In the known history of the world, no other earthquakes have lasted so long or produced so much evidence of damage as the New Madrid earthquakes. They argue that the three, possibly four, M7â8 New Madrid earthquake sequences prior to 1811â1812 that occurred in about A.D. 1450, A.D. 900, and A.D. 300 (Tuttle et al., 2002) were transient in nature, andthusconflictwiththemodelusedinstandardhazardcal- culations. Soil liquefaction caused large sand blows that fouled farmland in Missouri, Tennessee, and Arkansas. Reading assignment. The active faults in the New Madrid Seismic Zone are difficult to assess because they are hidden beneath thick layers of soft river-deposited soils, but current US Geological Survey maps show it to be a high hazard zone comparable to those in California. John P. Rafferty writes about Earth processes and the environment. In the most seriously impacted areas, raised or sunken lands, fissures, sand blows, and landslides were commonplace. Reelfoot Lake, near Tiptonville, Tennessee. In addition, Lake St. Francis in Arkansas, a water body formed by subsidence that followed earlier earthquakes associated with the NMSZ, expanded. A series of minor earth tremors (maximum magnitude of just 2.6) have not so much shaken as shivered the Mississippi valley between Paducah and Memphis over the past 30 days. Huge cracks split the ground. The magnitude of the December 16, 1811, event ranged from 6.7 to 8.1, whereas the ranges for the earthquakes of January 23 and February 7, 1812, were 6.8â7.8 and 7.0â8.8, respectively. Hancock, Jonathan Todd. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013. More-precise figures have been presented by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Earthquake Hazards Program: magnitude 7.7 for the December earthquake and magnitudes 7.5 and 7.7 for the January and February earthquakes, respectively. The New Madrid region continues to have the highest level of seismicity activity in the United States east of the Rockies. Lorenzo Dow in 1816, describing the earthquake as eye-witness. The Mississippi Valley Earthquakes of 1811 and 1812: Intensities, Ground Motion, and Magnitudes. At dawnâs first light Pierce beheld the full extent of devastation wrought by the nighttime shocks: âthe earth, river &c torn with furious convulsions, opened in huge trenches whose deep jaws were instantaneously closed: there through a thousand vents sulphureous streams gushed from its very bowels leaving vast and almost unfathomable caverns. St. Louis, farther removed from the epicenter, escaped with only toppled chimneys and a few cracked stone and brick walls. Hundreds of aftershocks were felt in 1813. No appreciable damage to residences was reported; however, landscape changes, similar to those that occurred during the December 16 event, are thought to have taken place. Penick, James Lal, Jr. Omissions? Like the main shock, however, seismic waves from this event were also felt in cities along the Eastern Seaboard. New Madrid earthquakes of 1811â12 - New Madrid earthquakes of 1811â12 - Possible causes of the New Madrid earthquakes: Over the past 4,500 years, a number of major earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 to 8.0 occurred in the NMSZ. The most seriously affected areas were in southeastern Missouri, northeastern Arkansas, southwestern Kentucky, and northwestern Tennessee. He serves currently as the editor of Earth and life sciences, covering climatology, geology, zoology, and other topics that relate to... Map of the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811â12. The waters of the Mississippi rose and fell like a great tide. Some scientists estimate the February quake at 8.8 magnitude. The December 1811 earthquakes were merely a prelude to what lay ahead. The first earthquake of this series on December 16, 1811, was located in northeast Arkansas. Nuttli, O. W. (1973). In the known history of the world, no other earthquakes have lasted so long or produced so much evidence of damage as the New Madrid earthquakes. The geologic record of pre-1811 earthquakes reveals that the New Madrid seismic zone has repeatedly produced sequences of major earthquakes, including several of magnitude 7 to 8, over the past 4,500 years. These events include clusters of large earthquakes that have been dated to 2350 bce, 900 ce, and 1450 ce. The first earthquake was followed by 6 aftershocks in the range M5.5-6.3 in the first 2 days. Boatman on the river reported the riverbed rose up to 15 feet causing the Mississippi to flow backwards and create two temporary waterfalls. Scholars do agree, however, that the New Madrid earthquakes were the strongest such events recorded in North America east of the Rocky Mountains. The upthrusting of the land some 15 miles (24 km) to the south of the epicentre pushed water into a basin that dropped 5 to 20 feet (1.5 to 6 metres) and created Reelfoot Lake, which is located near Tiptonville, Tennessee. Over the years, estimates have placed the 1811-12 quakesâ magnitudes anywhere from under 7.0 to 8.5âan enormous range given that one additional unit â¦ The law limited such claimants to 640 acres of new land, and it prohibited them from relocating on mineral lands. Since the rocks in the eastern United States have few active faults to interrupt the propagation of seismic waves, ground vibrations from earthquakes generated in the region may travel thousands of miles. Landslide trench and ridge in the Chickasaw Bluffs east of Reelfoot Lake, Tennessee, that resulted from the New Madrid earthquakes (1811â12). 16 December 1811 (magnitude 7.5-7.9), epicenter in northeast Arkansas; 16 December 1811, aftershock (7.4), epicenter in northeast Arkansas. He rushed on deck, where he and his anxious fellow passengers sought to determine the source of their peril. âSummary of 1811â1812 New Madrid Earthquakes Sequence.â https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/events/1811-1812newmadrid/summary.php. On land the impact of the earthquakes was no less horrific. Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, 63(1), 227â248. Although the relief measure had been designed to alleviate suffering in the devastated region, most Missourians believed that the lawâs principal beneficiaries had been the speculators. William Leigh Pierce, a literate twenty-one-year-old traveler, was en route to New Orleans on a flatboat in December 1811 when a violent and convulsive agitation awakened him in the dead of night. Some pursued the combative intertribal militancy favored by Tecumseh and the Shawnee Prophet Tenskwatawa, while others opted for more accommodationist strategies true to their own unique cultural frames of reference. By late spring the aftershocks had gradually diminished, but in the forlorn New Madrid district, only the hardiest souls remained. Another local citizen echoed her sentiments: âwe were awakened by a most tremendous noise, while the house danced about and seemed as if it would fall on our heads.â As the earthquakes persisted, the river townâs terrified inhabitants fled their rolling and jostling homes and established encampments on higher ground to avoid the dangers of flooding. Structural damage also occurred in St. Louis, Missouri, where several chimneys fell because of the ground vibration. Although no instrumental data are availa By Barbara Lewellen Introduction. The 1811â12 New Madrid earthquakes were an intense intraplate earthquake series beginning with an initial earthquake of moment magnitude 7.5â7.9 on December 16, 1811 â¦ According to his reckoning, the earth had become lodged between the cometâs two horns and was now attempting to dislodge itself. Magnitude estimates for each of the three events associated with the 1811â12 earthquake sequence vary widely, largely because they rely on historical accounts and analyses of the present-day landscape rather than data provided by modern seismic instrumentation. They were among the most intense earthquakes in US history and by far the largest to occur east of the Rocky Mountains. A slightly different version of this essay, âTurbulence and Terror: The New Madrid Earthquakes, 1811â1812,â appeared in the November 2017 issue of We Proceeded On, published by the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation. The location of the earthquakeâs epicentre is controversial, but it is thought to have been located in the vicinity of New Madrid, Missouri, along a fault that runs perpendicular to the Reelfoot Fault. The shock, whose epicentre was also located near New Madrid, Missouri, shook the region at 3:45 am and resulted in the destruction of New Madrid. A number of earthquakes that happened near the town of New Madrid, in late 1811, and early 1812 are known as the 1811â12 New Madrid earthquakes today. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). Every where Nature itself seemed tottering on the verge of dissolution.â. When John Bradbury entered a house near the Chickasaw Bluffs in which there was an open Bible on the table, one of the occupants attributed the cause of the recurring shocks to the Great Comet of 1811 that had appeared a few months earlier. These are estimated at between 7 and 8 on the richter scale. In American settlements and on Native ground alike, people debated the earthquakesâ causes and struggled to discover the cataclysmsâ larger meanings and purposes. American evangelicals employed earthquakes as signs of Godâs wrath for sinful behavior and a catalyst for Christian conversion and repentance. New Madrid, Territory, Missouri, March 22, 1816. And far beyond, too: at magnitude 8.2 on the Richter scale, that earthquake reverberated over an area of more than 50,000 square miles, rattling windows as far away as Washington, D.C., and New Orleans. Despite the strength of the tremors, only minor damage to human-made structures was reported: from collapsing chimneys, falling trees, and cracking timbers in houses. The main shock that occurred at 2:15 am on December 16, 1811, was a result of slippage along the Cottonwood Grove Fault in northeastern Arkansas. In Louisville, Kentucky, a man who had homemade recording instruments reported a total of 1,874 shocks between December 11, 1811, and March 16, 1812. On the Mississippi River itself, the shaking calved the soil along riverbanks and caused trees lining the river to fall into the water. Get exclusive access to content from our 1768 First Edition with your subscription. Shortly after the earthquake began, ground shaking was felt as far away as Canada in the north and the Gulf Coast in the south. The recent minor tremors of the Mississippi valley recall the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-12. January 23, 1812, a magnitude 7.3 to 7.6 quake with an epicenter in the Missouri Bootheel struck at around 9:00 a.m. The frontier was not then California but the valley of the continent's greatest river, the Mississippi, and the sequence was the New Madrid earthquakes of the winter of 1811â1812. Since the area was sparsely populated there are few eye-witness accounts. Three of the earthquakes are on the list of America's top earthquakes: the first one on December 16, 1811, a magnitude of 8.1 on the Richter scale; the second on January 23, 1812, at 7.8; and the third on February 7, 1812, at as much as 8.8 magnitude. Native people generally viewed the tremors as signs of the Great Spiritâs displeasure with their impure ways of living and the continuing American encroachment on their lands, but they chose to respond in widely divergent ways. Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, 92(8), 3259-3268. Attempts to link the bright and long-appearing comet of 1811 to the onset of the North American earthquakes were commonplace among Euro-American and Native American observers alike. There were two other large earthquakes- one on January 23, 1812 and February 7, 1812. We reexamine original felt reports from the 1811-1812 New Madrid earthquakes â¦ The earthquake sequence that struck the New Madrid region of the Mississippi Valley in 1811-1812 had remarkably far-reaching effects. Valencius, Conevery Bolton. The relocated refugee Cherokee bands once again abandoned their farms, cattle, and property and headed farther west, where they encountered resistance from the nearby Osage population. Eyewitness accounts noted that the shaking rang church bells as far away as Boston, Massachusetts, and brought down chimneys in Cincinnati, Ohio, about 360 miles (580 km) away. US Geological Survey. Following is a short summary of the New Madrid Earthquakes that occurred between December 16, 1811 to February 7, 1812. In the spring of 1815, speculators poured into the New Madrid area seeking to purchase titles to damaged lands from unsuspecting residents before they learned about the new federal compensation law. Copyright Â© 2020 State Historical Society of Missouri. The three principal New Madrid mainshocks of 1811-1812 were followed by extensive aftershock sequences that included numerous felt events. Some areas sank, while others were uplifted. Three of the earthquakes are on the list of Americaâs top earthquakes: the first one on December 16, 1811, a magnitude of 8.1 on the Richter scale; the second on January 23, 1812, at 7.8; and the third on February 7, 1812, at as much as 8.8 magnitude. Fissures opened in the ground; some were filled with water from the nearby Mississippi River or wetlands, which was later expelled high into the air when the fissures closed. The first of these happened December 16, 1811. 1812, January 23, 15:00 UTC, New Madrid, Missouri Magnitude ~7.0 - 7.8 This is the third principal shock of the 1811-1812 sequence. of the 1811-1812 New Madrid earthquakes Susan E. Hough U.S. Geological Survey, Pasadena, California John G. Armbruster and Leonardo Seeber Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, Palisades, New York Jerry F. Hough Department of Political Science, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina Abstract. The location of this event is not well constrained, but the available accounts suggest an epicenter beyond the southern end of the New Madrid Seismic Zone. During the early hours of December 16, 1811, a series of violent shakes roused inhabitants of the mid-Mississippi valley from their nighttime slumbers. In 2011 the results of a report prepared by the USGS noted that residents within an area of approximately 232,000 square miles (about 600,000 square km) experienced very strong ground shaking, and people living in an area of roughly 965,000 square miles (about 2,500,000 square km) experienced shaking that was intense enough to frighten them. New Madrid, Missouri, was the biggest settlement in the region at the time of the quakes, and the surrounding land were devastated in 1811-12. Amid the deafening din of crashing trees, collapsing riverbanks, and screaming wild birds, he sought to reassure the frightened crewmen eager to abandon the boat for the perceived safety of the shore. This region had 4 major 8.0+ magnitude earthquakes from December 1811-February 1812, during the Dalton Minimum (which included the âYear Without a Summerâ of 1816), as well as during other periods of intense seismic activity during solar grand minima. The strongest aftershock, a magnitude-7.0 tremor that became known as the âdawn aftershock,â occurred later that day at 7:15 am. The epicentre of the aftershock is a matter of some debate; some Earth scientists noted that it was located in northeastern Arkansas, whereas others maintained that it was located in northwestern Tennessee near the southern end of the Reelfoot Fault, a large fault running northwest-southeast within the Reelfoot Rift. This one involved the New Madrid fault and may have placed stress on a neighboring fault known as he Reelfoot Fault. 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