Darwin-L Message Log 6:87 (February 1994)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

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<6:87>From DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu  Sun Feb 20 00:18:34 1994

Date: Sun, 20 Feb 1994 01:21:27 -0400 (EDT)
From: DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu
Subject: February 20 -- Today in the Historical Sciences
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
Organization: University of NC at Greensboro


1835: "This day has been remarkable in the annals of Valdivia for the most
severe earthquake which the oldest inhabitants remember. -- Some who were at
Valparaiso during the dreadful one of 1822, say this was as powerful. -- I can
hardly credit this, & must think that in Earthquakes as in gales of wind, the
last is always the worst.  I was on shore & lying down in the wood to rest
myself.  It came on suddenly & lasted two minutes (but appeared much longer).
The rocking was most sensible; the undulation appeared both to me & my servant
to travel from due East.  There was no difficulty in standing upright; but the
motion made me giddy. -- I can compare it to skating on very thin ice or to
the motion of a ship in a little cross ripple.
  "An earthquake like this at once destroys the oldest associations; the
world, the very emblem of all that is solid, moves beneath our feet like a
crust over a fluid; one second of time conveys to the mind a strange idea of
insecurity, which hours of reflection would never create.  In the forest, a
breeze moved the trees, I felt the earth tremble, but saw no consequence from
it. -- At the town where nearly all the officers were, the scene was more
awful; all the houses being built of wood, none actually fell & but few were
injured.  Every one expected to see the Church a heap of ruins.  The houses
were shaken violently & creaked much, the nails being partially drawn. -- I
feel sure it is these accompaniments & the horror pictured in the faces of
all the inhabitants, which communicates the dread that every one feels who
has _thus seen_ as well as felt an earthquake.  In the forest it was a highly
interesting but by no means awe-exciting phenomenon. -- The effect on the
tides was very curious; the great shock took place at the time of low-water;
an old woman who was on the beach told me that the water flowed quickly but
not in big waves to the high-water mark, & as quickly returned to its proper
level; this was also evident by the wet sand.  She said it flowed like an
ordinary tide, only a good deal quicker.  This very kind of irregularity in
the tide happened two or three years since during an Earthquake at Chiloe &
caused a great deal of groundless alarm. -- In the course of the evening there
were other weaker shocks; all of which seemed to produce the most complicated
currents, & some of great strength in the Bay.  The generally active Volcano
of Villa-Rica, which is the only part of the Cordilleras in sight, appeared
quite tranquil. -- I am afraid we shall hear of damage done at Concepcion.
I forgot to mention that on board the motion was very perceptible; some below
cried out that the ship must have tailed on the shore & was touching the
bottom."  (Charles Darwin's _Beagle_ Diary, 20 February 1835.)

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