A Study of Recent Earthquakes
The following is from A Study of Recent Earthquakes by Charles Davison, Sc.D., F.G.S. (published 1905):
Among the earthquakes described in this volume, the Hereford and Inverness earthquakes hold but a minor place. The damage to buildings, though unusual for this country, was slight when compared with that caused by the preceding shocks; there was no loss of life, not a single person was injured by falling masonry. The interest of the earthquakes lies entirely in the detailed study rendered possible by numerous observations of the shock and sound,  and in the bearing of this evidence on the general theory of the origin of earthquakes.
 The study of the Hereford earthquake is based on 2,902 records, coming from 1,943 places; that of the Inverness earthquake on 710 records from 381 places.
The Inverness Earthquake of September 18th, 1901
Between the north-east end of Loch Ness and the Moray Firth at Inverness, there lies a tract of land not more than seven miles in length, which is notable as one of those most frequently shaken by earthquakes in the British Islands. In the intensity of its shocks it is inferior to the south-east of Essex and the centre of Herefordshire, and, in mere number, to the celebrated village of Comrie in Perthshire. But, in the interest of its seismic phenomena, in the light which they cast on the development of the earth's crust, the neighbourhood of Inverness has no equal in Great Britain, and not many superiors in any part of the world.
For this importance from a seismological point of view, the district is indebted to the great fault which traverses Scotland along the line of the Caledonian Canal, and to the fact that this fault, although it dates from Old Red Sandstone times, has not yet finished growing. As results of its formation, we have the almost straight cliff along the south-east coast of Rossshire, and the long chain of lakes, beginning with Loch Dochfour and Loch Ness, and ending with Loch Oich, Loch Lochy, and Loch Linnhe. As evidences of its persistent though intermittent growth, we have the slight tremors and earth-sounds occasionally observed at and near Fort William, and the much stronger shocks felt in the neighbourhood of Inverness.
During the nineteenth century there were three strong earthquake shocks in this district. The first and most severe occurred on August 13th, 1816, and was felt over the greater part of Scotland; the second on February 2nd, 1888; and the third and weakest on November 15th, 1890. This last shock was followed by several slighter ones, the series ending with a rather smart shock on December 14th. Between this date and the summer of 1901 no earthquakes seem to have been felt at or anywhere near Inverness.
The date of the first shock of 1901 is not quite certain. One is said to have been felt at Aldourie (see Fig. 66) some time in June, and a second at Dochgarroch in July. These may have been succeeded by others too slight to attract much notice, but the first to be generally observed occurred on September 16th at 6.4 P.M. A weak tremor, accompanied by a faint sound, was perceived over a nearly circular area about 12 miles in diameter, and with its centre about 1-1/2 miles south of Dochgarroch. On the next day, at 11 P.M., a quivering lasting two seconds was felt at Inverness, and a weak tremor, accompanied by sound, at Dochgarroch at 1.15 A.M. on September 18th. Nine minutes later, at 1.24 A.M., occurred the principal earthquake, the shock of which would be called a strong one, even in Italy and Japan.
Effects of the Shock
In Inverness, the damage to buildings, though seldom serious, was by no means inconsiderable. One brick building used as a smithy was destroyed, several chimneys or parts of them fell, and many chimney-cans were displaced or overthrown. At Dochgarroch and other places within the meizoseismal area, walls were cracked, chimneys thrown down, and lintels loosened.
But, for this country, an unusual effect of the earthquake was a long crack made in the north bank of the Caledonian Canal near Dochgarroch Lochs. It occurred in the middle of the towing-path, and could be traced at intervals for a distance of 200 yards to the east of the Lochs, and 400 yards to the west, being often a mere thread, and in no place more than half-an-inch wide. Soon after its formation, however, the fissure was obliterated by heavy showers of rain.
Isoseismal Lines and Disturbed Area
The map (Fig. 65) shows the area over which the earthquake was perceptible. The isoseismal lines are drawn partly continuous and partly dotted--continuous where some confidence can be placed in their accuracy, and dotted where their course must be regarded as doubtful, owing to the rarity or absence of observations.
The innermost isoseismal (shown on a larger scale in Fig. 66) corresponds to the intensity 8 of the Rossi-Forel scale, and includes the places where the shock was strong enough to cause slight structural damage to buildings. It is elliptical in form, 12 miles long, 7 miles broad, and 67 square mile in area, with its centre at a point about 1-1/2 mile east-north-east of Dochgarroch, and its longer axis running N. 33° E. and S. 33° W.
The remaining isoseismals are less accurately drawn, owing to the scarcity of observations made in the west of Scotland. Except towards the west, however, the course laid down for the isoseismal 7 may be trusted. Its length is 53-1/2 miles, width 35 miles, and area 1,500 square miles. Its longer axis is almost exactly parallel to that of the preceding isoseismal, but the distance between the two curves is 9 miles on the north-west, and 14 miles on the south-east, side. The isoseismal 6 is 105 miles long, 87 miles wide, and contains 7,300 square miles; and the isoseismal 5, 157 miles long, 143 miles wide, and about 17,000 square miles in area.
The isoseismal 4 may be regarded as the boundary of the disturbed area of the earthquake, for, so far as known, the shock was not noticed at any point outside it. Towards the north, it was felt at Wick, Castletown, and other intermediate places; towards the west at Tobermory in the island of Mull; and, towards the south, at Skelmorlie (in Ayrshire), Paisley, Belsyde (near Linlithgow), Gullane (near North Berwick), and Dunbar. Along the east coast of Scotland, between Wick and Dunbar, there are few places of any size where the shock was not felt. The disturbed area of the earthquake is thus 215 miles long from north-east to south-west, 198 miles wide, and contains about 33,000 square miles.
Position of the Originating Fault--The only isoseismals which are drawn accurately enough to determine the earthquake-fault are the two inner ones, those marked 8 and 7; but these are sufficient for the purpose. It is clear, from the direction of their longer axes, that the average direction of the fault must be N. 33° E. and S. 33° W. Again, the isoseismals are farther apart towards the south-east than towards the north-west, implying that the fault hades to the south-east. Lastly, as the intensity of the shock is greater on the side towards which the fault hades, it follows that the fault-line must lie a short distance (about a mile or so) on the north-west side of the centre of the isoseismal 8.
Now, the great fault alluded to above occupies almost exactly the position indicated by the seismic evidence. Its mean direction from Tarbat Ness to Loch Linnhe is N. 35° E. and S. 35° W., it hades to the south-east, and the fault-line passes through a point about three-quarters of a mile to the north-west of the centre of the isoseismal 8 (Fig. 66). There can be little doubt, therefore, that the earthquake was caused by a slip of this fault; and the evidence of the after-shocks, as will be seen, offers additional support to this conclusion.
The region in which the slip took place may be determined roughly from the position and form of the innermost isoseismal. Its centre must have been close to the point marked A in Fig. 66, which corresponds to a point about 1-1/2 mile east-north-east of Dochgarroch. In a horizontal direction, its length must have been at least five or six miles; otherwise, the isoseismal 8 would have been less elongated. It must therefore have reached from about half-a-mile north-east of Loch Ness to about half-a-mile south-west of Inverness. Its width, measured along the dip of the fault-surface is unknown; but the small distance between the centre of the isoseismal and the fault-line shows that the principal movement took place at a depth which was probably under, rather than over, one mile.
Nature of the Shock
We come now to the evidence afforded by the nature of the shock, in which there was but little variation throughout the disturbed area. At Inverness, a gentle movement was first felt, followed by an extraordinary quivering, which increased in force for two or three seconds, and then decreased for two or three seconds; just as the quivering was about to cease, there was a distinct lurch or heave, after which the vibration was much more severe than before and lasted several seconds longer than the first part of the shock. Dalarossie lies about fourteen miles south-east of Inverness, and here the first indication was a loud sound, as of an express train, coming from the east, rushing close to, and then under, the house; this lasted for a few seconds, and towards the end of it the house vibrated. Then succeeded an interval of quietness for about a second, followed by a terrific burst or crash, not unlike the crash of a loud thunder peal, of about two seconds' duration, during which the house distinctly heaved up once and then sank back. After another brief interval of quietness, there was a low rumble, like the sound of a dying peal of thunder.
It will be noticed, in this account, that the two parts of the shock were no longer consecutive. There was a short interval of rest between them, the intermediate vibrations observed at Inverness being too weak to be felt at Dalarossie. Still farther away, the extinction became more marked. At Aberdeen, for instance, the shock consisted of two parts, the first a tremble, followed, after an interval of a few seconds, by a swinging movement of longer duration than the tremble.
In all parts of the disturbed area, the shock maintained the same character of division into two parts, the second of which was of greater duration and intensity than the first and consisted of vibrations of longer period. A phenomenon of such wide occurrence was clearly not due to local influences. It must have been caused by two separate initial impulses, the stronger succeeding the other after an interval of a few seconds and taking place in nearly the same region of the fault. 
Outside the isoseismal 5, there are but few records of the earthquake-sound; but it was heard faintly at Skelmorlie (in Ayrshire), Belsyde (near Linlithgow), and Gullane (near North Berwick). Towards the north, it was not observed beyond Wick and Wathen (in Caithness). The boundary of the sound-area cannot be laid down with any approach to accuracy, but it must have included a district containing about 27,000 square miles.
Throughout the whole disturbed area, 84 per cent. of the observers heard the sound. The percentage varies in different counties, from 93 in Inverness-shire to 77 in the counties of Perth and Aberdeen; but the records in the more distant regions are too few to allow of the construction of isacoustic lines.
In its character, the sound resembled that usually heard with strong earthquakes, 39 per cent. of the observers having compared it to passing waggons, traction-engines, etc., 25 per cent. to thunder, 14 to wind, 8 to loads of stones falling, 3 to the fall of heavy bodies, 4 to explosions or the firing of heavy guns, and 7 per cent. to miscellaneous sounds. The intensity of the sound gradually diminished outwards from the epicentre, and most rapidly near the isoseismal 7, which abounds approximately the area in which the sound was very loud from that in which it was distinctly fainter, and also includes nearly all the places at which loud explosive crashes were heard with the strongest vibrations.
In the time-relations of the sound and shock, the Inverness earthquake resembles the Hereford earthquake of 1896. The beginning of the sound preceded that of the shock in 72 per cent. of the records, coincided with it in 20, and followed it in 8 per cent.; the epoch of maximum intensity of the sound preceded that of the shock in 20 per cent. of the records, coincided with it in 73, and followed it in 7 per cent.; while the end of the sound preceded that of the shock in 15 per cent. of the records, coincided with it in 34, and followed it in 52 per cent.
Somewhat similar proportions hold over the greater part of the disturbed area, the percentages being nearly the same in the counties of Inverness, Ross, Nairn, Elgin, Banff, and the most distant counties. But in Aberdeenshire an exception occurs, the three epochs of sound and shock in most cases coinciding with one another. The majority of the observations in this county come from the southern part, and the line joining this district to the epicentre is nearly perpendicular to the line of the earthquake-fault. This result has an important bearing on the origin of the sound-vibrations. For, if the general precedence of the sound with respect to the shock were due to its superior velocity, the percentage of records in which the beginning of the sound preceded that of the shock would vary only with the distance, and not with the direction from the origin. Indeed, with increasing distance from the origin, this percentage should continually approach 100; while that in which the end of the sound followed that of the shock should diminish to zero. There is, however, no trace of either tendency, the sound being heard after the shock at places close to the boundary of the sound-area. On the other hand, it the sound-vibrations were to start simultaneously, or nearly so, from all parts of the focus, but especially from its marginal regions, then, in the greater part of the disturbed area, the sound would be heard both before and after the shock; for the lateral margins of the focus would be the portions nearest to, and farther from, most observers; while, at places near the line through the epicentre at right angles to the earthquake-fault, the three principal epochs of the sound and shock should approximately coincide.
The inference that the sound-vibrations heard before and after the shock come from the margins of the focus is also supported by the observations on the relative duration of the sound and shock. If we take only those records which are free from doubt, in 78 per cent. of the total number, the duration of the sound was greater than that of the shock; while, in Aberdeenshire, according to 93 per cent. of the observers, the durations of sound and shock were equal.
We may imagine, then, that the slip within the seismic focus would be greatest in a central region, and that it would die outwards in all directions towards the edges. The friction arising from the slipping in the central region would produce chiefly the comparatively large oscillations that formed the perceptible shock; the evanescent creep within the marginal regions would produce the small and rapid vibrations that were sensible only as sound.
Origin of the Earthquake
While the seismic evidence enables us to determine the surface-position and the horizontal dimensions of the seismic focus, it unfortunately throws no light whatever on a point of some importance--namely, the direction of the movement which caused the earthquake. We cannot infer from it whether it was the rock on the south-east or north-west side of the fault that slipped or whether both sides slipped at once; nor, if that point had been settled, do we know if the movement of the displaced side was upward or downward. In the formation of the fault, however, it is clear that either the south-east side has been depressed or the north-west side elevated; and, as the bed of Loch Ness is below the level of the sea, that the former movement has predominated. If the displacements which gave rise to the earthquake were merely a continuation of the original series of movements--and this is, to say the least, a very probable view to take--then we may imagine that, for a distance of five or six miles, and at a depth of about a mile or less, there was a sudden sag downwards of the rock on the south-east side of the fault through a distance which perhaps in no part exceeded a fraction of an inch.
Fig. 66 is an attempt to represent roughly the displacement which caused the principal earthquake. The diagram makes no pretence to accuracy, and the scale in the vertical direction is enormously greater, perhaps a hundred thousand times greater, than that in the horizontal direction. The straight line is supposed to represent a straight line drawn before the earthquake on the surface of the rock adjoining the fault on the south-east side and at a depth of about a mile, and the curve the form of the same line after the earthquake.
The effect of this great slip would obviously be to relieve the stress in the central region A, and to increase it suddenly in the parts denoted by the letters B and C. It is, therefore, in these parts especially that we should expect future slips to occur. Each slip would of course give rise to an after-shock, and would in like manner result in an increase of stress in its own terminal regions, though chiefly on the side remote from the centre A.
The After-Shocks and Their Origin
It is difficult to form any estimate of the total number of after-shocks. The list, compiled from the records of careful observers only, includes forty-six shocks and ten earth-sounds, the last of all occurring on November 21st. But the list is certainly incomplete. It contains, for instance, only one entry on September 18th between 3.56 and 9 A.M.; whereas, during the same interval, no fewer than eighteen slight shocks were felt by one observer at Dochgarroch, while another near Aldourie estimates the number of shocks up to October 23rd at about seventy. The total number probably did not fall short of one hundred.
The majority were certainly very slight, and, at another time, would hardly have attracted any notice. There were, however, three of much greater importance than the rest. These occurred on September 18th at 3.56 and 9 A.M., and on September 30th at 3.39 A.M. The isoseismal lines of all three are elongated ovals, their longer axes are parallel to the fault, and their centres lie on the south-east side of the fault-line. The shocks were therefore evidently due to slips several miles in length along the fault. At present, we are concerned more with the position of their epicentres. These are indicated by the dots lettered B, C, D in Fig. 67; the dot marked A denoting the centre of the principal earthquake, and the continuous line the path of the fault.
Thus, within two and a half hours, the great slip was followed by one with its centre at B, near the south-west margin of the principal focus. About five hours later, the scene of action was suddenly transferred to a region with its centre at C on the north-east margin. Both slips affected a portion of the fault-surface several miles in length, and must therefore have increased the area of displacement, slightly towards the north-east and considerably towards the south-west. Only small movements occurred during the next twelve days until 3.39 A.M. on September 30th, when another long slip took place, with its centre at D, still farther to the south-west, and therefore again extending the area and amount of displacement in this direction.
Turning now to the weaker after-shocks and earth-sounds, we find them affecting chiefly three regions of the fault. One of these is close to Dochgarroch, another near Inverness, and the third between Aldourie and Drumnadrochit; the effects of the slips in the last two districts being, as before, to extend the area of displacement a short distance (perhaps half a mile) to the north-east and not less than six miles to the south-west underneath Loch Ness.
The unequal division of the after-shocks between the two sides of the principal centre (A, Fig. 67) is very marked. The positions of the epicentres of forty-four shocks and earth-sounds can be determined with more or less accuracy, and, of these, only ten lie to the north-east of the principal centre, while thirty-four lie to the south-west, six or seven of the latter being beneath Loch Ness.
One other point may be referred to before leaving these minor shocks. So far as regards the stronger shocks, there was a continual decrease in the depths of the seismic foci. This is shown by the progressive approach of their epicentres towards the fault-line; the distances in the three chief after-shocks being 1.7, 1.0, and 0.5 miles respectively; and in one of the latest shocks (that of October 13th at 4.24 P.M., E, Fig. 67) the distance is no more than one-tenth of a mile. The focus of this shock must, indeed, have been quite close to the surface near Dochgarroch. This constant diminution in the depth of the foci shows that the great slip was followed by a sudden increase of stress upwards as well as laterally, and explains why that slip did not leave any perceptible trace, either as fault-scarp or fissure, at the surface.
It is remarkable that, of the 56 recorded after-shocks, at least six were felt or heard only at Dalarossie and other places in the valley of the Findhorn, a valley which lies about 13 or 14 miles to the south-east of the great fault. That they had no connection with that fault is certain, for two of them were so strong that, if they were so connected, they could not have escaped the notice of one or more of the watchful observers between Drumnadrochit and Inverness. The probable explanation of these after-shocks is that they were due to slips of a fault running along the Findhorn valley;  and that the great displacement near Inverness on September 18th led to a sudden increase of stress within the rocks for many miles around, which, at and near Dalarossie, was sufficient to precipitate the slips referred to.
At first sight, two earthquakes could hardly be more unlike than the Japanese earthquake of 1891 and the Inverness earthquake of 1901. In the rice-fields of central Japan, as we have seen, the roads for many leagues were edged with ruins, the fault-slip was prolonged up to the surface and visible as a scarp forty, if not seventy, miles in length, plots of ground were compressed and their boundaries altered, the hillsides were scored by landslips, places can now be seen from one another that formerly were hidden by a mountain ridge, and the total number of after-shocks within little more than two years amounted to above three thousand. On the other hand, when we examine the distribution of the after-shocks in space, we find that, though no part of the fault was exempt from slips, they favoured three regions in particular--one, the most important, a central region, yet not coincident with that in which the principal shock was most intense; and the other two surrounding the extremities of the fault. With the lapse of time, the after-shocks on the whole became weaker and occurred less frequently, and the average depth of the foci gradually diminished. Moreover, in two districts distant forty-five and fifty-five miles from the fault, the frequency of the shocks during the month succeeding the earthquake was suddenly increased to ten and sixteen times the normal rate.
It is interesting to notice so close a similarity in character, subsisting with so vast a difference in the scale of intensity. The identity of the powers at work in shaping the structure of both islands is manifest. In Japan, we see the mountain-making forces acting with violence and producing effects that are only too apparent to the eye. In Scotland, whatever may have happened in former geological epochs, the changes in surface-structure are now taking place with almost infinite slowness, and hundreds or thousands of years must elapse before Loch Ness makes any visible progress in its march towards the sea.
Davison, C.-- "The Inverness Earthquake of Sept. 18, 1901, and its accessory shocks." Quart. Journ. Geol. Soc., vol. lviii., 1902, pp. 377-397.
 If the foci of the two impulses had been detached, there would, with so small an interval between the two parts, have been a variation in the nature of the shock like that observed during the Hereford earthquake.
 This part of Inverness-shire has not yet been mapped by the Geological Survey, but a fault is known to exist in the Findhorn valley near Drysachan Lodge, which lies about eleven miles down the valley from Dalarossie.
Note that the copyright on this eBook has expired and it is free to copy.