Friday, January 17, 2014

16 January 2014: Quake City, Christchurch

On our second day in Christchurch, we had a relatively slow day.  The slow day was supposed to include a 2.5 hr drive to the north to Kaikoura to possibly dive with dolphins, but the poor weather that was forecasted shutdown that effort.  Unfortunately, the weather was fantastic: warm, slightly overcast, and a bit windy.  The projected 'southerly' storm never materialized or was slow coming ashore and the beautiful from yesterday has persisted.  Oh well.

We used our time in Christchurch to visit the tributes/remembrances of the severe earthquakes that rocked Christchurch on 4 Sept 2010 (Richter scale: 7.8) and 4 February 2011 (6.3) and the efforts businesses have made to demonstrate the earthquakes are not enough to scare them from the city.  The site of the tributes is a museum called 'Quake City' and is located in the city centre, the site where the majority of the damage occurred during the earthquakes.  Quake City is located in the center of the recreated business district, named 'Re: START", a collection of shipping containers that have been co-opted into store fronts.  We walked through the city centre enroute to the museum and got a flavor for the damage that was done by the earthquakes: city corners were vacant where buildings used to stand and several churches had their walls supported by braces and were surrounded by scaffolding.  With this in mind, we entered Quake City...

The designers of Quake City took the heart of Christchurch and put it on proud display. In addition to the 'facts' of the earthquakes, their intensities, the number of lives lost in each, and their epicentres, the museum also projected stories of persons caught in the earthquake.  The stories were probably as powerful as the earthquakes themselves and many of us admitted getting emotional while hearing the scary, emotional testimonies of the Cantabrians caught in the tremors.  Additionally, there were stories about all the international help that was sent to New Zealand as part of the relief effort.  Many of us mentioned how the USA helped with the effort, as well as the Chinese, Japanese and Australians.  It's time like this that I'm especially proud be an American. Scattered throughout the tribute were structures, from doors, church bells, and points to steeples, that were collected from the rubble following the earthquakes.  A brief security camera video recorded during one of the earthquakes gave some idea of how these artefacts of the earthquake might have been acquired.  Despite the terrible damage, Christchurch is working everyday to rebuild the city.  Displays in the museum detailed some of the technology being employed in new buildings and it was pretty impressive! Some buildings have suspension systems that allow them to 'float' on the ground if another earthquake shakes the Earth; new roads that are being built are having as a foundation columns that will support the road to prevent them from collapsing should the ground disappear from beneath them.  Our students had the opportunity to 'rebuild Christchurch' by making Lego structures from the blocks provided in the museum (see below for their creations).  The Quake City tribute was an emotional, educational experience, and I'm glad we had the opportunity to visit.

After Quake City, we had the chance to walk around 'Re:START', the shipping-container city with businesses inside of them.  The initial goal of the project was to keep Christchurch running despite the damage done by the earthquakes.  What started as a novelty has turned into something of an attraction, something that keeps Christchurch city centre functioning economically to a much-greater extent than initially planned.  Apparently, there are talks of continuing the lease on the property, along with the containers, beyond the April 2014 termination date, a good sign that Christchurch is embracing the container-front business enterprise.

Our day in Christchurch city centre only lasted into mid-afternoon and instead of running out to do anything else, the group decided to lay low for the afternoon and begin packing for our trip home.  Many students spent time catching-up on their journals for the class, or talked with family and friends online, or worked on blogs (:-)).  Everyone is feeling drained from the nearly 3-week long trip now and it was good to have a relatively slow day.

Tomorrow: we leave for home!

Two of the many businesses that are currently situated in shipping containers in Christchurch city centre.  What was amazing about these containers was that they were really quite simple, some contained messy caulking around the edges to prevent water from entering the structures.

The Quake City museum, dedicated to the events and damage caused during the major earthquakes that happened close to Christchurch on 4 September 2010 and 22 February 2011.

Our students made their best attempts to re-build Christchurch city centre by building Lego blocks made available in Quake City. Some of the structures survived simulated earthquakes (dropping the structure from about .5m above the table), others didn't fair too well!

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