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H - 35 : Earth Quake Center of the World?

Updated: Jun 24

The ancient Greek town of Salamis was twice destroyed by Earth Quakes but rebuilt - it was only abandoned during the Arab - Byzantine Wars in the 7th and 8th Century

During this summer we are going to see many ancient towns which were destroyed by earth quakes. Are we going to travel to the earth quake center of the world? We all know about the devastating tremors which frequently hit Türkiye (was asked not to use the bird’s name any longer). The country ranks no 6 in major earth quakes since 1990.

When listed not by absolute numbers but by major earth quakes per square kilometer, the table changes significantly. Türkiye (0.08) moves up to position 4. Japan (0.26) is no 1, the Philippines no 2 (0.18) and Indonesia no 3 (0.10), just a bit ahead of Türkiye. Given that the first three countries are part of the Pacific’s Ring of Fire, this is quite amazing.

The Earth Quakes are caused by the collision of the African and European Tectonic Plate

Already covered in a previous blog how the collision of the African with the European plate folded the Lebanon and the Anatolian mountain ranges and lifted Cyprus from the sea floor. There is also evidence that many tsunamis hit the coast of Cyprus over the last few millennia.

The Stones in Knidos which we visit in the 3rd Week are now neatly arranged. When we came here for the First Time 20 Years ago, they were scattered all over the Place

When tourist prospects claim that towns like Knidos, Halicarnassus, Kaunas or Anemurium were destroyed by earth quakes, they tell us only half the story. People always rebuild towns after an earth quake – provided there are still some people living in the place. The above towns were deserted before the tremors hit though. The collapse of long-distance trading at the end of the Roman Empire (476 AD) and the 200 years of Arab-Byzantine Wars in the 7th to 8th century AD killed the business of these once vibrant ports.

Kaunas with its beautiful Carian Tombs was not only abandonded. Its port silted entirely.

With no ships arriving and very little arable land in the vicinity, these were not places one could survive. Slowly but steadily, everybody left until all people were gone. When earth quakes hit, nobody repaired the buildings. Over the decades and centuries, weather and further quakes took down what was left standing. We also know that the Turkish farmers from nearby villages quarried these ancient settlements. So did the Knights of Saint John to build their formidable castles and fortified towns in this corner of Andalusia.

The Knights built the Castle in Bodrum (Halicarnassus) with Stones from the Mausoleum

The systematic collection of earth quake data in Cyprus goes back to 1896. The Ottoman Empire must have started at the same time. In 1896, Cyprus was already under British rule and thus scientifically ahead. Prior to 1896, data collection of major tremors was sporadic. From written records we know that Kition (Larnaca) and Salamis (Famagusta) were destroyed in 1075 BC. Salamis again in 15 BC. In 77 AD, a big quake destroyed Palea Paphos. Nea Paphos followed in 342 AD. Limassol was hit by major tremors in 1221, 1489 and 1584. The list is long. We do not know the magnitude of the quakes. One has to infer them from the level of destruction as described in historic documents.

Earth Quakes around Cyprus are all in the Vicinity of the geological Faults

Earth quakes will always be part of this region – at least for the next several million years. As long as Africa pushes north against Europe and lifts Anatolia and Persia every year by a few centimeters, the frictions will continue. Luckily, modern architecture has made significant progress in constructing earth quake resilient buildings. If you ever were in a modern building in Japan during an earth quake, you know what I am talking about. The buildings shake and move, but do neither fracture nor collapse. They just swing. In our Dragonfly we will be safe. Earth quakes are rare. The waters we sail in are deep and we will be mostly in the open sea. But our crew will - of course - watch out for any tsanumi warnings.

Magnitude of Earth Quakes in the Area we sail this Summer


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