Quake City, Christchurch
Christchurch, the main city on New Zealand
’s South Island, has been hit by earthquakes frequently, and especially hard in 2010 and 2011. Some 200 people were killed and numerous buildings destroyed or severely damaged. This included the landmark Anglican Christchurch Cathedral and the Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament as well as the railway station.
The “Quake City” exhibition is a branch of the Canterbury Museum, Christchurch’s premier cultural museum. Quake City was first set up in 2013 and moved to its present location in 2017.
Amongst the displays are the top of the collapsed spire of Christchurch Cathedral, a bell and other artefacts from the ruined Catholic equivalent (whose demolition started in 2020), and two clocks from the destroyed railway station. In addition there are plenty of interactive elements, like a spot on which you can jump to create your own seismic wave (popular with kids, obviously).
There are also classic information panels, large photos of various forms of scars on the landscape caused by the earthquakes, as well as screens showing video footage. Models of the destroyed landmark buildings complement the exhibition.
It supposedly also covers the eerie phenomenon of ‘liquefaction’. That’s when the vibrations of the earthquake’s shaking loosen water-saturated or sandy soil, turning it into something akin to quicksand. Not only can this destabilize the ground so that buildings collapse, but it can also cause solid objects like cars to sink into the ground. When the soil solidifies again after the quake it makes cars stuck into the ground look bizarre, like something practically impossible. Liquefaction in turn can also give objects buried underground, such as sewage pipes, “buoyancy” so that they may bubble up to the surface!
Quake City also sells some pretty unusual gifts/merchandise, such as bottles of beer from a brewing batch that was interrupted by a power cut triggered by the 2010 earthquake. That ruined the intended brew, but the craft brewers bottled it anyway, christening it “Aftershock Ale”, now sold as a unique kind of souvenir.
in the middle of the city, at 299 Durham Street North, on the corner with Armagh Street, Christchurch, New Zealand
Opening times: daily except Christmas Day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission: NZ$20 (students/seniors $16, unaccompanied children under 15 $8, children under 15 accompanied by an adult: free)