The Terrifying Power of Nature

I never really appreciated the raw, uncontrollable power of nature until I tried going surfing in Australia. I went on a calm, sunny day…and nearly drowned. I learned that the sea was more powerful and unforgiving than I could comprehend, and that this was but a single manifestation of nature’s power.

And so it was last week with the terrible earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Japan. Untold death and destruction, the collapse of so much modern technological infrastructure that we take for granted. I saw pictures this week that absolutely bogged my mind: freighter ships lifted and deposited in the middle of towns miles inland from the sea; whole villages scoured from the face of the earth; hundreds of shipping containers piled helter skelter like blocks of Lego…

But what perhaps stunned me most, and truly demonstrated for me the incredible destructive power of the event was news that the earthquake appears to have shifted the Earth on its axis and permanently moved Honshu, the main island of Japan.

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), CNN said. The whole planet.

Kenneth Hudnut, a geophysicist at the US Geological Survey, told CNN: ‘At this point, we know that one GPS station moved (8 feet), and we have seen a map from GSI (Geospatial Information Authority) in Japan showing the pattern of shift over a large area is consistent with about that much shift of the land mass.’

– S.

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