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Friday, 19 July 2013

New Zealand Typewriters Safe From Earthquakes

The late Sir Alf Reed, who became New Zealand's leading book publisher, took over the New Zealand Typewriter Company in Dunedin at the turn of the last century. Sir Alf, who was a typewriter travelling salesman and became the New Zealand agent for Blickensderfer typewriters, is seen here much later in life, surrounded by some of the New Zealand Museum's collection of typewriters.
News items this morning reported "People screamed, dived under desks [presumably with their typewriters still on them] and sheltered in doorways as a 'severe' magnitude 5.7 earthquake rocked Wellington ... There have been no reports of damage so far, but workers in the central city have described multi-storey office buildings swaying for at least 30 seconds as the quake hit at 9.06am.
"GeoNet said the 'severe' quake struck 30km east of Seddon, in Marlborough, at a depth of 8km. There has been a flurry of smaller shocks since the initial magnitude 5.7 quake, the strongest recorded as magnitude 3.8 at 9.38am. At least 10 other shocks were recorded in the Marlborough area by 9.45am.
"A Fire Service central communications spokeswoman said there were no reports of damage in the Wellington region so far, although an alarm activation may have been caused by the quake. The quake shook the emergency services communications centre on the seventh floor of the police station on Victoria Street in central Wellington for a good 30 seconds, she said."
New Zealand's capital city lies within the earthquake-generating collision zone between two of the Earth's great tectonic plates, and sits on top of one of the zone's most active geological faults - the Wellington Fault. The Wellington Fault forms distinctive landscape features running right through the central city.
Wellington is sitting on the relatively light continental crust of the Australian Tectonic Plate, which is riding over the dense oceanic crust of the Pacific Plate. The main boundary between the two plates (the subduction interface or subduction zone fault) slopes westward down beneath the North Island and is about 25-30 km below Wellington City.
Te Papa itself.
The typewriters are not here, but underground
in a storage building at 196 Tory Street.
At Wellington the two plates are moving against each other at an average rate of about 3.5 cm per year. This slow collision puts immense pressure on the crust and has broken it up into several large pieces, separated along fault lines – including the Wellington and Wairarapa faults that extend above the subduction interface. When the strain between these blocks of crust overcomes the resistance that locks them together, they move relative to each other and Wellingtonians experience the jarring, shaking jolt of a large earthquake.
Among Te Papa's typewriter collection
Te Papa Tongarewa is built on reclaimed land, so earthquake protection is vital. To stabilise the site, 30-tonne weights were dropped on the ground 50,000 times, much to the dismay of nearby residents. Shock absorbers made of rubber and lead lets the building move in earthquakes – up to half a metre in any direction. In a major earthquake, Te Papa would be among the safer places in Wellington. In a one-in-250-year earthquake, the building would be unharmed. In a one-in-500-year earthquake, the building would need repairs. In a one-in-2000-year quake (‘the big one’), the people and collections inside Te Papa would be safe. However, the building might have to be demolished.
Safe from earthquakes
Getting right away from earthquakes in New Zealand, here is an interesting story from Typewriter Topics in 1907 about a Yost typewriter salesman travelling in New Zealand, Australia and India:

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