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John Oxley Library

Great Queensland Earthquake of 1918

By JOL Admin | 24 March 2011

Did you know that the largest earthquake in Queensland occurred in 1918?

It was a magnitude 6 quake and struck at 4.15 am on the 7th June 1918.  The tremors extended from Tamborine Mountain in the south to St. Lawrence in the north and west to Roma.  The quake originated near Lady Elliott Island and the worst affected areas were Rockhampton and Bundaberg where minor structural damage was caused to buildings.

The following article appeared in the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin, 8 June 1918:

The earthquake shock was the sole topic of conversation in Rockhampton yesterday...There were three distinct shocks.  The first, at about a quarter past four o'clock was light, but of sufficient force to rouse many people from their slumbers and to alarm others about at that early time of the morning.  The shock had scarcely passed when there was a second of longer duration and greater intensity, with a rumbling noise like the howling of wind blowing with hurricane force, striking terror into the hearts of the great majority, not only of the womenfolk, but of no small number of the sterner sex.  The third shock was felt at about five o'clock but was only just perceptible.

The effect of the shocks was illustrated by a policeman on duty in East Street.  He was standing near Mr W.G.J. Edgar's jewellery establishment at the corner of East and Denham streets when the first shock occurred.  He says that it passed through him like electricity and he had only steadied himself on the footpath when the second shock occurred.  It seemed to him as if the earth was about to open...Houses, the largest as well as the smallest, swayed to and fro as a result of the second shock, some, as it appeared to the occupiers, almost to toppling point, the noise of the rocking houses resembling very much a crackling fire.  Beds and furniture were bumped about, crockery rattled on the shelves or was smashed to pieces on the floor, pictures banged about on the walls or were wrenched from the fasteners, while the noise made by locked doors sounded like musketry.  Hens were knocked off their roosts, dogs scampered about and barked, goats bleated and cows and horses showed unmistakable signs of fear.

Remarkable as it may seem no serious damage, so far as can be ascertained, was done to either public or private buildings, and generally speaking the damage to the contents was of little consequence.  While buildings generally escaped with a severe shaking, the second shock greatly discomfited aged people and others in delicate health.  A few apparently were thrown out of bed.

Articles concerning the earthquake may be located through the National Library's digitized newspapers at:


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