Visiting the Earthquake Museum of Taiwan
Did you know that every year there are over twenty thousand earthquakes in Taiwan? Neither did I until I visited the Earthquake Museum of Taiwan recently. The Earthquake Museum of Taiwan is located at Wufeng in central Taiwan about 9km away from the famous Sun Moon Lake. It also commemorates the most devastating earthquake to hit Taiwan. This is known as the 921 earthquake that struck at 0147 on 21st September in 1999.
Taiwan sits on the Eurasian Continent Plate and Philippine Sea Plate and there are a lot of underground activity happening all the time. Luckily we can’t feel most of it. Since coming to Taiwan, I have felt a handful of earthquakes the latest one being this morning (16th December) when I was sleeping. Anyway, I figured I should learn more about it since I was living in an earthquake prone country. In particular, I live fairly near the epicenter of the 921 earthquake, so a visit to the Earthquake Museum of Taiwan seems like a sensible thing to do.
ARRIVING AT THE EARTHQUAKE MUSEUM OF TAIWAN
The Earthquake Museum of Taiwan is located on the premises of a former school. The 921 earthquake hit 7.3 on the Richter Scale and the school suffered serious damage. That’s why the authorities turned the school premises into a museum as it has many interesting remaints to help us understand the magnitude of the earthquake.
After arriving at the car park, visitors cross a footbridge to get to the main part of the museum. As you walk along the footbridge, you can see an accelerogram showing the 921 earthquake recorded here. On the bottom of the photo is the amplitude ie the vibration measured in centimeters per second. On the other axis is the time which goes up to 60 seconds. At the middle of the graph roughly between the 18th to 45th second, there’s around a ten meter amplitude. Imagine yourself being thrown up and down for 10 metres for nearly 20 seconds when you were in bed at 0147 one night. That is what people experienced around here when the earthquake struck.
The first part of the museum is the Chelungpu Fault Memorial. Chelungpu is the name of the fault that runs about 100km north to south through central Taiwan and the 921 earthquake. In fact it ran right through this school along this yellow path. From where this window is now, down the stairs and eventually shifting the ground up as high as a grown up man. The pile of rubble you see is actually from the earthquake and was retained to show people the magnitude of the movement. The horizontal mark in front of our guide’s head (second man on the right) is where the ground used to be.
The school’s sportsfield is outside behind the pile of rubble. We went outside and our guide took a photo for us standing next to the track. Part of the field track is behind the sign on the left, you can roughly see its original course. Behind us is the track after the earthquake. The track has risen by an average of 2.65m here and is way higher than me now. That in itself isn’t a difficult thing to do, but when it rises taller than two grown up guys, that’s another story.
Since the earthquake, this track has become invaluable for geological research worldwide. The length and width of Chelungpe Fault is rarely seen, and the track lines proved extremely useful to analyse the exact magnitude of the movement. Even after all these years now, the fault is still very well preserved as it’s protected by the material covering the field track so had provided great insight to help us understand more about earthquakes.
THE COLLAPSED SCHOOL
Next I went out to see the school buildings. The south building consisted of a few classrooms on ground level. All the external walls had fallen over, and supporting beams have been installed to support the walls between the classrooms. I saw some equipment inside the classroom, I presume they were there to monitor the structure of the building.
Most of the facilities in the classroom were still there. The blackboard, the fans and lights on the ceiling, the debris from the aftermath. There was also a poster in the classroom that said, “Students, Lessons will begin. Stand and salute. Good day teacher!” It was quite sad to see that poster.
The main school building is a bit further along. This is, or was a two storey high building. It was basically snapped into three during the earthquake. The section on the left hand side had tumbled down further than the centre section, leaving the toilets at the end of the building all exposed.
The other end of the school building had also collapsed like a pack of cards. The damaged here was even more severe than the other end. Luckily, the earthquake struck at 0147 and there was no one at school at that time, otherwise this would have been a much worse disaster than it already is.
Visiting the Earthquake Museum of Taiwan was certainly an eye opener for me. Before coming here, the only other time I had seen something related to the aftermath of the 921 Earthquake was at Wu Chang Temple which I had previously written about.
Here, there are a lot more information about the earthquake. You witness with your own eyes how an entire school has been destroyed. You learn about how earthquakes are caused and the impact it has on people and communities. You learn what is being done to minimise the damage of earthquakes, and what we can do to protect ourselves if we are so unfortunate to be caught up in a major one. More importantly, you learn to appreciate mother nature and life.
All photos are taken by myself.