Saturday, March 12, 2011

The earth moved

Years ago, I fought the helm of a small boat in a coastal gale. With each new wave, the boat twisted, shuddered and rolled under us; the water pounded the windows of the pilot house, dribbling through cracks in the old wood frames. Rising to the crest of the next wave, the bow steadied for a second, and I caught my breath again, just in time for the next sideways skew and dive. The muscles in my arms ached. I wasn't sure we would make it into port; nor was my companion, the boat's owner, he told me later.

On that trip, I realized, not for the first time, the power of the ocean, and our utter frailty; we were no more than a leaf tossed in the wind; in spite of all our struggles, the wind and waves would make the decisions for us.

I get that same feeling now, reading the news. Yesterday, I watched entire buildings sailing down the stream, semi trucks rolled and up-ended, boats lifted onto roadways. Now, I just learned that yesterday's earthquake shifted the island of Japan 8 feet. A whole nation, Mount Fuji and all her colleagues, deltas and valleys and forests, huge cities; pushed aside, as by a careless hand. 8 whole feet!

But that's minor.
Reports from the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Italy estimated the 8.9-magnitude quake shifted the planet on its axis by nearly 4 inches (10 centimeters).
(From CNN)
I can't get my head around this. How can this be? How, and we not notice it? What next?

And then, about an hour ago, the outer shell of one of the nuclear reactors affected by the quake, exploded. There is talk of leakage, "meltdown", rising radiation levels.

This, we partially did to ourselves. But the laws of physics have taken control. The Japanese can fight it, but it's really out of their hands.

This is frightening.

There's more in the offing. I still keep thinking of all those little island nations in the Pacific. Are they still there? Are there survivors? I haven't seen any mention of them. How about Indonesia, the Phillipines? Hawaii was spared; are there others?

And all we can do now is steer for harbour, hoping.

I don't know what are the best ways to help at the moment. Here are a few I found:
Red Cross: Text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 from your phone. This will donate to the general Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, so if you want to ensure that it goes to Japan specifically, donate from their Web site.
Salvation Army: To contribute to earthquake relief, text 'JAPAN' or 'QUAKE' to 80888 to make a $10 donation or visit
From Watching the ripples ...
And Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) is attempting to reach the worst hit areas of northeast Japan by helicopter, to bring medical aid. I will be sending my donation there.


  1. Very thoughtful post, Susannah.

    During the Haiti and Chile quake the axis also shifted. Makes you wonder how long a day might have been 600 million years ago.

    As for the tsunami, there seems to be little damage to the Pacific islands and coral reefs. (

  2. Gwendolyn, Thanks for the link! That's very good news.

  3. Really nice post - and a way to put such a monumental event into something we can relate to as an individual.

  4. Definitely things to ponder. Shifting the earth on its axis is pretty scary. - Margy

  5. Med sans frontier is a truly great organisation - my charity of choice for many years


If your comment is on a post older than a week, it will be held for moderation. Sorry about that, but spammers seem to love old posts!

Also, I have word verification on, because I found out that not only do I get spam without it, but it gets passed on to anyone commenting in that thread. Not cool!