Monday, February 28, 2011

Earthquake II

Because I just do, I get emails every time an earthquake happens. In the last week Christchurch got 191 of them. Norm'lly there are two or three a day, scattered about all over the country (well all under the country of course) but this last week there have been none elsewhere, just zillions of them in Christchurch and Christchurch alone. But today there was a 4.2 under the sea 800km to the north. So I, amateur earthquakeologist that I am, divine that Christchurch relieved a lot of tectonic pressure or something.

My spies send me both good and bad news. Mr Dunlop's good news is that he got a ride in a police car. His bad news he's lost all his belongings. All of them. The whole lot. Everything.

Hello Richard
On Sunday I was given permission to enter the Christchurch Central Business District exclusion zone in order to check on the flat. The police and the army are maintaining a tight control around the cordoned-off area. CBD residents, like myself, are only being let in one person at a time, and only then with a police escort. Got my very first ride in a police car.
Over the last few days, I've had growing concerns about not getting an opportunity to retrieve items from the flat. Unfortunately these concerns have turned out to be valid, as when I'd checked on my home, I'd found that it had been "red-stickered" (ie scheduled for demolition). Access to the building is strictly forbidden. Most of the material things in the house I won't particularly miss, but there were a number of personal mementos which I do regret losing.

Mr Knight's good news is that his daughter was eight yesterday. Remember that sweet little baby that Mrs Knight lugged off to the Leicester Space Centre wot my good friend Her Majesty opened back in whenever it was? And when she came back from the Space Centre with her sweet little baby there lay Mr Knight covered in bandages in the rump department, fretfully examining his Ratracer to see if it had sustained more scratches than he did when it playfully flung him into the air at thirty miles an hour on that diabolically dull track in Abbey Park in Leicester that we swore we'd never ever use again and never ever did. - 'She' refers of course to Mrs Knight, not the Queen. Mr Knight's newly skinned and bloodied rump was of limited interest to the Queen, even back then. - Well anyway now she's 8. - Miss Knight, not Her Majesty. - My this is getting confusing, so we shall resort once more to quoting other people's emails:

I spent Saturday helping Rob and Viv clear up their place. Well half of the time anyway because we'd all run outside whenever there was an aftershock. Which was all day. It is interesting to watch the waves run down a street - you can actually see them and the effect on the buildings. We all puzzled over some deep scores on the wall of the building behind Rob's place. After some investigation we found the cause - it was the steel capping on the roof of the building next to Rob's making contact with the building behind - the building is approximately 8 meters high - and it's separated from the building behind by just under 1 meter. Hard to believe that a concrete structure could flex that much I know but I'll take some photos next time I'm there if it is still standing (the engineer said it was *ucked, mate). Only two bikes downstairs were severely munted. Unfortunately only one belonged to Rob. The others have none or only superficial damage. We managed to right the big lathe but the mill is just too heavy. We'll need to get a large hoist in to do that. Its fall was broken by an office chair, a c1910 childs bicycle and two large glass storage jars. The two jars are unbroken. A large rack of small bicycle spares fell over and scattered everywhere. These all needed picking up and sorting before we could get to the machine tools. Still no water or power. Rob and Viv have been staying with us since Tuesday night when we got back from our tour.
Sunday was Claudia's birthday; she is 8 going on 16. She was 2 when we emigrated, where did that go eh? She got a new bike... We had intended to organise a baby cheetah encounter at the local zoo which she would have *loved* but all the cheetahs are undergoing counselling and don't want to play at the moment. Buying a bike in Christchurch at short notice is difficult at present and I thank the staff at Papanui Cycles for helping out enormously. Keith's bike shop (that one I took you to) is no more I'm afraid. Sadly Keith also lost his house at Redcliffs. I hope he is OK. His mother who lives with him is also a survivor of the devastating 1931 Napier quake. Claudia rode 17km on her new bike and wanted to carry on, we rode on a favourite mtb track and spent most of the time dodging large cracks, she will be an expert before long.
A new difficulty for everybody in Christchurch is dust. When the liquefaction dries out it turns to dust. We have an estimated 180,000 tonnes of dust and strong winds forecast for this afternoon. I rode to work this morning wearing a dust mask. It was truly horrible. I got snot *everywhere*. We have had a series of large aftershocks this morning that had my sphincter all puckering up in a most unseemly manner. I'm going for a walk at lunchtime, in a field.

And because this blog lacks pictures I shall direct readers to here where they may see Mr Knight's boss's house with its new rock.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Earthquake II

Inasmuch as one can find out with authority at a distance of 260km, the ghastly business of cleaning up is under way. Various recumbent riders appear to be okay though I did hear further from Mr Dunlop:

My home is within the four avenues area in central Christchurch. It has - or had - an internal brick chimney. During the earthquake it completely distintegrated, and bricks were thrown in every which direction. That made the inside of my flat look as though it was a demolition site. Soon the flat will actually *be* a demolition site - there is no way it can be rebuilt. Once the army-controlled exclusion zone around the centre of Christchurch is lifted (probably in a few days time), I'll be able to get back home and take some photos of the damage. I'll post these online. For me, the worst part has nothing to do with being personally inconvenienced or dealing with property damage or the like. It was walking home from my workplace, and not having a choice but to pass by one of the buses that had been crushed by falling masonry. There are some things I don't wish to remember.

Elsewhere one of Susie's friends, Miss Watkin, was just about to start her University course but

Had just got out of the car and was walking over the lawn to the back door at home when it struck. Surfed the lawn (badly) for what seemed like forever, but it was the safest place we could have been cos it was all open, nothing could fall on us, and only by pure chance. Everything looked much the same immediately afterwards, until we walked inside....and saw everything on the floor, all the cupboards and drawers open. A few minor cracks in the walls. And a big glass window completely shattered outwards, (luckily, again, not inside) with glass extending up to 4 meters out onto the front lawn, having obviously exploded. ....and then water started flowing up outside... ...and then there was a big aftershock, and the water gushed faster, flowing in a big stream down our driveway, and the silt started making mini water-volcanoes which accumulated into bigger and bigger ones until eventually the whole back lawn we had been previously surfing was ankle deep in silt (a day at the beach)... ...and the sink-holes... And that was just our place. Which, comparatively, is actually nothing. We just have sooo much to be grateful for!

Meanwhile Mr Knight reported on his day at work:

Well, we all slept last night which was nice. We had aftershocks but they didn't wake us. I contacted my boss yesterday and he personally hadn't been into the office since a large rock has crushed his house but he said that a few people were back in.
I've been around our house and noted all the new cracks and bumps etc. The spare chimney is now leaning alarmingly away from the house and will need to come down
So with a munted motorbike ( it was in Rob's garage and got lightly biffed around) and no petrol anyway I cycled in today slightly later than normal. There was very heavy traffic which surprised me; also everybody is driving at normal speed which also surprised me. You'd think that people would be trying to conserve petrol a little. Rangiora and surrounding areas were dry of petrol yesterday and Steph told me that the New World in Rangiora was also busier than Christmas with the obvious items sold out.
My route in to work is through the western suburbs which although damaged are mostly easily navigated, particularly on two wheels and slowly. The commute only took me 10 minutes longer than normal. It was raining and I was fairly liberally coated with the fine grey liquefaction sludge that is *everywhere*. My office is undamaged and has power, and water which may or may not have *** in it. I carried as much water as my bike and rucksac would hold so people could at least have cold water to drink if they wished. Our water in Rangiora although treated by chemicals and tasting like *** doesn't actually have *** in it. Mostly everyone was back at work today but we did have a couple of empty seats where we do not know the current status of people.

Those who can are leaving Christchurch to stay with rellies, and I talked to Denise's son who'd had to indulge in dodging a ten-ton piece of industrial machinery which was performing a short but interesting folk dance round about his legs. His sister, a nurse, had watched trees outside the hospital rippling up and down like the masts of moored yachts on a wavy sea. Later she was nursing a mother in one bed and the daughter in the next bed. The daughter died.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Earthquake II

More news, none of it good.

Mr Knight tells me their penny farthing tour was hastily cut short. The organisers are an amiable couple called Robin and Viv Willans who live in central Christchurch, and as they drove in late last night, through heavy rain, they found the city in total darkness and, with devastated roads, were terrified of driving through puddles lest there wasn't anything underneath. A good many Christchurch workers park daily outside their house, and the fact that a number of cars were still parked there in the middle of the night suggests that the drivers are missing. Dead? Partly squashed? Trapped? No-one knows yet. The Willans' home is of reinforced concrete above the workshop where he builds his penny farthings, exquisite replicas so fine he has to engrave his name on every part so they won't be confused with originals. The building is standing but damaged, and upstairs everything is strewn around and smashed. In the workshop all the bikes are smashed, machinery toppled, everything covered with dust. His big milling machine lies on its side. Outside the road is covered with a couple of feet of silt, thrown up by liquifecation. Somewhere in the road, in a hole of its own size, sits a truck.

Skipping the Official News, which can be found everywhere, I managed to contact Paul Dunlop, Hon Sec of the New Zealand HPV club, KiwiHPV.

Hello Richard.

Yes, I'm okay. My home is a goner and totally uninhabitable. Not too sure how much of the contents can be salvaged. Currently staying with friends until things can be sorted out.

The city is just so damaged that it beggars belief. The majority of the city has neither water nor sewage systems. Today we had to queue three and a half hours to get some potable water, which the emergency services were supplying.

I heard one commentator refer to the February quake as being the polar opposite to September's one, which seemed to sum it up well.


The Knight's house in Rangiora creaks and groans every time they have an aftershock, with screeching noises like nails being pulled out of hardwood, which is probably because nails are being pulled out of hardwood. - There's a good reason for building wooden houses in earthquake prone countries. - Everyone's on edge and, with quakes sometimes as big as a 4 or 5 going on at an irregular rate of about four every hour, it's hard for anyone to get much sleep. Rangiora is a good 20 miles from Christchurch and not too badly damaged - they still have power and water - but a sprinkling of shop fronts on the high street are bulging alarmingly. No petrol anywhere.

Earthquake II

Actually it isn't Earthquake II. It's Earthquake 898, counting from the September 4th one of last year. And there've been another 60 aftershocks since lunchtime yesterday, so we're currently at 959. (Seven more since lunchtime, so that's 966.)(Hup, another four. 970.)(And now yet another four. 974.)

As a matter of fact I didn't know anything about it until the Eqnews email came in and I thought uh-oh, a 6.3, that's a big one, my sister - who is geographically unsure how close Motueka is to Christchurch - will be worried. But the Inbox remained empty so I had to email her:

Why haven't you asked whether I'm alright? Eh? Eh?
I might be dead or partially squashed for all you know.
I shall examine my emails carefully in the morning to see if you need reassurance or counselling or something.

At five I turned on the radio and was dismayed to find it was indeed a Big One and has killed people and there are survivors busy texting from underneath all the rubble. I knew Mr Knight was away in Dunedin cycling with a bunch of penny farthing people, but luckily Mrs Knight rang us last night and said that since the September 4th earthquake her school had been having weekly Earthquake Drills, and all of a sudden she was 30 schoolchildren short of a class and then suddenly realising, she peered down below and found that they were all being hedgehogs under their desks.

Naturally the prime minister has declared a state of emergency to sound as if he's doing something, and naturally all news bulletins have been extended interminably, but since the journalists are having trouble thinking of things to say, people are being interviewed at Auckland airport as to how they felt about being able to catch an aeroplane out of Christchurch. Fortunately I can break this impasse because I heard from Martin van den Nieuwelaar who, if you recall, lives in the thick of it:

Hi Richard,

It would seem that the Internet is the only reliable communication at the moment. Yes we are both fine, and the house is fine too. The damage caused by this quake is far greater than the last big one.

I was on the 11th floor at work at the time in the Central Business District, which is the area worst hit. I remember hoping that the building would hang in there, as I watched... (another aftershock)... ... as I watched and saw things thrown around much more than in the Sep 4 quake. When the shaking stopped there was a lot of dust over the city visible out the windows. This later turned to smoke. The central door in the hallway swung closed and jammed so we were trapped. We kicked our way through a wall to get out. I took some photos, but dropped the camera in some water (flooding water mains, sewage etc.) so cannot retrieve them yet. I walked home as the streets were blocked by cars trying to escape the mess. Destruction everywhere. Not complete destruction mind you, but certainly many places bent or collapsed. Way more damage in the centre of town this time. Stonehurst hotel collapsed as did Charlie B backpackers, as did CTV building where many have perished. Look down any street in the centre of town and you see broken up roads, water and sewage everywhere, broken windows, glass on the street, poles down, collapsed buildings or rather 'bent' buildings everywhere.

We're still renovating and so much of our stuff is in storage - who knows what state it's in. Also our camping stove and emergency stuff are in storage. Fortunately last night it rained so we have plenty of water (collected off the roof).

Today we have power back on, and the computers still work - after picking them back up off the floor. No real cell coverage though! Landlines appear to be working but we're told not to use them. As last time, we (the people at the centre of the event) haven't seen any of the footage due to no power etc. Except of course for me, who experienced it first hand. I'm glad the building still stands, as not all high-rises were so lucky... So all in all, we're fine, but once again it will be interesting to see how people behave this time round. Certainly the disruption will go on for much longer than the last quake.


Martin van den Nieuwelaar
Bicycle sizing and gearing software -
Internet backbone traffic visualisation -

I, however, deprived of exciting geological trauma, contrived to walk into the drawing room door in the dark and split my forehead, requiring three stitches. (Though actually this happened the day before. It was pre-emptive sympathy-seeking.)


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pete Heal

Last week I went to Stoke, being brave, to say hello to an Australian madman named Peter Heal.

He had cycled from Christchurch, non-stop over the Lewis Pass which is très steep, in 27 hours.

This proves he is mad.

Sane people do not cycle non-stop over the Lewis Pass from Christchurch to Nelson. It's one of the things they don't do. I knew a sane person once, and he didn't cycle non-stop over the Lewis Pass from Christchurch to Nelson.

Mr Heal was on his way to Westport. And, I assure you, Stoke is not on the route at all. Stoke is simply miles from Westport, and in completely the wrong direction. It's like going from London to Cardiff via Norwich. This proves he is mad too. Well actually it doesn't - he might just have serious navigational problems.

Anyway, that's what he was up to and as a prelude he had cycled round Australia in 49 days and you can read about it here, among other places.
That is another thing that sane people don't do. If you want to be where you already are there's no need whatever to cycle round Australia to get there.

He is, as I say, a complete loony. Bonkers in the nut, as Mr Larrington would put it.

We all met up at Mr McEachern's house, doubtless because Mr McEachern is also bonkers in the nut.

Mr McEachern, however, entertained us with an excellent story: he'd been following another cyclist and riding slightly wide of all the car doors when a car full of Young People passed, one of whom threw a bottle at him which bounced. He stopped to write down their number, and a SUV stopped next to him.
'Did you see that?' asked Mr McEachern.
'Yes,' said the SUV driver, 'and they were quite right. You should have been right at the side of the road, out of their way.'
'Oh, thank you very much,' said Mr McEachern, and promptly took the SUV number as a witness. Nelson Police reported back afterwards that the young man had been fined heavily, had lost his licence, and had had his car impounded and crushed. He was unable to tell us what happened to the SUV driver, though it is much to be hoped he was impounded and crushed too.

Mr Heal told us that Australian drivers can be particularly unpleasant like this, and he encountered, on his local (Canberra) news internet forum, a gentleman who declared that he always drove as close to cyclists as he could 'to frighten them off the roads.' Mr Heal thought that cycling in New Zealand was pleasant, which presents a worrying aspect to cycling in Australia. If New Zealand drivers are pleasant, how bad are Australian drivers? This afternoon I was cycling back here from St Arnaud and three separate motorists passed within inches of my handlebars on an otherwise completely empty road. Fortunately I have replaced my bicycle bell with a four-inch howitzer and I was able to impound and crush each of them without troubling Nelson Police over the matter. (I'm lying, of course. You don't need to impound cars if you have a howitzer among your handlebar furniture.)

Friday, February 4, 2011


This week we went to Murchison. Drove. Bad, I know. Like Mr Larrington smoking a cigarette. Two hours to get there and two hours back.

We went shopping.

Those who live in this region are aware that Murchison is not a prime shopping centre, but we like Murchison because it does not overwhelm you with choice. There is a supermarket, and it says 'Supermarket' above the doorway. There is a tearooms, pretty much ditto. There is Hodgkinsons which is a general store and draper, and there is Meats, which sells meats. It really does say that. Above the door. 'MEATS.' You don't get many vegetarians in Murchison. And there is a junk shop that used to be run by a lovely old lady who hadn't a clue as to what anything was worth, and so Murchison was a sort of workshop Mecca where Stanley breast drills could still be had for a tenner and Timoshenko's Strength of Materials languished on one of a zillion bookshelves for $2.

Not any more. The junk shop is now called Somebody's Treasure and is run by a German. I am not going to say anything horrid about Germans even though my wife's mother is one and they didn't win the War. But all the books are now rubbish. There are any number of glass bottles for sale - why would anyone want to buy glass bottles? - but the tools are now heavily marked up, four dollars for an old file, four dollars! so it's no longer worth going there when you need to make reamers, annealing them overnight in the woodburner and examining the cold but newly warped iron banana that emerges in the morning.

So we went to the museum. Murchison Museum turns out to be the place that buys the bottles: they have a comprehensive bottle collection, and if I was also interested in identical sewing machines (they have gathered up all the old Singers in New Zealand) I could spend a happy hour examining them. Luckily inside the Brown Shed there was a wooden lathe made by one Jack Hills and his father, for working metal. Hurrah! Wooden lathe bed, wooden cross-slide, couple of steel plates instead of machined dovetails, chunk of wood with a screw through it as the tailstock, two chunks of wood and plain bushes, I think, as the headstock. It was fabulous. And I forgot to take a photo.

The Museum had several bicycles one of which was a Raleigh Twenty. Raleigh Twenties do not belong in Museums, even in Murchison. I had a Raleigh Twenty and I will let you into a secret - the main tube, which is an inch and a half in diameter, has a wall thickness of 2mm. I know you will not believe me so I will let you into another secret: you can find this out for yourself with the aid of a hacksaw. Once we all used to turn Raleigh Twenties into SWB recumbents with one bit of surgery to fit a 700c wheel in the back and another to trim the rear triangle so it didn't dig into your back. They handled really well, too.

A Raleigh Twenty, quite a long time ago

Murchison used to be famous for its Earthquake of 1929, but this has now been upstaged by the Christchurch one of last year which, I see, is still yielding plenty of aftershocks - there were 666 in the exact four months following the big September 4th earthquake, and this last month they held another 66. The rest of the history of Murchison is encapsulated by the fact that the Museum keeps a record of everyone who was a telephone operator there. I should not like to be a journalist in Murchison. The only Human Interest story happened back in 1909 when a farmer, accused of stealing cattle by his neighbour, attached dynamite to himself and after discovering to the Court-house that he was about to blow them all up, was hurried out onto the street where he quite simply disappeared, injuring two innocent bystanders and a policemen.