Earth Moving

Jersey Quake

So half way through our 2014 Day of Archaeology a small earthquake hit the island of Jersey and we got to take a pause. We currently have about 40 people all told on the island: students, volunteers,family members, staff and visiting researchers and as the quake hit, we were of course all just doing whatever it was we were meant to be doing. A shaky freeze-frame of our Archaeological Day.

Most people were at the main dig on the eastern half of island furthest from the epicentre and most barely noticed it. Perhaps the soft sediments the site is situated on took some of the shock.

I was with five or six others at the stores where the ground beneath the concrete floor grumbled like a freight train was burrowing under it, a colleague on the second floor of the adjacent store felt far more movement and the unnerving sound of juddering artefacts.

Staff back the dig HQ on the west of the island nearest to the epicentre felt it the most, like two long explosions, shaking the hard granite on this side of the island.

In the minutes after Twitter provided the confirmation that it wasn’t just our store that shook and that the island had experienced a tremor. I tried to get in contact with everyone just to check in, it felt like what you should do after a tectonic event. (I wasn’t really worried but felt I needed to let everyone know that was, like, not an explosion but actually an earthquake)

So right in the middle of the Day of Archaeology I had to summon up a mental snapshot of the project, where everyone was, what everyone was doing and all of our connections to friends, media and other groups on the island.

It felt like, halfway through the project (where we have moved quite a volume of earth ourselves) for a moment the ground moved and we were forced to stop and take stock.

By the end of the day we had all come back together and everyone shared their experience of this little moment in time (including those who’d been at the zoo and seen the animals go crazy).

I went to sleep thinking about the rumbling caves and collapsing cliffs, shaking granite and tumbling boulders. I can now add tectonics to my list of night-time fieldwork worries.