Quake Sends Ripples Beyond Haida Gwaii

I stood in the doorway of a 140-year-old building in Montreal late one afternoon when a small earthquake rumbled beneath the city.

It happened in the 80’s during a party celebrating the one year anniversary of a graphics and printing business. People felt it. Some looked quizzical, raised their eyebrows or their glasses of wine. Some smiled like you do when you aren’t sure if you’re the only one who noticed some small absurdity.  A feathery crack etched its way from the door frame to the ceiling.

This was no 7.7 magnitude quake. No emergency declarations were issued.  People weren’t advised to leave their homes and offices.

In Haida Gwaii this weekend, they got that bigger shakedown.

On the islands, sirens sounded. Books and mementos fell off shelves.  Some people ran outside. Some children cried. Those who heeded the auto-advisories that said they should head for higher ground started to make their way. But they went home again almost immediately and picked up the broken glass and the fallen books and the pieces of their day-to-day lives and went about their routines. Someone wrote that teacups rattled in Vancouver.

Twitter crackled with instant feedback. General consensus seemed to be it was a bizarre experience.  Of undulations beneath their feet that sort of made them seasick. Some spoke of trepidation.  But most seemed to conclude there was no serious threat to life and limb.

That’s when the waves started coming in. How people were reacting, or over-reacting. There was even this odd tweet from a Globe & Mail Vancouver writer:

He later noted his tweet was being interpreted in a couple of different ways. “Eye of the beholder,” he wrote. Hmmm.

There was also an onslaught from people declaring that there has been an under-reaction to the event — namely by big oil and the companies that want to run a pipeline from Alberta to the Pacific coast.  Followed by sober reminders that Haida Gwaii isn’t Kitimat where the proposed Enbridge pipeline is supposed to come to port.

Can a petroleum pipeline be safe if the ground around it starts slipping and sliding? The experts say they’re designed to handle a little movement. The bigger problem would be landslides and the like caused by the rupturing fault line. Burying parts of the line under tonnes of earth. Exposing it in other places. Maybe creating a breach or two?

But there’s no pipeline in Haida Gwaii. And oil spills wouldn’t travel that far, would they?

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