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The Nelson Photo News



The Murchison Earthquake

It happened 40 years and a few months ago, on June 17, 1929 to be exact. At 10.20 a.m. the Murchison, Buller and Nelson districts were rocked by an earth tremor of tremendous force. The quake caused the death of 11 people, and in some areas around Murchison, homes disintegrated under tons of rubble and slips and tree-clad hillsides were stripped. A block of country extending from 2 miles below Sullivans Bridge to 2 miles above the Longford Bridge (a distance of over 10 miles in a straight line) was lifted' by as much as 16ft. Murchison township itself was lifted just over 4 ft. Rivers and roads were blocked and it was 21 months before traffic was able to use the road to Inangahua Junction. In Nelson itself, greatest damage occurred at Nelson College where huge chunks of masonry from the college towers were hurled to the ground (left). The force of the quake was so intense that a giant of the forest in the Matakitaki Valley (below) was splintered into matchwood.


There are still signs of the giant upheaval visible in the Murchison district. Typical example is Maruia Falls on the Maruia River. Here the river was thrown right off its course and the falls were formed.

The huge rock shown above completely obliterated the home of the Gibson family in the Maruia Valley. The force of the shake can best be gauged from the fact that this enormous rock was thrown nearly 150 yds from the hillside of which it was a part. Another homestead and two of its occupants was buried under this huge landslide in the Matakitaki Valley (left). The site of the home is marked.