Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Saturday, February 28, 2009

First a Scream, Then a Rumble

Earthquakes are a part of life here in the Land of the Rising Sun.  Tremors at least strong enough to cause lamps to sway and bookshelves to rattle happen several times a year, maybe even a couple of times a month.  You do get used to it, but never completely.  When the shaking starts, everything stops.

What's interesting is that, after you've experienced so many small quakes, you begin to recognize the telltale signs just before they occur.  Usually there is a sort of vibration, a strange feeling of thickness in the air, even a hint of a droning sound at the extreme low end of the audible spectrum, just before that first jolt hits.  It's usually enough that everyone looks at each other and says, "Ah, jishin da," [Ah, it's an earthquake] a second or two before it starts.

But last night was weird.

I was sitting at my computer busily Superpoking (i.e. annoying) people when I suddenly started hearing an awful, nerve-wracking wail.  I thought perhaps it was the creak of a rusty truck door being opened out on the nearby street, but it went on for at least a couple of seconds and seemed to be coming from every direction at once.  Then came the familiar vibration and thickness in the air.  When the shaking started, the keening took a sharp turn upward in pitch and then cut off with an eerie snap.  Luckily, it was only a very minor tremor, not enough to move much of anything.

What in the world was that sound?  Was it the aluminum sheeting on the neighbors' shed offering a harmonic complaint in response to the vibration?  Was it the siding on our house doing the same thing?  Was it a standing vibration temporarily induced in the steel reinforcing girders in our roof?  Or was it the living rock crying out in agony as it was bent to the breaking point?  I'll never know.  But it's too bad I didn't get a recording of it.  It had possibilities!


  • I felt that as an unusual one since it didn't have the typical crescendo I've experienced in the past, just two even shakings. But then, I wasn't awake at the computer at 2:36 am, I was asleep.

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 7:39 PM  

  • It's amazing that you get earthquakes often enough to start recognizing sounds and to think about trying to record them!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:55 AM  

  • The favorite word for quakes in the Pacific NW USA is "temblor." In fact, it is overused to the point where I find it annoying.

    I am glad your temblor was not a serious one.

    word verification - peeling: the sound a planet makes when it injures itself.

    By Blogger Don Snabulus, at 3:30 AM  

  • It is important that you start paying attention to the behaviour of your pets. Animals are very good earthquake detectors.

    By Anonymous Dave, at 8:22 AM  

  • I would really like to feel and hear all of those pre-earthquake signs. Sounds absolutely intriguing.

    As for the wailing last night, I simply cannot imagine it or its cause! Possibly vibrations as you say. They have to be just at the right frequency and perhaps this time they were.

    It's amazing that the movement of earth can cause thickness in the air before it happens. Mmust be some sort of electromagnetic field disturbance, and we are EM beings so we must be picking it up like how dogs pick up the electrical signals from their epileptic owners' muscles before we even know a fit is imminent.

    By Blogger Olivia, at 8:42 AM  

  • It is interesting that we are often intrigued by sounds whose source is unknown. I read that it has something to do with fear of the unknown.

    By Blogger HappySurfer, at 2:24 PM  

  • Pandabonium
    Yeah, it was a strange, little earthquake for a number of reasons, but that weird wail was what really grabbed my attention.

    With a little bit of imagination, any noticeable sound can be worth recording! I know a musician who once made a jazz song out of the sound of a railway vibrating as a train was approaching.

    I'm just an Unfrozen Ex-Pat Teacher/Musician™! What do I know of such things? Your terminology frightens and confuses me! I need another drink!

    Yes, but only if they're within view.

    You should read up on the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995. There were all kinds of freaky phenomena that happened in the hour before the quake hit, such as people having strange sensations, photos showing bizarre images, and even freakish cloud formations that suddenly appeared over Kobe and just as suddenly vanished (but were photographed by several different people). Yes, there's still a lot we don't know about the universe...including ourselves.

    There's a good reason to be afraid of the unknown. What you don't know could very well hurt you!

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 9:00 PM  

  • To Google I go! I tried YouTube last night and saw a few videos, but I want to read descriptions and theories.

    By Blogger Olivia, at 6:38 AM  

  • Snabby - temblor bothers me too. Sounds like something one might drink from, like a small tumbler. "I'll have another temblor of whiskey."

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 5:40 PM  

  • i always wonder if mirrors or glass will crack during the earth shakes.

    hmmm.. glass must be a good business to do in the land of the rising quakes

    By Blogger Robin, at 10:16 AM  

  • oooh, not sure that i'd ever get used to that.

    thankfully, i've never had to experience that.

    By Blogger Um Naief, at 2:22 AM  

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