Thursday, November 1, 2012

1755 Lisbon Earthquake

9:30 A.M., All Saints Day. A huge number of the residents of Lisbon are in their respective churches for special Mass on this Holy Day.

The temblor strikes; the churches crumble and crash in on the worshipers. The candles which the faithful had lighted and the kitchen fires at home ignited the flammable material in the rubble.

The city was soon ablaze. The tsunami crashed into the shore, throwing the ships in harbor up into the city.

The Lisbon Earthquake of November 1, 1755 claimed a massive toll of human life. The difficulty of obtaining an accurate count is evident, as not only were people and property destroyed, so were official records. Some estimates of deaths ranged as high as thirty to seventy thousand, and at least one chronicler claimed it was nearer one hundred thousand. Careful study over the intervening years have led most historians to believe that the death toll was probably in the range of ten thousand.

The event had serious and long-lasting effects on Western thought as theologians and philosophers started to reassess their thinking in light of such a disaster. The eighteenth century belief that this was the “best of all possible worlds” started to crumble in the face of the question, “If this is the best of possible worlds, what would any others be like?”

The event sparked interest, too, in search for a scientific explanation for such phenomena, and partly due to the thought and writings of the young Emmanuel Kant, the science of seismology had its beginnings.

It is estimated that by modern standards, the quake would have measured between 8.7 and 9.0.

History is littered with records of natural disasters. Doubtless such phenomena existed in prehistoric times. They are still with us, witness the destruction on the East Coast of our United States just this week. Likely, there shall be no end to such things so long as the Earth exists.

1.  Helena Murteira, Extracts from PhD thesis, University of Edinburgh, 2004


Shelly said...

The one thing I wish we could retain from natural disasters is the altruism and good will thst so many display towards each other in the aftermath.

Once again, I hsve gsined new knowledge reading your post~

Lin said...

Gees, that was horrible. A little shaking, a little fire, and a little water mixed in. Ugh. Can't imagine.

I found out a blog pally is still without heat, electricity, and phone in NJ. She is okay, but her elderly dad and elderly dog are really suffering in the cold. It's frustrating because I can't help her from here. What to do? We think we have come so far, but these events make us realize how vulnerable we are.

vanilla said...

Shelly, your observation is valid. If only people treated each other with kindness without need of disaster as motivator.

Lin, it is frustrating to know that acquaintances are hurting and one has no way to help. Nature is a force with which we have learned only how to clean up after, not to forestall.

Vee said...

Niece and family have no power and roof damage, but live close to Sis who still has power, so they have food and warmth. Family members out of work because their companies are dark or they have no transportation.

Praying for my family and all who are suffering on the East Coast.

BTW, I did not realize there was global warming so many years ago.

vanilla said...

Vee, so much loss, so many hurting. Sad.

Sharkbytes said...

Stuff like that always leaves people wondering "why." But the fact probably is that this is the norm, and our control via "civilization" is the illusion.

vanilla said...

Shark, "control" is an illusion. We can but respond best we can.

Sharkbytes said...

To continue my thought... on the news tonight someone from Long Island was whining that they don't understand why essential services have not yet been restored. (I have to say that East Coaster's are whining much less than Gulf Coaster's). But, excuse me? "Essential services" are certainly not. It's just that we've gotten so used to having our heating fuel, water, and lighting source sent in, in exchange for some cash, that we think we deserve them.

vanilla said...

Shark, I heard people complaining, too. I understand their frustration; what I don't understand is why they would think infrastructure should or could be restored as if by magic. It takes a lot of hard work by lots of people to accomplish.

My niece and her family have sought shelter at her mother's house since they expect to be out of power until at least next Friday. They are grateful that Mom has enough floor space to accommodate them!