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Boxing Day Earthquakes

Boxing Day saw three earthquakes. The major earthquake in Taiwan, recorded at 7.2 on the Richter scale, will no doubt engulf the smaller two in the world media reports, as the damage and death tolls of the tragic event continue to be updated.

The smaller ones I refer to are a 3.1 magnitude tremor centred near Applecross, Wester Ross, in the West Highlands of Scotland, and a 3.5 magnitude tremor in Dumfries & Galloway not too far from where I live. Unfortunately, I never felt it. BBC Reporting Scotland reported two tremors in Dumfries & Galloway, but didn’t say where. The report also said the British Geological Survey (BGS) in Edinburgh measured them at 3.5 on the Richter scale.

I spoke to BGS seismologist David Galloway. I asked him if the report was correct because I found it strange that only one measurement was given for two tremors. He said there had been only one tremor at 10:40am, which had been 3.5 on the Richter scale.

I asked Mr Galloway if the people of Dumfries should be worried, as major earthquakes usually give smaller tremors beforehand. He said, “No, this was a one off,” that not all earthquakes have foreshocks or aftershocks and that the ones in this area usually didn’t. He added, “This was the main event, not a foreshock. There’s no need to be alarmed.” He also told me that there are usually between 150 and 200 earthquakes in Britain each year.

I asked if this number was rising and he said, “No, people have a tendency to think that earthquakes are becoming more frequent, it’s just that the instruments we have to measure them are better and we are picking up more of the smaller ones.” I asked if today’s was the biggest and he told me the biggest was 6 on the Richter scale in 1931, but that today’s was “a significant event” and the “largest this year on shore,” adding that “The last largest was 30 May 2001, a 2.9.”

The Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary press release, which I receive by e-mail, confirmed that there had been no reported injuries or damage, although they took hundreds of calls after the event.

I decided to try and work out where exactly the earthquake had been. The BGS earthquakes website said Dumfries, so I telephoned Woolworths in Dumfries and asked the young gentleman, who wished not to be named, if he had felt the earthquake. He said, “Yes, we felt it in the store but it was over that quickly.” I asked him what happened and he said, “Not much really, a few things fell off the counter.”

He said they didn’t really know what it was, that they thought something had fallen over in the stockroom above until customers came in later talking about the earthquake. I asked him if they had been alarmed and he said, “No, because we hadn’t realised what it was.” When they found out it had been an earthquake, were they worried there might be more? “No, not at all.”

I then spoke to seven people between 100 miles west of Dumfries, in Stranraer, and Dumfries. Only one of the people I spoke to had felt the earthquake and he was also in Dumfries. The epicentre must have been either somewhere in Dumfries itself or to the East, North or South of Dumfries. The gentleman told me the earthquake hadn’t alarmed him as he had been in Tenerife when a bigger earthquake happened.

I telephoned the BGS again to see of they had found out anymore. Julian Buckits, a BGS seismologist, said the epicentre had in fact been North West of Dumfries in the area of Lincluden. By then I had heard about the Major earthquake in Taiwan. I asked Julian if there could be a connection between the two seismic events and he answered, “No, absolutely not, just coincidence.”

If you live locally you can help the BGS by visiting their website and filling out a short questionnaire. When I spoke to Julian, everyone at the BGS was packing up to go home and enjoy the rest of Boxing Day, but he said that all the data from the questionnaire would be analysed at great length when they return after the New Year. Please add a comment if you felt the earthquake, or if you were affected by the earthquake in Taiwan.

About Liam Bailey

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem


    This was an excellent article, well written and informative. I was aware of one earthquake on Boxer Day, but not all three of them…

    Good job.