Meckering 50 years after the big shake
Just like man walking on the Moon or the assassination of US president John F. Kennedy, many West Australians remember where they were when the 1968 Meckering earthquake hit.
It was one of Australia’s biggest.
The tremor from that 6.9measured quake on October 14 could be felt up to 700km away from the tiny Wheatbelt town.
Its main focus was 7km deep, with a force equivalent to 10 Hiroshima-type atomic bombs.
In Perth, crockery and food tins fell from shelves. Cracks appeared on roads and up walls. Even the cross from the top of a city church crashed to the footpath. But it was nothing compared with the destruction in Meckering, 130km to the east.
Most buildings were either destroyed or badly damaged. Miraculously, no one was killed or seriously injured. It would have been far worse if the quake had hit at night or it had not been a public holiday.
Great Eastern Highway, the transcontinental railway, the Eastern Goldfields water pipeline and telephone lines were damaged. Forty-five families left town, never to return.
One man who was driving on the highway at the time said the road “just rose up in front of me”.
With the hotel destroyed, local publican Gordon Berryman shifted the beer and equipment over the road to a petrol station to quench the thirst of locals.
The makeshift location became known as the Quake Arms Hotel, the Rock‘n’Roll Pub or Shake-Inn.
To commemorate Sunday’s 50th anniversary of the earthquake, events, activities and entertainment have been planned. Throughout the day, visitors can take a site tour to the fault line and earthquake ruins, including the rubble of Graham and Alice Snooke’s former home. They will also hear firsthand accounts of the earthquake from local residents.
“Our newly revamped earthquake walk trail, just a short walk from the town centre, will be open to visitors all day,” event co-ordinator Rebekah Burges said.
“And at precisely 10.59am, we will have a moment of reflection to recognise the significance of the earthquake that for ever changed the shape of the Meckering townscape and impacted on so many lives.”
The day will also include a free Scitech exhibition and science shows.
A Transwa coach will take visitors from Perth to Meckering, leaving East Perth at 7.30am and arriving back at 7.45pm.
Meckering couple Alice and Graham Snooke at the ruins of their house.
Matt Bonser surveys the damage.
Buckled railway line.