How I experienced an Earthquake on the South Island of New Zealand

earthquake details

The longest 120 seconds of my life in New Zealand

It is a few minutes after midnight in the night from Sunday November 13th to Monday 14th. I’m lying in bed, reading my book about some fearless sailors, who weather the storms of the south sea. Rapt by the story I’m acknowledging: “Wow, the book is so well written. I can even feel the swell of the sea.” It dawned me, that my imagination can’t control the movements of my bed. It must be an earthquake. Within no time I jumped out of my bed. Holding on to the door frame of the bathroom I prepared myself for the worst. The shaking seemed to built up, but eventually it faded away back to earth’s interior. These were probably the longest 120 seconds of my life.

jetty sign endeavour inlet
Endeavour Inlet, Queen Charlotte Sounds.

I’m at Endeavor Inlet – a fairly isolated bay nestled within the Queen Charlotte Sound. The Queen Charlotte Sound is one of the main arms of the Marlborough Sounds. I’m working for accomodation at Blue Water Lodge, where I share the home with my host Rod and his four pighunting dogs.

queen charlotte sound near cape jackson
Somewhere around Cape Jackson, Queen Charlotte Sound.

“The Shaky Isles”

Sure, New Zealand is called “The Shaky Isles” for a reason. And yes, I felt some earthquakes before, in Christchurch and even up here in Marlborough Sounds. But this quake was different. First I thought about the volcanoes on the North Island. I thought about my friend Luke, who was sleeping at Syme hut at the bottom of Mount Taranaki – an quiecsent, but active volcanoe. “Did you feel the earthquake too?”, I checked on him via facebook messenger. “Yeah, that’s the quickest I’ve gotten out of my sleepingbag.”, he responded. I could feel our heart-beats racing synchronously. It was the first time in a long time, that I was very grateful for our technological achievements. I calmed down a bit, Taranaki didn’t erupt and Luke is all good. 😉 So, where took the rock’n’roll party place? When I checked, my heart-rate rises again.

earthquake details
Earthquake details on

The epicenter of the earthquake is in Kaikoura – about 150 ks away from my location! Massive aftershocks were shaking in Seddon, which is 90 ks away. Fucking hell – a wave of helplessness rolled over me. Anytime a massive shake could shock this fragile piece of land. I guess this feeling is incomprehensible, if you do not experience it yourself. All the thoughts in my head became obsolete. Did I really struggle with the smallest decisions? Even the “What the fuck am I doing with my life?”- riddle turned into a first world problem. All of a sudden I was in the here and now and well aware of how valuable and vulnerable life is.

At around 3:30 am I eventually found some sleep again. Not even four hours later at seven o’clock I was wide awake and met my wwoofing host in the kitchen. Rod already decided he’s going to go on the boat to pick up the new motorbike he just purchased on trademe. Despite constant aftershocks and storm warnings he wanted to undertake the two hours boat journey. At 8 am I was by myself. Listening to Radio NZ didn’t really help, so I focused on some housework and some exercising. But with every evolving aftershock I hold my breath – expecting the natural violence to dash me to the floor.

The whole day the aftershocks would continue. Plus the heavy rain and a storm had arised. At around 11:30 pm I was lying in bed with eyes wide open – not sure if the storm or the earthquake is jolting the house. All of a sudden I heard something rumbling at the sundeck above my room. “Please let is be a dog or a possum and not the chimney.” – I was terrified. As I opened the door poor old Puck was rushing straight into my room. Soaking wet and exhausted from unchaining herself. Good old Pucky was my bedfellow for the rest of the night. Well, at least I let her sleep in front of my bed on one of my dirty t-shirts.

Dog and me in my room.
Good old Puck and me in my room.

The aftershocks rattled all over the east-coast of New Zealand with damages in Wellington and beyond. The scenic route from Picton to Kaikoura will never be the same again. Here in the sounds the shaking was comparably innocuous…

cracks after earthquake
Cracks in front of the house.

These are the days you will never forget in your life. The days that make you remember how precious every moment is. This feeling of defenselessness notches your emotional memory like barely any other event. Maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit since I was listening to radio NZ big parts of the past few days. The media blow up of an earthquake is probably out of proportion. Instead of frighten us it should remind us,that we are only inhabitants on this planet. We haven’t built it. Let’s make the most of it and treat this planet and it’s inhabitants (including us) well.

waiting for watertaxi with dogs
Together with my girlfriends waiting for the watertaxi.

Today I said goodbye to the Sounds after a remarkably stunning last day. It seemed like mother nature rewarded me for the distress of the last couple of days with outstanding beauty. Yesterday morning Rod woke me up, because he spotted dolphins in the inlet. Before breakfast we went for a boatride and afterwards I swayed the paddles on the kayak.

dolphine spotting with dog
Dolphin spotting with my girlfriend Puck.
kayaking in marlborough sounds
Kayaking in the sounds.

Tomorrow I gonna say “Bye,bye South Island” – It had been a pleasure, please don’t let the quakes drag you down.

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