WHAT WAS IT LIKE?

It wasn’t like any­thing. I was sud­denly awake. Our small beach­side home was rat­tling, en­gulfed by a noise I didn’t un­der­stand. I made my way to the door frame, past the trem­bling walls then into the kitchen. Ev­ery­thing we owned was crash­ing around me. I w

Say Yes To Adventure - - Features - Dan Kerins

FOR A MO­MENT, the vi­o­lence dimmed to rage, and we fled through the pa­tio door into the wob­bling gar­den, the air still, the world in vi­o­lent tremor. At this point, you're sup­posed to grab your emer­gency pack, col­lect warm clothes, sup­plies, and your windup ra­dio, safely packed some­where con­ve­nient. You're also meant to punch sharks in the eyes when they at­tack, reach into the crocodile's mouth and stand still when the ele­phant charges. You don't. You flee. Your body short­cuts 50 mil­len­nia of civil­i­sa­tion, and you are 200,000 years straight back to the African plains. You are run­ning, ev­ery mol­e­cule of your be­ing re­mem­bers, be­yond fear and ter­ror, there is flight. For all our tech­nol­ogy, our un­der­stand­ing and striv­ing for more, in that shak­ing in­stant it be­comes acutely ap­par­ent we are still just hu­manoids lost in space and ruled by a pre­dis­po­si­tion to sur­vive. As we ran in the dark, bare­foot, deeply con­cerned that if the epi­cen­tre were out at sea, then there would surely be a tsunami ap­proach­ing, I didn't feel the jud­der­ing sharp gravel. I didn't feel the chill of the night. My veins were burst­ing, and my legs pos­sessed. We were out the house and had run 400 me­tres by the time the ini­tial quake ceased. We headed for higher ground, across slumped bridges, sev­eral times jump­ing in peo­ple's cars and driv­ing only a few me­tres be­fore big cracks in the road opened be­fore us, stop­ping us in our tracks. We heard the sound of cows help­less and wail­ing and watched as power poles were bang­ing from side to side. With each mas­sive af­ter­shock, a new wave of chem­i­cals from our adrenal glands ar­rived. We got to higher ground and waited, lis­ten­ing to the land­slide in the moun­tain ranges be­hind. We sat in some­one's car, lis­ten­ing to the ra­dio, catch­ing our breath, like sur­vivors of a ship­wreck wait­ing for dawn.

We didn't know it at the time, but just two min­utes after mid­night on that night a 7.8 mag­ni­tude earth­quake cen­tred in Cul­ver­den, bub­bled up from the depths and trig­gered a com­plex se­ries of both strike-slip and thrust

faults, rup­tur­ing at a speed of two kilo­me­tres a sec­ond for 200 kilo­me­tres north­ward. The en­tire event lasted for two min­utes with the worst of the shak­ing last­ing 50 sec­onds. The Hope, Hun­dalee, Waipapa and Kek­erengu faults were among six ma­jor fault lines that all rup­tured in rapid suc­ces­sion, driv­ing the seabed up­ward, pulling Cape Camp­bell two me­tres closer to the North Is­land, shunt­ing Kaik­oura north­east by nearly a me­tre, and forc­ing it up­wards by 70 cen­time­tres. A tsunami did hit just be­fore day­break, a two-and-a-half me­tre surge, thank­fully only caus­ing min­i­mal dam­age. It was one of the largest and most com­plex earthquakes recorded in New Zealand's European his­tory.

The af­ter­shocks kept com­ing; bel­low­ing rum­bles and pulses of adren­a­line still pump­ing as we were dropped off at a ru­ral cross­road on the plains some­where be­tween the sea, the moun­tains and a blood red sky. The hills were dusty, and the sea looked guilty. Dawn broke across the panorama of Kaik­oura, a place that I have had the priv­i­lege to call home for the last four years, and the af­ter­math of this big, com­plex, fas­ci­nat­ing and de­struc­tive event started to un­fold.

As an out­sider, an im­mi­grant to this land, to wit­ness the way this com­mu­nity ‘got stuck right in' within hours was in­cred­i­ble. The re­source­ful­ness, re­silience and sense of co-op­er­a­tion the peo­ple showed is some­thing I will never for­get.

It is a deep self-re­liance, born from the ne­ces­sity of liv­ing in these sub­lime and re­mote islands, which comes into its own at times like these. The out­pour of sup­port from the rest of New Zealand to­ward those af­fected and the sheer rate of re­cov­ery is a tes­ta­ment to the vi­tal­ity of this young na­tion.

These images are a doc­u­ment of that im­me­di­ate af­ter­math, and I'd like to think they speak for them­selves. They are the prod­uct of my ex­pe­ri­ence of ‘the quake' and hope­fully, an hon­est one. For all our con­fused feel­ings to­wards na­ture, for all our cave paint­ings and In­sta­gram feeds, our pol­lu­tion and des­e­cra­tion, our clas­si­fi­ca­tions and ob­ser­va­tions, our gush­ing ad­mi­ra­tion and re­lent­less ex­ploita­tion, it mat­ters lit­tle. Our sen­ti­ments are not re­cip­ro­cated; na­ture is with­out sen­ti­ment. It is older and big­ger than us, and it moves in ways we shall never fathom, on this pul­sat­ing rock, alone, out here in space.

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