Earthquakes following pattern that led to Gladstone event

EARTHQUAKES that have rocked Queensland in the past week are following the same pattern that led up to the 6.0 magnitude quake that shook Gladstone in 1918, an expert says.

At 4.15am on June 17, almost 100 years ago, tremors were felt all the way west to Roma from an earthquake that originated near Lady Elliot Island.

It remains the biggest Queensland earthquake on record. It caused minor structural damage in Gladstone, Rockhampton and Yeppoon.


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A newspaper article from Rockhampton's newspaper, The Morning Bulletin, of June 8, 1918, reported buildings shaking violently, glassware thrown from tables and broken crockery.

The article says the shocks were felt all the way to the New South Wales border with five different tremors, and that the earthquake was the "sole topic" of conversation in Rockhampton, keeping neighbours leaning over the garden fence chatting for hours.

"The excitement subsided as the day wore on; but there was great anxiety by all to know the origin of the disturbance and experience of other towns," the article read.

For seismologist Mike Turnbull, the leader of the central Queensland seismic research group, the recent activity is an "I told you so" moment.

Since 2000 Mr Turnbull, who is based in Gin Gin, has been asking for government funding to monitor seismic activity.

In 2009 he told the Brisbane Times he was particularly worried about potential earthquakes along a fault line just 30km west of Bundaberg.

Since then there has been increased activity around Mt Perry, which stopped just two days before the first earthquake off the coast of Rainbow Beach last Wednesday.

Mr Turnbull says central Queensland has always been, and continues to be, the centre of the state's earthquake activity.

And this earthquake sequence is not yet over, he says.

"We will continue to have aftershocks for about 12 months; most of which won't be felt.

"However, amongst that sequence I expect there will be some that will be felt and there is a possibility that the largest of the sequence hasn't yet occurred.

"This activity follows the same patterns as 1918 with all the activity in one place."

Mr Turnbull believes the activity will remain in the same area, although he added no one could accurately predict exactly when or where an earthquake would take place.

Statistically, Queensland is well placed for another large event.

The general consensus among seismologists is for a 6.0 quake every 100 years; a theory that up until three weeks ago Mr Turnbull agreed with.

"I have now changed that to a magnitude six in 66 years on average," he said.

"I'm considered a bit controversial for that, but it's based on the same mathematical calculations used by BOM."

Did you know?

A magnitude 8.6 earthquake releases energy equivalent to about 10,000 atomic bombs of the type developed in the Second World War.

Fortunately, smaller earthquakes occur much more frequently than large ones and most cause little or no damage.

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