Posted by & filed under Travel Country: New Zealand.


There’s a friend of mine, called Papa Tipua that I’ve had contact with over the last year or so via email, who lives in Wellington. I mentioned to him that I was aiming to volunteer while I was in Christchurch, in return for a bed there. But even after contacting the Student Volunteer Army on Facebook and the Red Cross, the volunteering didn’t work out. They said to me that there probably wouldn’t be any need for volunteers with it being nearly a year after the February quake and that most of the students would be away on holiday. So Papa Tipua put me in touch with his sister-in-law, Lesley, who lived in Christchurch. She, very kindly, offered me a bed in her place for the time I was there. My flight from Melbourne arrived in at 5.30pm and Lesley was there with a sign saying “Welcome Martina” and she proceeded to give me a whirlwind tour of Christchurch.

Lesley works fulltime and wouldn’t be there in the morning to show me around. She wanted to show me that evening, where the bus stops were and a bit of the city, to help me get my bearings before it got dark. Well we hit it off from the very start. She’s such a lovely person, with a heart of gold. At this point it started to bucket down with rain. It was forecast to rain today but it rained cats and dogs. Lesley said that it was Christchurch welcoming me, making me feel at home with the weather, which was very much like Irish weather!

Lesley lives in Belfast, a suburb north of the city. She showed me where the bus stop near her house was, where Northlands mall was, where I could buy a simcard for my phone, (not to be confused with Northwoods mall) and we also drove around the city a little bit. While we were driving around, I got to see a lot of the damaged streets: Colombo Street, the Arts Centre, Cashel Street, Madras Street, where the CTV building collapsed etc. It was on Colombo Street where I bought my simcard the last time I was here in 2009. This was the worst street I saw. A lot of the shops here were partly falling down, closed and badly damaged and it was strange and sad to see it like that, with rubble on the pavements.

There are a lot of buildings that were leaning forward and boarded up and they were waiting to be demolished. The new word in Christchurch now was “munted” meaning destroyed. It’s used to describe the level of damage in Christchurch after the February earthquake. When people are asked what sort of damage they have, they’d either say “munted” or “just cosmetic” (meaning that they only have cosmetic damage like slight cracks in their walls). I got to see a good bit of Christchurch and it was great to be able to go around in the car and see it. It really was a whirlwind tour of Christchurch and it was a lot to take in.

I asked Lesley what her experience was of the February earthquake. She was at work and she had to evacuate seventy mentally challenged people and arrange to get them home in cars. She drove six people home. While she was driving them home, she said she saw some of the big lampposts on the street swaying back and forth with the force of the aftershocks but she managed to stay calm. She was trying to find roads which wouldn’t be too blocked up with traffic and got them all safely home. The people in Christchurch are so used to earthquakes now that they can tell when it’s going to be a big one because of the intensity of the shaking. She said that you can also hear a roar before a big earthquake hits.

GNS Science is New Zealand’s leading provider of Earth, geoscience and isotope research and consultancy services. They monitor the earthquakes and active faults in the country. There are two main types of seismic waves:body waves and surface waves. The first kind of body wave is the P wave or primary wave. It pushes and pulls the rock it moves through, much like sound waves push and pull the air and the particles move in the same direction that the wave/energy is traveling in. When I asked GNS Science what is that roar that people hear just before an earthquake, they replied: “As the P-wave hits the ground surface, it can produce a sound wave in the air.” This is what causes that roar. The second kind of body wave is the S wave or secondary wave. S waves move rock particles up and down, or side-to-side, perpendicular to the direction that the wave is traveling in. Though they arrive after body waves, it is surface waves that are almost entirely responsible for the damage and destruction associated with earthquakes. This damage and the strength of the surface waves are reduced in deeper earthquakes.

There are two kinds of surface waves: Love waves and Rayleigh waves. The Love wave moves the ground from side to side, producing entirely horizontal motion and the Rayleigh wave moves the ground up and down and side to side in the same direction the wave is moving in. Most of the shaking felt from an earthquake is due to the Rayleigh wave.