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.

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