“Suppose, for instance, that there is a slight shift in the rocks on each side of a crack, or fault, at a depth of ten miles. It must be remembered that the pressure ten miles down would be about thirty-five tons to the square inch. Even a slight displacement of one extensive surface over another, the sides being pressed together with a force of thirty-five tons on the square inch, would be an operation necessarily accompanied by violence greatly exceeding that which we might expect from so small a displacement if the forces concerned had been of more ordinary magnitude. On account of this great multiplication of the intensity of the phenomenon, merely a small rearrangement of the rocks in the crust of the earth, in pursuance of the necessary work of accommodating its volume to the perpetual shrinkage, might produce an excessively violent shock, extending far and wide. The effect of such a shock would be propagated in the form of waves through the globe, just as a violent blow given at one end of a bar of iron by a hammer is propagated through the bar in the form of waves. When the effect of this internal adjustment reaches the earth’s surface it will sometimes be great enough to be perceptible in the shaking it gives that surface. The shaking may be so violent that buildings may not be able to withstand it. Such is the phenomenon of an earthquake.
“When the earth is shaken by one of those occasional adjustments of the crust which I have described, the wave that spreads like a pulsation from the centre of agitation extends all over our globe and is transmitted right through it. At the surface lying immediately over the centre of disturbance there will be a violent shock. In the surrounding country, and often over great distances, the earthquake may also be powerful enough to produce destructive effects. The convulsion may also be manifested over a far larger area of country in a way which makes the shock to be felt, though the damage wrought may not be appreciable. But beyond a limited distance from the centre of the agitation the earthquake will produce no destructive effects upon buildings, and will not even cause vibrations that would be appreciable to ordinary observation.”
THE RADIUS OF DISTURBANCE.
“In each locality in which earthquakes are chronic it would seem as if there must be a particularly weak spot in the earth some miles below the surface. A shrinkage of the earth, in the course of the incessant adjustment between the interior and the exterior, will take place by occasional little jumps at this particular centre. The fact that there is this weak spot at which small adjustments are possible may provide, as it were, a safety-valve for other places in the same part of the world. Instead of a general shrinking, the materials would be sufficiently elastic and flexible to allow the shrinking for a very large area to be done at this particular locality. In this way we may explain the fact that immense tracts on the earth are practically free from earthquakes of a serious character, while in the less fortunate regions the earthquakes are more or less perennial.