SHAKE-UP: A map showing the historical earthquakes around Gympie from 1880, as recorded by Geoscience Australia.
SHAKE-UP: A map showing the historical earthquakes around Gympie from 1880, as recorded by Geoscience Australia. Contributed

Are we in the path of a destructive earthquake?

GYMPIE, like the rest of central Queensland, could be in the path of a destructive earthquake and not even realise it, seismologist Mike Turnbull says.

While the leading specialist at CQ University can not "predict" earthquakes, he believes areas that can generate large quakes, which Fraser Island proved it could last year, should be monitored, especially for smaller activity that is seen before large quakes.

"If we were to be monitoring for smaller earthquakes the patterns could give us an indication of where larger quakes may occur," he told The Gympie Times.

Three large earth quakes, each above magnitude five, occurred off the Cooloola Coast within a few days of each other in August last year.

The quakes, which occurred on the continental drop more than 70km east of Rainbow Beach, would have caused "terror" if they occurred on the mainland and had "people running around like ants", Mr Turnbull said.

Mr Turnbull, who is also the Central Queensland Seismology Research Group leader, believes monitoring stations should be set up all over Queensland.

 

Central Queensland Seismology Research Group leader Mike Turnbull.
Central Queensland Seismology Research Group leader Mike Turnbull. Emma Reid

The closest one to Gympie is 300km away at Proston, and his own monitoring station at Gin Gin is incapable of detecting the lower magnitude earthquakes that may be occurring in the Gympie region.

"We haven't got enough information to drill down and focus on Gympie itself," he said.

He said the government was being foolish by not taking notice of the information on hand.

"If we monitor the low magnitude earthquakes and then in 10 years' time they stop, the energy that was previously being dissipated is now starting to build up," he said.

Mr Turnbull said monitoring small quakes would be expensive but the cost of ignoring the problem would be greater.

"In social terms, economical terms and scientific terms we need to know where the earthquakes are occurring and it's not the big ones we need to watch; it's the little ones."

GYMPIE'S HISTORY OF EARTHQUAKES

WHILE there is no record of earthquakes occurring in the immediate vicinity of Gympie city, there is a history of activity in the greater region.

From the historical events recorded, the largest were two magnitude 3.6 quakes; 50km south in 1991 and 73km east of Gympie, out to sea, in 2005.

A 4.2 magnitude quake about 60km west in 1984 and a 4.8 near Maryborough in 1952 were other close encounters.

CQ University's lead earthquake seismologist Mike Turnbull said Gympie seemed to be surrounded by low level activity.

He said while Gympie had a solid rocky foundation, compared to other towns built on sediment, if a large magnitude earthquake was to occur within 30km of Gympie's CBD, structural damage would occur.

QUAKE HISTORY

November 28, 1978: 5.2 (magnitude) off Heron Island

October 30, 1984: 4.2 at Murgon

February 8, 1985: 4.9 off Fraser Island

October 31, 1987: 3.5 off Lady Elliot Island

November 25, 1993: 3.7 off Lady Elliot Island

May 29, 1997: 3.5 north-east of Bundaberg

September 18, 2001: 3.6 near Fraser Island

October 12, 2001: 4.0 north of Fraser Island

January 17, 2004: 4.4 south-east of Monto

January 5, 2005: 3.6 off the Sunshine Coast

December 4, 2012: 3.5 near Gayndah

February 16, 2015: 5.2 near near Eidsvold

February 16, 2015: 4.0 near Eidsvold

July 30, 2015: 5.4 east of Fraser Island

July 30, 2015: 3.9 east of Fraser Island

July 31, 2015: 3.6 east of Fraser Island

August 1, 2015: 5.3 east of Fraser Island

August 1, 2015: 5.1 east of Fraser Island

August 1, 2015: 5.4 east of Fraser Island

October 23, 2015: 4.0 east of Fraser Island

December 26, 2015: 3.8 off Fraser Island

August 14, 2016: 4.4 north-east of Bundaberg

October 26, 2016: 3.2 Near Eidsvold

October 26, 2016: 1.7 Near Eidsvold

Gympie Times


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