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Earthquakes from 1820 to 1936 in Grahamstown and surroundings (Eastern Cape Province, South Africa)

Abstract

The seismicity of Grahamstown, in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, for the years between 1820 and 1936 is investigated with recourse to contemporaneous documentary sources, leading to the development of a seismic history incorporating consideration of the broader geo-political context. Individual studies of five regional events that were felt in Grahamstown during that period, and of one that was not, are presented. Each study includes the development of a full set of intensity data points, which are used to determine reappraised epicentral locations and magnitudes, some of which differ significantly from previously listed parameters. The results thus obtained highlight the value of seeking out additional contemporary sources from different language groups when revisiting the source parameters of earthquakes for which no or only very limited instrumental information is available.

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Notes

  1. Note that the Gutenberg and Richter (1956) relation uses 2/3 as the slope coefficient, and the epicentral intensity, \(\hbox {I}_{0}\). The approximation to 0.66 and the assumption of equivalence between the maximum observed intensity \(\hbox {I}_{\max }\) and \(\hbox {I}_{0}\) are due to Fernández and Guzmán (1979).

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Acknowledgments

The work presented in this paper was conducted as a part of the PSHA project for the Thyspunt site conducted by the Council for Geoscience under contract from Eskom, the South African state-owned energy utility. The contributions of individuals from both CGS and Eskom in supporting this work are too numerous for mention herein, but we note particular thanks to Erna Hattingh, Project Manager from the CGS Nuclear Geo-hazard Group, and André P Nel from Eskom Nuclear Sites for their support for the work and their appreciation of the value of extending the earthquake record for this region of South Africa. Sincere thanks are also due to the project PTI, Julian Bommer, and the SSC TI Lead, Kevin Coppersmith, for their continued guidance and support. Moreover, the authors are extremely grateful to Vindina Mitha, who accompanied P.A. in Eastern Cape repositories and shared the labours of historical field-work in a frozen Karoo; the staff of the Cory Library for Historical Research, at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, for their warm welcome and valuable support; Linda Akromah, for her translation of the Xhosa documents, and valuable feedback on terminology issues; Refilwe Shelembe, for additional thoughtful feedback on these issues, and a thorough check of the draft manuscript; Andrea Rovida for the painstaking effort to prepare all the maps in this paper; and Céline Beauval, for guidance in the determination of the source parameters. The work presented herein also greatly benefited from lively discussions with, and thoughtful comments from, various participants of the Thyspunt PSHA project.

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Correspondence to Paola Albini.

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Disclaimer As explained in the text, the nature of the work presented herein requires the use of sources that are contemporary to the earthquakes studied. These sources may, in some instances, employ terminology or voice views that would be unacceptable in a modern context. Their inclusion in the present study only reflects their use in sources used for assessing the macroseimic effects of the earthquakes under investigation, and by no means constitutes an endorsement, by the authors or their institutions, of aforementioned terminology and views. Wherever possible, modern equivalents have been used, however for reasons of traceability geographic locations and titles have been left in their original form.

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Albini, P., Strasser, F.O. & Flint, N.S. Earthquakes from 1820 to 1936 in Grahamstown and surroundings (Eastern Cape Province, South Africa). Bull Earthquake Eng 12, 45–78 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10518-013-9562-0

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Keywords

  • Historical seismicity
  • Earthquake catalogue
  • South Africa
  • Eastern Cape Province
  • Seismic history
  • Macroseismic intensity