Living in Japan, I have to expect to feel an earthquake every once in a while. There was one a couple weeks ago that was close by, but still was just a minor quake. But today, there was a big one. Not the big one, like last year. But this one was in the same area, and it was magnitude 7.3. Being a few hundred kilometres away from the epicentre, I’m pretty safe. There was a lot of movement, but nothing earth shattering.
So, what does an earthquake really feel like? If you’ve never experienced one, it’s hard to imagine the ground moving, and you moving along with it. It’s a very unusual sensation that isn’t easy to describe. Some earthquakes give a very sharp jolting shaking, while others are a milder rocking movement.
Today’s earthquake was a long, but soft rocking movement. There was no sudden shaking. It started off slowly with a side to side movement, and over time, built up momentum. It got stronger. At its peak, I could see anything hanging from the ceiling swinging back and forth vigourously, but I didn’t feel it as strongly. Imagine standing on a raised platform that’s supported by massive springs and a movement damper. Without the damper, the movements would be too strong to approximate the feeling of this earthquake. Now, the side to side movement isn’t a rhythmic movement. It’s quite random. You can’t predict how the ground moves during an earthquake. It’s also not like being on a boat (however, it can be like that in a tall building). I was on the ground floor of my apartment building when it hit, so I felt the direct movement of the ground. While the ground is moving, your body feels the movement, yet your brain gets conflicting information from your eyes. You don’t see the movement, but you feel it. This causes some people to get motion sickness. Thankfully, I don’t experience that. As the earthquake wanes, the movement becomes slower and slower until you can’t perceptibly notice the movement unless you lean against a wall to steady your body. However, toward the end of the earthquake, I could still hear the building creaking.
This description shouldn’t be applied to every earthquake. I’ve been through some that had much stronger movements, particularly the one on March 11, 2011. Earthquakes that are nearby have much more intense shaking, while this one didn’t shake, it rocked slowly. Earthquakes that shake are loud. This one wasn’t loud, but I could still hear it.
If you haven’t felt an earthquake, can you imagine the feeling now?