The Hawkes Bay earthquake on the morning of February the 3d 1931 rocked the bay. The land mass changes, fire damage, destruction of buildings and property and the massive loss of life in Napier and its surrounding areas triggered a mass of trauma in New Zealand. But this destructive turn of events enlightened a new era of life in Hawkes Bay, with the introduction of the art deco and Spanish mission architecture. The new land changes allowed for the expansion of many farms and towns, allowing Napier to grow beyond its wildest dreams.
Napier’s Buildings were the main cause of deaths with the majority of fatalities caused by falling debris and collapsing structures. For example the Napier Nurses home (which was only built a year before the 1931 Earthquake) collapsed and killed 14 elderly men. This shows us that if Napier had fully earthquake proofed there buildings then there would have been far less fatalities. Most two story houses collapsed as they were far more likely to be effected by the earthquake. Nearly all buildings in the central areas of Napier and Hastings were leveled (the dominion noted that “Napier as a town has been wiped off the map”). Another problem was that there was no building codes in 1931 this meant that all of the buildings were not built to withstand an earthquake.
The Tectonic Plates
On 3 February 1931, one of the three largest historical earthquakes ever recorded in New Zealand struck Hawke’s Bay. The magnitude 7.8 earthquake was produced by rupture on a buried fault, probably the Napier-Hawke Bay Fault. The focus of the earthquake was about 20 km north and a little East of Napier and some 30km deep (this initiation point differs from some earlier reports and has been determined following further research by GNS Science). The Ahuriri Lagoon was raised 1.5-2 m and partially drained. Near Napier the coastline was raised and some boats moored in the harbour were left sitting on harbour floor. A tsunami was also experienced along parts of the Hawke Bay coast (but nothing noticeable occurred)
· Hawke’s Bay sits above the subduction zone, where the Pacific Plate is moving under the Australian Plate (Map courtesy of GNS Science)
On the 3d of February 1931 a Magnitude 7.8 earthquake rocked the Hawks Bay region. This occurred at 10:47 in the morning. the first shock was shortly followed by a second witch cause a massive out break of chaos, panic and worst of all fire. As soon as the fires started so did the smoke and Napier and the hill were immensely consumed in a plume of smoke, ash and dust. This was all seen form see by the Captain Morgan of the HMS Veronica which had settled in the the bay. he saw wharf’s twisting and houses and other buildings crumpling to the ground. Dust rose from the crumpled buildings. this made it difficult to see and to breathe. There were rising suspicions of a tsunami but thank-fully it never came.
Shortly after the first shock fires broke out, emergency services attempted to respond to the quake. They soon realized that putting out the fires may not be as easy as they originally thought as all water pipes were either broken or creaked. Also the Napier fire station was in ruins so the fire service instead turned to rescuing those victims trapped by the fallen derbies. Alas many people still died in the fires and because human lives were the first priority many valuable records and documents were lost. The summer weather was hot and dry as usual and due to this and a prevailing wind fires spread much quicker. Most fires burnt for up to 35 hours before eventually dying out.
(destruction of the Napier CBD)
Eye Witness accounts
Many eye witnesses that arrived in Wellington the next day giving graphic accounts of the catastrophe that had unfolded.
In Malcolm McCormick’s own words ” it was practically impossible to give an adequate representation of the events (Malcolm McCormick, Napier citizen: source ‘The Evening Post’).
Captain V. Delaney a officer at the Salvation Army maternity home in Napier described the seen as follows,” It was terrible. There was no warning, and the whole place simply appeared to collapse”. When Captain Delaney went into Napier a 7pm the town looked as if it had been subject of a bombardment ( Source ‘The Evening Post’).
A wireless report was received in Auckland from Wairoa at 9:25pm -states: “Houses are falling all around, there may be more casualties yet. All road communication is cut off; miles of road are obliterated; town bridge is all but gone, since main quake this morning shocks have been almost continuous” (source ‘Telegraph-Press Association’, sender unknown).
The New Napier
Reconstruction in the town centre looked as though it would take years. Many shop keepers could not afford to remain closed and planning quickly got underway to provide an temporary premises. After a while ‘Tin Town’ was built in Clive Square, it contained all the primary goods and services for everyday households and was made mainly out of corrugated-iron. It was pulled down several years later to make way for a new town centre.
Because of the level of destruction in Napier’s CBD the slate for a new Napier was ready to be constructed on. This was the start of the Art Deco era. Art Deco style was the height of building popularity in the 1930s. Its outlay was basic and simple but still classy enough for a new age city. The Art Deco style is considered to be safe, with its emphasis on low relief surface decoration, Art Deco forsook the elaborate applied ornaments that had fallen from the buildings in the Earthquake and caused so many deaths and injuries.
Art Deco was also cheap to create. Its relief stucco ornament was an economical way to beautify buildings during the low point of the Great Depression.
Other architectural styles for the period were also used. The Spanish Mission style from California, Stripped Classical and Classical Modern. The styles of Greece and Rome but simplified and modernized.
The quake deformed the surface of the land in the surrounding area, pushing up a long dome running northeast-southwest. The ground was raised by up to 2.7 m near the mouth of the Arapaoanui River, while at Hastings it sank by up to one meter. Along the dome created by the earthquake, some rock folded under the pressure, while at the south-western end about 15 km of rock was broken by surface faulting.
The largest of all Art Deco events in Napier is the GEON Art Deco Weekend in February. It includes over 200 events, hundreds of 1920s and 1930s cars, aerobatic flying displays, The Great Garsby picnic and heaps of free outdoor fun. Many thousands of guests and locals alike dress in Art Deco style and fill the city’s streets.
Significance To New Zealander’s