The earthquake in Graaff-Reinet, 1850

In May 1850 rumblings of an earthquake rocked the central interior. The Graaff -Reinet Herald reported that “The shock of the earthquake of the 21st ultimo was felt over a very extensive area. Accounts are coming in from the upper part of Graaff-Reinet in the north, to Uitenhage in the West, the land beyond the frontier in the east and south to the ocean. This comprises an area of upwards of 40,000 square miles.”


Richard Daniel, the man who established the small village of Sidbury in 1830 and built his house, Sidbury Park, on the outskirts, wrote to the Graaff-Reinet Herald to tell of his experiences during the earthquake. “The following are particulars of an earthquake, felt here by nearly all the members of my family.  About 10.30 on the night of the May 21, my family and I had retired to rest when we heard a rumbling noise seemingly coming from underneath the bedrooms. It was not unlike the sound of a carriage. Then everything seemed to be in motion. A perpendicular heave of the earth was very perceptible, followed by a tremulous motion. The vibration of the walls and beds was so great, that my family rushed from one room to another in the greatest consternation and alarm. Some fainted, whilst others became sick and giddy. One was awoken by the violent motion of her bed, and called out to know who was shaking it. The bottles, basins, jugs and candlesticks in the bedrooms moved and made a jingling noise, even the chairs in the dining room rattled so loud that the servant girl, who slept in the adjoining kitchen thought someone had broken into the house. The shock was felt at Sidbury and other places in this neighbourhood as well. It lasted about one minute. The night was cloudy, with a very light air from the south east. On looking out of my bedroom window at the commencement of the shock, I observed some ewes and lambs that were lying down under the fir trees at the end of the house, suddenly get up, bleating and running about, as if some wild animal had been in the midst of them. The electrical appearance in the air for many days previously indicated the approach of an earthquake, and those who have felt the effects of one before, observed no doubt, as I did, the remarkable gloominess in the atmosphere. On the following day, the sun was completely obscured.”


© Rose’s Roundup, Nov. 2012 (No 226)

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