Nova: Killer Quake Documentary Short

Topic: SocietyWork
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Last updated: May 22, 2019

The movie Killer Quake is a documentary style film that revisits the terror and destruction of Southern California earthquakes, and gives predictions for future ones to come. Throughout the film it gives insight on the Northridge Earthquake of 1994, the damage it’s caused, and provides facts on the San Andreas Fault. It also gives information about “The Big One”, a huge devastating earthquake that will one day reduce Los Angeles into a ruin and cause it to break off from the rest of California, sending into the sea.While the “Big One” has yet to occur, residents of the area are treated to an occasional moderate earthquake that reminds them that the “Big One” is still yet due. The documentary was made in 1994 shortly after the January 17, 1994 Northridge Earthquake that took place just north of downtown Los Angeles. In the Northridge Earthquake 70 people were killed, 9,000 were injured, and 20 billion dollars in damage was done.

The epicenter of the earthquake occurred on the Northridge Fault, which geologists did not even know existed before the quake because it was the work of a blind thrust-fault.There was no rupture in the Earth’s crust, but yet the 35 seconds of shaking managed to cause freeways, buildings, and power-lines to collapse. The film shows visuals of the tremendous damage, and left the residents of the region wondering if that was “The Big One”. The film then explores the role of the San Andreas Fault, where the North American and Pacific tectonic plates are sliding past each other. This fault runs 800 miles in length through the entire state of California, and takes a sharp bend about 60 miles from Los Angeles.

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At the bend the two plates bump and grind against each other which creates strain, eventually relived by a series of small to moderate sized earthquakes or one large devastating one. Geologists explain how as a result of the strike slip fault, the entire west coast of California is estimated to slide northward towards Alaska over a 150 million year period. The geologists also explains how the two plates banging against each other at the bend, over centuries, have shattered the pacific plate like a pane of glass. Resulting in blind earthquake thrust-faults crisscrossing all over Los Angeles’ heavily-populated metropolitan areas.

Each one of the shattered faults could be an active one that erupts periodically. Killer Quake interviews a variety of geologists who study Southern California earthquakes. In the interviews they explain how California’s landscapes were all formed by earthquakes, and how much danger actually exists. The basic information about earthquakes is explained in an easy-to-understand format.

It is an amazing film for anyone interested in quakes and should raise concern in what fate awaits Southern California someday in the future. Geologists wonder not if a big earthquake will happen, but when it will happen.


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