Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Boston Earthquake November 18, 1755: An Act of God?

Prior to today's earthquake, the largest one to strike Boston occurred on November 18, 1755. Many explained it as a warning from God to repent from sin.

The 1755 earthquake struck in the early morning darkness and was felt very widely, from Nova Scotia and Montreal in the north to Chesapeake Bay in the south. A ship 300 kilometers east of Boston felt the shock so strongly that the sailors thought they had run aground. The quake's magnitude is estimated to have been 6 to 6.5. It's the largest event in recorded history for the eastern United States.

The Boston Weekly News-Letter reported on 20 November, "Last Tuesday Morning about half an Hour past Four o'Clock, the Weather being serene, the Air clear, the Moon shining very bright, we were surpriz'd with a most terrible Shock of an Earthquake: The conditions were so extreme as to wreck the Houses in this Town to such a degree that the Tops of many Chimnies, and some of them quite down to the Roofs, were thrown down."

As the moon and stars shone down buildings swayed, people in their nightclothes rushed into the dirt streets, and weather vanes were flung through the air by the amplified motion of buildings. From the pulpits came calls to repent from sin given this sign of God's inscrutable purposes. Today we consider earthquakes natural events, capable of being studied and understood.


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