On Shaky Ground: The New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811-1812

Overview

Although most Americans associate earthquakes with California, the tremors that shook the Mississippi valley in southeast Missouri from December 16, 1811, through February 7, 1812, are among the most violent quakes to hit the North American continent in recorded history. Collectively known as the New Madrid earthquakes, these quakes affected more than 1 million square miles. By comparison, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake affected only 60,000 square miles, less than ...

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On Shaky Ground: The New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811-1812

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Overview

Although most Americans associate earthquakes with California, the tremors that shook the Mississippi valley in southeast Missouri from December 16, 1811, through February 7, 1812, are among the most violent quakes to hit the North American continent in recorded history. Collectively known as the New Madrid earthquakes, these quakes affected more than 1 million square miles. By comparison, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake affected only 60,000 square miles, less than one-sixteenth the area of the New Madrid earthquakes.

Scientists believe that each of the three greatest tremors would have measured more than 8.0 on the Richter scale, had that measuring device been in place in 1811. Vibrations were felt from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic coast and from Mexico to Canada. The quake zone was in constant movement during this period. Five towns in three states disappeared, islands vanished in the Mississippi River, lakes formed where there had been none before, and the river flowed backward for a brief period.

Providing eyewitness accounts from people both on the land and on the river, Bagnall captures the fears of the residents through their tales about the smells and dark vapors that filled the air, the cries of the people, the bawling of animals, and the constant roar of the river and its collapsing banks. On Shaky Ground also traces the history of the founding of New Madrid and considers the impact of the earthquakes on population and land in southeast Missouri. Predictions for future earthquakes along the New Madrid fault, as well as instructions on preparing for and surviving a quake, are also included.

Informative, clearly written, and well illustrated, On Shaky Ground will be of interest to all general readers, especially those interested in earthquakes or Missouri history.

Describes the severe earthquake which changed the course of the Mississippi River in several places, destroyed timberlands, drained swamps, and formed lakes.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826210548
  • Publisher: University of Missouri Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/1996
  • Series: MISSOURI HERITAGE READERS Series
  • Pages: 128
  • Sales rank: 1,007,139
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Norma Hayes Bagnall never forgot the tales her mother told her in her youth about the New Madrid earthquakes, just as they were told to her mother when she was a youngster growing up in the early twentieth century in New Madrid, Missouri. Professor of English at Missouri Western State College in St. Joseph, Bagnall is also the author of Children's Literature: Passage to the Sea.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
1 Early History of New Madrid 5
2 The First Quakes 21
3 The Earthquake's Reach 41
4 After the Disaster 54
5 Earthquake Predictions 61
6 Preparing for an Earthquake 73
7 Toward the Twentieth Century 82
8 New Madrid Today 89
Appendix 1: Mercalli Intensity Scale 95
Appendix 2: Richter Magnitude Scale 99
For More Reading 101
For More Information 107
Index 109
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