Winchester “hit” by earthquake

I wonder whether Vinny reads my blog? Vinny, if you’re reading this, I’m about to mock the Guardian for an article they’ve published. Feel free to wade in 🙂

An article in the Guardian today has the headline, Winchester hit by earthquake of 2.9 magnitude. My heart goes out to the people of Hampshire. It must have been a harrowing experience and I’m sure there’s some work to do:


At the bottom of the article is a quote from a police spokesman, “If we find out what it was, we’ll let you know.” Maybe it was Kim Dotcom. Has he moved to Winchester? Ok, I realise it’s a bit mean of me to make fun of someone’s size but I only thought to do it because Kim Dotcom does it himself:

Places don’t get “hit” by 2.9 magnitude earthquakes. It’s like saying “ant stamped on human foot”. More appropriate would be something like “minor shake takes people on Winchester by surprise” or “tiny earthquake felt in Winchester” but perhaps these don’t sound quite as exciting.

New Zealand is “hit” by magnitude 2-3 earthquakes every single day and they never make headline news.  Here’s a list of quakes in New Zealand in the past 24 hours taken from the GeoNet website.


If anything though, the Guardian article is very reassuring for me because earthquakes must be very rare indeed if they feel the need to put a 2.9 quake on the front page.

35 responses to “Winchester “hit” by earthquake”

  1. Hilarious account! 🙂 Yep, must be a very safe place to live if 2.9 makes the headlines! Loved the garden chair 🙂

    1. Yeah, the garden chair is good. It did the rounds after the Auckland quake which from memory was about 3.4 🙂

      1. haha so just a bit of a shake then 🙂

  2. Being from Hampshire & having an interest in seismology ever since the Christchurch earthquake I can see your point. However the UK, though hit by about 10 M2-3 quakes each year, very rarely has earthquakes of such size in the south of the country. Apparently last night’s earthquake was the largest to strike Hampshire since 1982, and it’s occurrence beneath one of the most ancient cities of our country is incredibly special.

    In truth the quake was a tiddler. But by the standards of the south coast of England this was a once-a-decade event. It’s occurrence really shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise; Winchester lies on the banks of the River Itchen, a chalk river formed by a fault in the 100 million year old Chalk. Similar kinds of quakes (though probably not caused by chalk river faults) have struck Chichester in the past, one a few centuries back actually causing some minor damage – a quake by British standards equivalent to say the Seddon earthquakes of 2013.

    There will be another quake of similar size this year somewhere in the UK, likely in the mining Midlands or Highland Scotland. Only a Midlands quake (like the Derby quake in November – M2.6) could rival yesterday’s Winchester quake.

    J H Gurney
    Undergrad at University of Plymouth & founder of United Kingdom Earthquake Bulletin

    1. Thanks for your great comment, JHG. I agree that this is an unusual event and newsworthy but the headline is a bit silly and the article itself a bit empty of content. What you’ve written in your comment is the kind of thing they could have put in the article.

      1. Headlines for earthquakes in this country are often laughable. In all honesty the media and seismology have never gone hand-in-hand and it has led to some rather amusing incidents – the Wilberforce quake for example on the 6th January this year apparently struck Christchurch according to the BBC!! Typical failure by British media to be accurate towards science.

      2. Oh that’s a terrible headline too. I can’t believe I missed it! Although I did know about the recent shake at Arthur’s Pass. I still have the geonet app on my phone and it informs me of all quakes over 4.0 in NZ.

  3. I was going to send you the link for this but obviously major headlines in the UK…

    1. Haha, did it make the news in New Zealand too?

  4. Kim Dotcom farted…in Winchester?

    1. I think it’s probably more likely that he fell out of bed.

  5. Rare indeed and I believe Aberdeen is on very solid granite and if bagpipes can’t shift it then I don’t think anything will. Safe. 🙂

    1. That’s very reassuring 🙂

  6. My word, that was only 60 miles away. The kids playroom is a scene of utter devastation.

    Once survived a 2.1 in Stoke on Trent that was only 1 mile away. We actually heard that one..

    Reasons to live in the UK.. The Climate won’t kill you (unless you really try). The Geology won’t kill you. The Wildlife won’t kill you. As long as you can survive 3 months of continuous drizzle without succumbing to terminal ennui, nature is generally pacified..

    1. If anyone in the family is traumatised by the shake then I recommend starting a blog as a way of dealing with it 🙂

  7. Bit like today on Radio 4 (!) they had a full interview with a health researcher who said that in their study, shopping vouchers *in conjunction with* traditional treatments had a better success rate than traditional treatments alone for stopping smoking in pregnancy… and then the summary headline was “shopping vouchers *instead of* traditional treatments”! Anything for a good headline, never mind the accuracy.

    1. That’s bad. I remember reading about that study and I’m pleased to see it helps. It’s definitely worthwhile continuing if it stops women smoking during pregnancy. But it would be unwise to discontinue the usual treatments as well.

  8. Well, I live in Winchester, and I can’t say I noticed anything. My wife works close to King’s Worthy and no damage noted there nor even mentioned at her workplace. Your blog is the first I’ve hear of it.

    The garden chair poster is almost perfect – but for maximum satiric effect the furniture would have to be teak, not plastic…


    1. Your blog is the first I’ve hear of it.

      What, you mean you don’t read the Guardian? What would Vinny say?

      1. Update:

        My son’s friend at school says that a vase (prolly Ming) in their house (in King’s Worthy) fell over and broke. So it *was* a proper disaster after all. The Graun is vindicated!

      2. Not a ming vase! My heart bleeds.

  9. Prepare for more headlines. Just sat through a tremor here in Peterborough at about 10.30.

    I suspect a NZ seismograph looks scarier than the one I linked to.

    1. There’s nothing about it in the Guardian but BBC news has East Midlands tremor recorded at 3.8 in magnitude. That’s a more appropriate headline. I’ll wait to see what the Guardian comes out with.

      Here’s the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake:

  10. I saw that – so funny! My favourite headline was the Daily Mail: “Earthquake in HAMPSHIRE! Winchester hit by 2.9 magnitude tremor that ‘felt like an explosion’” Talk about sensationalism 🙂

    1. I thought about you when I saw this headline. You made a narrow escape there!

  11. Update:

    From page 2 (no less) of the county journal of record, the Hampshire Chronicle:

    Police lines jammed as earthquake strikes

    Homes rocked by 2.9 Richter scale tremor

    An earthquake shook homes in Kings Worthy and surrounding areas, rocking homes and sparking a hectic night for emergency services.


    Police were inundated with calls from residents fearing the thunderous sonic boom-like sound and powerful vibrations were caused by a major disaster.

    A police helicopter was sent out, fire engines were dispatched, and emergency services contacted the military and aviation services, fearing the worst.

    No serious damage was caused or anyone injured.

    The bathos is good for a giggle, but snark aside the response makes perfect sense. The skies are busy with commercial air traffic from Southhampton airport and there is a large AAC base at Nether Wallop. If I’d actually noticed the quake, my first thought would have been air crash. My second would have been the oil terminal at Micheldever.

    1. Ok, when you put it like that I guess it makes sense for people to be concerned. I’m surprised so many people felt a 2.9 though. Christchurch has had over 10,000 aftershocks since the September 4, 2010 quake and most of them go unnoticed. I don’t think I ever noticed one that small.

      1. I’m surprised so many people felt a 2.9 though.

        It’s very quiet in King’s Worthy 🙂

        I’ve not heard of anyone in Winchester (yet, at least) who felt/heard the shock. KW is about 2 miles out of town.

  12. That’s just crazy…but as you say, you can be very reassured by that piece of news indeed Rachel 🙂

  13. The strongest local-ish earthquake that I have felt, 4.7 on the Richter scale, had its epicentre in Dudley, about 30-odd miles from where I then lived, in Sep 2002. I remember waking up at about 1 am to the house shaking, going to the loo and then falling asleep again almost as soon as I hit the sack; it was as if had been part of a dream. There was one of 4.2 centred on Warwick almost exactly two years before, but although it was at about 5.30 am I was already awake when the house shook. The only other time I have felt one was several years later when the epicentre was quite a long way off in Lincolnshire.

    1. 4.7 is fairly moderate, especially if it’s shallow and nearby. Once you get over 5 you can start to see damage. The biggest I’ve felt was the 7.1 2010 Christchurch earthquake (it was actually really in Darfield). But the February aftershock of 6.3 felt stronger because it was closer and very shallow. It also killed people and caused far more damage than the larger main shock.

      1. This time eight years ago I was in Christchurch. Neither then nor during the rest of my fortnight’s holiday in NZ did I feel a single tremor; even in Wellington where they are supposed to have them regularly.

        1. I never felt one until September 4th 2010 either and I had been living in NZ for five years by then. There had been some quakes during that time but somehow I missed them all either because I was asleep or just didn’t notice.

  14. Ho boy!……houses “rocked” – is just taking it too far, isn’t it?
    “Unusual vibrations / sounds were felt , and some people panicked ” maybe?

    1. Houses “rocked” is really taking things a bit far I think. But I guess if you don’t know what the sound is then you could worry there has been a crash or explosion somewhere nearby although even then “panic” is a bit of an overstatement.

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