthquakes in the Region

The earthquake last night was registered at 4.5. Not large enough to cause damage, but large enough to be felt in quite a large area. There have been stronger earthquakes in the region in the past, which are summarised in this article. The largest being an estimated 7 on the Richter scale, on the 5th of February, 1663 where:
Epicenter most likely in the Charlevoix-Kamouraska seismic zone, Quebec; felt in most of New France (Quebec City, Trois-Rivieres, Montreal) and parts of New England (Boston) and New Amsterdam (New York City). Some damage to masonry in Quebec City, Trois-Rivieres, and Montreal. Landslides reported in the Charlevoix region and along the St. Lawrence, Shipshaw, Betsiamites, Pentecote, Batiscan, and Saint-Maurice rivers. Numerous aftershocks felt in Quebec City during the following months.
The earthquake that falls directly into what Cthulhuites call the "Classic" Era was one that hit an estimated 6.7 on the Richter Scale (as of course the Richter scale was not invented till, 1935) on the 1st of March 1925.

Charlevoix-Kamouraska seismic zone, Quebec, near Ile aux Lievres. The earthquake was felt over most of eastern Canada and northeastern U.S. It caused damage to unreinforced masonry (chimneys, walls) in the epicentral region on both shores of the St. Lawrence, and in Quebec City (including damage to port facilities), Trois-Rivieres, and Shawinigan. Possible liquefaction near Saint-Urbain, Quebec. Numerous felt aftershocks followed.
A press release for the 1925 earthquake can be found here. Also:

In addition to homes, some very important structures were damaged by the quake: the church in Saint-Urbain, the railway terminal (Gare du Palais) and port installations in Quebec City. (source)

The newspaper, the Quebec Chronicle wrote of the event: 

Isoseismal map of the Timiskaming earthquake,
(Modified Mercalli scale, source Smith, 1966).
"In some buildings there was such a swaying motion that chandeliers rattled and dishes were moved. The effect was like the heaving of a ship at sea." (Quebec Chronicle, 1925)

The front page of Le Soleil, a Quebec based french language paper, pictured at the head of the article also deals with this event (source).
As a direct result of that earthquake, there were 6 deaths through heart attacks.

Another one hit the region in 1935 (the 1st of November), reaching a similar intensity of 6.1. As can be seen from the map adjacent, tremors from this were felt far and wide across the region, and into the U.S.

Earthquakes in Game

In Call of Cthulhu, there are a few reasons, outside of the geological norms that can account for earthquakes. The most obvious cause, being of course Chthonians. Could the earthquakes in the region be due to a Chthonian colony living under the area. If so, what threat do they pose to the inhabitants of the region? Who knows of their presence? What will they do when they are disturbed?

Another option is that the earthquake unearths something hidden beneath the earth, either from a prehistoric civilisation, or something of the extraterrestrial, fallen to earth and now lying underground. Perhaps the players are part of a surveying team who is either called in in the aftermath of an earthquake to note the damage caused, or are already in situ, maybe in a wilderness area to the north of the province, or the Laurentians when the earthquake disturbs something. They may be trapped, they may just want to explore what is unearthed.

There is also the theory that, as the tremors were felt as far as Providence, the 1925 Charlevoix-Kamouraska earthquake was an inspiration for the earthquake, on the same date, in the South Pacific, in "The Call of Cthulhu" which caused R'lyeh to rise form the Pacific, allowing Cthulhu's dreams to menace sensitive human minds across the globe. The aftershocks of this quake were felt until the crew of the Emma battled the cultists on the Alert, the day before R'lyeh again returned to the depths (source).

People involved (NPCs)

Dr. Ernest A. Hodgson
Dr Ernest A. Hodgson was the official seismologist for the Dominion of Canada at the time of the 1925 quake. He made numerous trips in 1925 and 1926 to the area, taking many still photographs, also gathering numerous scientific data, and first hand accounts of the quake. As a good plot hook, if he were to find anything out of the ordinary, or even just to help with the initial surveys, he could assemble a team of scientists/undergraduates to help with the work. Using the equipment, talking to locals etc.

Hodgson wrote up his findings for the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. These findings also include pictures taken by Hodgson on his trips. It's possible that HP himself, being an amateur astronomer, read of these findings. Or at the very least read up on the earthquake in other media.

Hodgson was also involved in the investigations of the 1935 Timiskaming earthquake.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Handbook for travellers (1922)

From the Internet Archive, via the Californai Digital Library (by way of the Yog-Sothoth forums, as per usual) I bring to you The Dominion of Canada, with Newfoundland and an excursion to Alaska. Handbook for travellers (1922) by the Karl Baedeker of the Baedeker company who then, as now, specialise on travel books. All major formats are available, including, the most useful for me, pdfs and kindle files.

There are detailed inventories and travel routes to reach Montreal from both New York, and Boston, both the main east coast U.S. headquatrers for PCs. Also, there are travel options from both New York and Boston to Quebec City, and Portland Oregan to Montreal and Quebec. There are also possible routes mentioned from Europe, with entry to the ports of Montreal and Quebec.

The section on Quebec runs to about 50 pages, but most of the details included are how to get from one place to another within the province. The pages on Montreal and it's environs reads a bit stale compared to the travel books one can buy today, but the information packed within the chapter takes some time to read through, and is worth the effort for any GM wanting to run an adventure in Montreal, Quebec, or indeed any other part of Canada.
Contents page for Quebec Chapter

Map of Montreal
The Introduction to Montreal city is really quite evocative:

Montreal (l87 ft), the largest city and chief commercial centre of the Dominion of Canada, is situated on the S.E. side of the triangular island of the same name, formed by two of the branches into which the Ottawa divides as it flows into the St. Lawrence. The island is about 30 M. long and 7-10 M. wide. The city, which covers an irregular area 13 M. long and 9 M. wide, is built upon a series of gently-sloping marine terraces, which were cut into the hill of Mont Real or Mt. Royal (p. 143), from which the town derives its name, during the post-glacial submergence. Montreal is about 400 M. from New York, 980 M. from the Straits of Belle Isle (p. 3), and 2750 M. from Liverpool (300 M. nearer than New York). Though not even the capital of its own province [Quebec), Montreal exercises great political influence, and it is the seat of the chief banks and trading corporations of Canada, and is richly endowed with churches and large charitable or educational institutions, a characteristic which made Mark Twain remark he could not throw a stone without breaking a church window. In 1921 Montreal City contained 607,063 inhab. (470,480 in 1911). More than half were of French extraction, one-sixth Irish, one-seventh English, and one-thirteenth Scottish. About three-fourths of the population are Roman Catholics. The Jewish element forms ca. 6 per cent of the population. The French mainly occupy the quarters of the city lying to the N. of the St. Lawrence Boulevard (comp. p. 134). Montreal possesses the only French City Library in N. America, opened in 1917. Montreal differs from most American towns by the number of its old buildings. In the lower part of the town the streets are irregular, narrow, and dingy, and the houses are often built with curious outside stairs at the street- fronts, while in the upper town the streets are broad and well-built. The chief business- streets, with the best shops, are Notre Dame Street, St. James Street, and St. Catherine Street, all running parallel with the River St. Lawrence; the streets immediately adjoining the river are also the scene of great bustle and activity. The handsomest residences are in the S.W. part of the city, adjoining the slopes of Mt. Royal. Most of the public edifices and many of the private residences are built of a tine grey limestone, quarried in the neighbourhood.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Sunfish in the St. Lawrence

sunfish has been found washed up on the banks of the Saint Lawrence river near Sainte Flavie, Quebec. This tropical fish was far from its normal habitat.

Claude Nozères, a biologist from the region stated,
«C’est un poisson que l’on retrouve aux États-Unis. Il a dû suivre le courant chaud, et avec les températures plus élevées de l’été dernier, il s’est approché du golfe Saint-Laurent»

"It is a fish found in the United States. It had to follow the warm currents, and with higher temperatures of last summer, it made it to the Gulf of St. Lawrence"
Of course, once the fish reached the colder water of the St. Lawrence, it was unable to survive. He added, «Il aurait pu rester longtemps sur les berges sans être mangé par les goélands. C’est un poisson qui ne se mange pas. Lui-même se nourrit de méduses»

"It could have stayed long on the banks without being eaten by gulls. This is a fish that can not be eaten. They feed on jellyfish. "

The specimen that was found was a small one, measuring only 97cm and weighing only 32 kilos. These fish can grow up to 1000 kilos in weight.

The Saint-Flavie Sunfish.

The first time I saw a sunfish was in the aquarium in Barcelona. They are extremely weird fish. I'm not entirely sure why I thought of them as being particularly Lovecraftian, but I immediately started thinking how I could get them into an adventure, in fact HPL himself mentions one in none other than the Call of Cthulhu, and in reference to the Great One himself. I post the full paragraph here for reference.
But Johansen had not given out yet. Knowing that the Thing could surely overtake the Alert until steam was fully up, he resolved on a desperate chance; and, setting the engine for full speed, ran lightning-like on deck and reversed the wheel. There was a mighty eddying and foaming in the noisome brine, and as the steam mounted higher and higher the brave Norwegian drove his vessel head on against the pursuing jelly which rose above the unclean froth like the stern of a daemon galleon. The awful squid-head with writhing feelers came nearly up to the bowsprit of the sturdy yacht, but Johansen drove on relentlessly. There was a bursting as of an exploding bladder, a slushy nastiness as of a cloven sunfish, a stench as of a thousand opened graves, and a sound that the chronicler could not put on paper. For an instant the ship was befouled by an acrid and blinding green cloud, and then there was only a venomous seething astern; where—God in heaven!—the scattered plasticity of that nameless sky-spawn was nebulously recombining in its hateful original form, whilst its distance widened every second as the Alert gained impetus from its mounting steam.
So when you drive a ship at the head of Cthulhu, it bursts with the "slushy nastiness as of a cloven sunfish".There is some debate as to where the metaphor of a cloven sunfish came from, as it is both quite specific, and yet a relatively obscure reference.

The alien appearance of the sunfish just begs for them to be used in some capacity in an adventure, or at least an adventure hook. A larger member of the species washing up on a nearby shore is bound to get the locals talking, especially if the fish has travelled far before becoming beached, and is therefore unknown to the locals.
An enormous ocean sunfish caught by W.N. McMillan of E. Africa, at
Santa Catalina Isl., Cal. April 1st, 1910. Its weight was estimated at 3,500 pounds.
 Story in le Journal de Montréal (in french).

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Maelstrom Anthology: Tales of Madness and Horror

Two posts in one day? Inconceivable!

I'm not usually one to post this kind of advert but I would like to suggest that you all go and buy the Maelstrom Anthology: Tales of Madness and Horror. Why, well 1. it's for a good cause, as the profits are going to help flood victims in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, and 2. a very good friend of mine has written one of the tales (and there's also some other good authors in there, some of which are big names in the RPG and Lovecraft communities).

Now to figure out how to convert epub files to a kindle friendly version.
What are you waiting for? Go buy it now!

EDIT: Kindle happily accepts epub files (also, I have now read this anthology, and it rocks!).

On this day...

On this day in 1922, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks came to Montreal. Whilst here, these two holiwood stars visited the City Hall, and signed the 'livre d'or', which I assume to some kind of visitor book for the city.

Whilst the couple were here, they stayed at the Ritz Carlton where:

When Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks booked rooms at the Ritz-Carlton, crowds thronged outside to see them. Fairbanks would climb out onto the hotel’s balcony above the sidewalk to acknowledge the ardent admirers. (Source)

Pickford and Fairbanks at the newly built CKAC studio in Montreal (Source)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Horror on the Orient Express Kickstarter II

Not only did the Horror on the Orient Express Kickstarter make it's goal amount to be funded, but it made all it's stretch goals too. I recieved this email this morning:


Thanks to you and 1372 other backers, Horror on the Orient Express: Call of Cthulhu by Chaosium has been successfully funded. Amazon will now charge your credit card.

Pledge Summary
Amount pledged: $150.00
Reward: Conductor—CANADA— Copy of the final product, Orient Express T-Shirt, Orient Express tote, and four Limited edition Orient Express tickets, a set of Chaosium dice, and a pack of extra handouts for extra players or for your Call of Cthulhu collection, plus a Horror on the Orient Express keeper's screen. Your name listed on the contributor page of the book. **THIS LEVEL INCLUDES SHIPPING**

Estimated delivery: Aug 2013

When your reward is ready, Chaosium Inc. will send you a survey via email to request any info needed to deliver your reward (mailing address, T-shirt size, etc).

For some reason I would think that to make the final amount of $207,804 would require more than 1372 backers, but I guess not. I was sorely tempted to add some of the other knick-knacks from the store to my total, for example the box of minis looks like a great addition to the pile, but I resisted. What this email does not include are all the other goodies that were added to the Conductor level pledge through the stretch goals being reached.

This was added as an image to the updates on the Kickstarter page to get around the word limit placed on the site. Quite a haul all in all. This list does not include the extra adventures that will be written as part of other stretch goals that include extra chapters, and adventures for Cthulhu Invictus, 1890's, and Modern day eras.

That's next year's birthday present bought and paid for. Can't wait. Maybe by next August my schedule will allow for more RPGs.

Full details on the kickstarter here.