Christchurch, New Zealand‘s Lyttelton Tunnel was the epicenter of yesterday’s (local time 12:51 PM, 22Feb2011) Richter 6.3 earthquake (at -43.60, 172.71). This tunnel connects the port of Lyttelton through the mountain to the city of Christchurch. It is the main port for South Island. I am no authority on this, but it appears that a major portion of South Island’s economy flows through this one kilometer-long tunnel. If this tunnel is closed there would be major problems for the whole island’s economy. There are two paved roads over the top of the mountains, but they would be difficult for large trucks so it would take longer to get to the city but would be sufficient to maintain full functionality of the city.
[photo update 2011-2-23]
My particular concern about Lyttleton is that it is commonly the launch point for the ships bound for Antarctica. It is worrisome because that is the last contact with civilization for both The EarthArk Project and for much of The LifeHaven Project. Now this location which is the long-term hope for future security of the entire world has been struck by a devastating earthquake. The destruction wreaked by this relatively small quake should be a wake-up call to everyone, because much larger ones are possible. It is also a warning to anyone involved in these Earth-saving projects that they might have various unanticipated points which could choke off supplies unexpectedly.
This particular problem has now moved from being an unknown-unknown one into a unknown-known problem. We now know the problem exists and can make some preparations for it, but we don’t know when these events will occur. It should also be a warning to everyone that modern cities are at risk of devastation from unknown risks as well as known risks.
In the thousand year look at world problems, New Zealand’s South Island is the most likely of any large location to survive a Doomsday war relatively intact because it is located so very far from the Northern Hemisphere, where the war will be fought. It is also away from any present targets of attack with atomic weapons. Even if the several small cities located there are attacked, the fallout would blow out to sea immediately. The radioactive fallout from the rest of the world’s madness would have decreased to survivable levels before being blown onto this island. A few months after a Doomesay war the smoke from the burned cities of the north would create a sun-obscuring haze which would ruin at least one year’s crops, so the years following the tragedy would be very difficult, but many would survive.
A plan rarely survives encounters with reality, but an easy modification of it often works quite well.