As spring continues to blossom brightly here on the surface of the northern hemisphere, the sounds of the deep Earth roll on…
At least a dozen minor earthquakes were audible here this week. Most were quite subtle; it may take a little practice to hear them all. Allow your ears a little time to settle in to the whooshing ambience of the crustal microseismic background and the intermittent surface chatter of human activity in the house near the recording seismometer. Against this backdrop you may begin to notice the occasional appearance of a faint but distinctive whooop, signifying the arrival of seismic waves that traveled through the Earth’s crust for thousands of miles beneath an ocean. At 00:48 and 00:52 you’ll hear a pair of these events, from quakes in a remote part of the East Pacific Ocean, some 1,500 miles off the coast of Ecuador. About midway into the week (02:44), notice the sharp snap of the Earth’s crust rupturing in Chile (5.3), where one tectonic plate dives beneath another, beneath the Andes mountains.
Over the next two minutes you can hear a few more distant earthquakes poking through the flowing background tapestry of sound.
The most significant seismic event of the week occurred beneath the sparkling waters of the Aegean Sea (6.9, 05:07), resulting in injuries and damage in both Greece and Turkey. This earthquake occurred near the sites of two great battles of military legend and history: the Trojan War and the Battle of Gallipoli. In the 3,000 years that separated these two calamitous events the tectonic plates carrying Greece and Turkey moved about 250 feet closer together.
Moment to moment, these movements are imperceptible to us; it takes the jolt of an earthquake to remind us that these relentless planet-sized forces are at work under our feet, day and night, year after year. In another 100,000 years, the Aegean Sea will be a jumble of landforms scarcely recognizable either to us or to Homer; the nations of Greece and Turkey will have gone the way of Sparta and Troy, having undergone countless cycles of invasion, pacification, war, despair, hope, creativity, development, collapse.
Who knows where we stand in this grand and brilliant arc of time?