quarta-feira, 1 de novembro de 2006

Lisbon 1755: And the ground moved like the sea...

At about 9:30 a.m. on November 1.st 1755, south-western Europe experienced one of the largest earthquakes History has ever recorded. For 10 minutes the earth shook with a ferocity that geophysicists now estimate was around 9.0 on the Richter scale. Centred in the Atlantic 100 miles (160 km) west of Portugal, the earthquake was felt as far away as Finland, Italy, and England.



Lisbon was decimated, as were other cities in Portugal and North Africa. All the many medieval downtown churches were crowded to their fullest: it was All Saints' Day. Minutes after the quake, a tsunami hit. In Lisbon the height of the wave was 30 to 50 feet (9 to 15 m). Farther south it was closer to 100 feet (30 m). By afternoon the wave had travelled across the Atlantic and reached the Caribbean where the sea was observed to rise 3 feet (about 1 m). Best estimates place the number of dead in Lisbon at 30,000 to 60,000 out of a population of 250,000. Unknown thousands died elsewhere in Portugal and North Africa. Collapsed buildings, the tsunami, and a huge fire that burned on for a couple of weeks were responsible for those appalling numbers and altered Lisbon's landscape forever.

The Great Lisbon Earthquake, as it came to be known, got everybody's attention, partly because of its magnitude but also for several other reasons: it was the first great natural disaster to strike "modern" Europe. With improving transportation and communications, word of the disaster spread quickly and artists' drawings of the devastation were widely reproduced. In the developing climate of analytical and scientific thinking, it was the first great disaster widely attributed to natural causes and not – as had been previously done – to the actions of a vengeful deity unhappy with the sinful ways of humanity.

It was the first great natural disaster following which the recovery and rebuilding was assumed to be the job of the state itself and not – as had previously been the case – the responsibility of the church and the aristocracy. The earthquake imprinted deeply on European consciousness. Culturally, however, the effects are harder to document. Times were changing fast, and the quake was generally viewed as the natural – if disastrous – phenomenon that it was.


Even 130 years later, the catastrophe was still sufficiently vivid in memory to produce this picture in a British encyclopaedia of 1887

Famously, Voltaire used the event in "Candide" to write fini to Leibniz's view of this as the best of all possible worlds. Voltaire's initial reaction, upon first hearing of the quake, on November 25.th 1755, just three weeks after it happened: "This is indeed a cruel piece of natural philosophy! We shall find it difficult to discover how the laws of movement operate in such fearful disasters in the best of all possible worlds – families all over Europe reduced to beggary, fortunes of a hundred merchants swallowed up in the ruins of Lisbon. What will the preachers say – especially if the Palace of the Inquisition is left standing! [It wasn't!] I flatter myself that those reverend fathers, the Inquisitors, will have been crushed just like other people. That ought to teach men not to persecute men: for, while a few sanctimonious humbugs are burning fanatics, the earth opens and swallows up all alike."

Natural philosophers – as scientists were then known – studied the widespread and fairly well documented behaviour and effects of the quake and were for the most part baffled. In a larger cultural sense, the Great Lisbon Earthquake became an unforgettable, perhaps a traumatic, reminder of the fragility of the planet and of our place on it, the first such reminder of "modern" Europe.

On October 31.st 1755, lots of seeds were already germinating which would produce the world we know. The formation of the modern nation-state was well underway; forces of repression and liberation were in place that would lead to the American and French revolutions; the codification of the scientific method and the attendant development of technology were proceeding nicely. Kant was 30 years old, Goethe was six; Mozart hadn't even been born; nor had Coleridge, Keats, Shelley, Novalis, Hölderlin and that lot that would cause such ferment in the world of words, and would be known as the "Romantics". Was any of that changed or even accelerated by November 1.st?

The earth, though occasionally in its organic life causing us some problems – such as Lisbon –, has on the whole proved a beneficent parent, one which has given much and taken little. Line up all the natural disasters in recorded history and the total number of deaths would be minuscule compared to those resulting from our own, self-inflicted violence: 200,000,000 war dead in the 20th century alone! What has the planet done to us that might even approach that number?

Nothing yet. Not even close. Lisbon was – and is – a geo-reminder. On November 1.st 1755 the earth hiccupped. What will become of us and our vaunted culture when, finally, because of our mistreatment of its delicate balance, the planet vomits?

28 comentários:

André disse...

Realmente já não me lembrava (se é que alguma vez soube) que o terramoto se tinha dado no dia de todos os santos. Que dia terrível da nossa história, quando penso no património arquitectónico que se perdeu... Em Lisboa são poucos os monumentos barrocos que restam, se pensarmos no quão rico era D.JoãoV temos uma ideia daquilo que perdemos. É triste.

disse...

Pois é, Ric... Muito se discute, mas pouco se faz para evitar essas possíveis "iras" da natureza...

Sabe, sei que este não é o foco principal do post, mas, eu estudo o período que logo depois do terremoto. Perdoe-me, mas não deu para ler sobre o terremoto e não me lembrar de Pombal.
Hehehehehe

Beijão!
=)

Rui disse...

tens o meu msn assim: ruicolacopt@hotmail.com
bisou*e bom dia de todos-os-santos - vai pra belém, não vá repetir-se o terramoto... :p

Joel disse...

This is something I didn't know. Very interesting. Do they know why it happened?

Any big changes in the world, before this?

Or was it just really "natural" if you know what I mean.

Thanks for the history lesson!

RIC disse...

Dou-te só um exemplo, André: tinha acabado de ser inaugurado o maior teatro de ópera de toda a Europa! Não sobrou pedra sobre pedra...
É muito triste, sim.

RIC disse...

Claro que não, Lê! Tens toda a razão! Neste meu texto, eu quis centrar a atenção na nossa relação (?) com a Natureza. Mas na nossa memória colectiva é a figura do Marquês de Pombal que está de imediato associada à reconstrução.
« - E agora, excelência, que vamos fazer?
- Cuidar dos vivos e enterrar os mortos!» disse ele. E muitos portugueses repetem estas palavras, mesmo que não saibam que foi ele quem as disse...
Beijão para ti também, lulista! :-)

RIC disse...

És um amor, Rui! Eu vou deixar-te o meu e-mail (estava apenas na reinação) no teu blog, já que tens o mecanismo de controlo, logo, não o publicas. Muito obrigado!
Para ti, um excelente feriado também!
E, se quiseres seguir o teu próprio conselho, é só visitares-me: eu moro em Belém! (Lol!) E esta, hein?...
Um beijo para ti também! :-)

RIC disse...

Hello, dear Joel!
Yes, unfortunately this was one of the darkest mornings in our History...
The origin is well-known today: Portugal is situated on the contact surface of Europe and Africa; both continents are moving towards each other... You can imagine the rest of the movie... From time to time, kaboom...
In the 18.th century it was entirely natural; nowadays I believe some earthquakes are man made or, at least, man provoked... if you know what I mean.
You are most welcome, Joel! I just love to have «pupils» who are true artists!
All the best for you!

Carioca disse...

Oi, Ric.
Respondendo a você sobre as possibilidades que você perguntou do Frank, eu até pensei em alguma questão de acidente, até porque ele voltaria do show de madrugada e passaria por uma estrada perigosa. Mas eu pesquisei sobre acidentes recentes em Manaus e, pelo menos recentemente, não houve nada. Pelo menos que tenha sido registrado.
Pesquisei até sobre assaltos e coisas assim (temos que pensar em tudo, né?) e também não foi noticiado nada assim. Então, julgando por essas informações, acho que não foi nada relacionado a isso, não.
Não sei o que aconteceu, claro que não posso afirmar nada com 100% de certeza, mas acho que não foi por aí. Foi alguma outra coisa que aconteceu... Pelo menos, aparentemente.
Bom, já que você se interessou pela Wicca, eu fiz um post sobre esse assunto lá no meu blog no dia 28 de Maio. Se você quiser dar uma olhada lá, talvez encontre alguma informação interessante.
Aliás, por ser uma religião ligada a Natureza, ela tá, até um certo ponto, associada aos fenômenos naturais, como o terremoto que você mencionou aqui.
Bom, um abraço!

Fourhorsemen disse...

Read about this three weeks ago.

So will the Mediterranean entrance close up again? Then it will evaporate leaving a salt wasteland. As ice ages have come and gone the straits of Gibraltar has been an land bridge several time. Man. When it reopened that has to have been one hell of a water fall and flood.

We have quakes here. We had a 6.1 on 2/29/2000. I was in San Francisco for the 7.1 in 1989. Now that was not fun.

Very tired tonight and will go to bed soon. One week from tonight we’ll know if Bush goes into the trash can of failures.

kevin disse...

When i was in Lisbon 7 years ago I remember going to an exhibition about the great earthquake there. Has there been any more smaller earthquakes since? I often wonder what Lisbon would have been like if the earthquake did not happen, i think there would be a lot more older buildings.

Are you from Lisbon?

I will visit your great city again one day.
Kev in NZ

Minge disse...

The earth has stomach cramps already. Get ready for sickness and the squits.

I saw a long memorial/information stand in Lisbon when I was there. I remember it was quite high up. Have you seen it? Sure you have. I think it was on the way to the castle, can't really remember.

RIC disse...

Olá Carioca!
Muito obrigado pelos pormenores! Bem, espero que o Frank não se tenha embrenhado na floresta amazónica com algum índio lindo e feiticeiro...
Vou consultar esse édito teu para ficar a saber mais alguma coisa sobre o assunto. Agradeço!
Um abração para ti!

RIC disse...

Hello Will!
Yes, we both live in not so safe zones... The Pacific fire ring is no volcanologists' joke...
Around here, the most intense I've ever experienced was in 1968... Man, everything went on shaking for more than a minute, and it did seem forever...Thanks God, the damages weren't so big.
According to scientific projections, the Mediterranean will close again, evaporate, and become a part of the great north-african desert... within a few million years...
And Bush's already in the garbage can! Long live true, genuine democracy!!!

RIC disse...

Hello dear Kevin!
I believe you must have seen the permanent exhibition at the Lisbon museum itself. There you can get a quite accurate idea of what happened then. The whole downtown was medieval, full of rather ancient buildings, lots of churches (people used to say Lisbon had more churches than Rome...). Everything went lost, especially due to the big fire.
As to myself, I am from Lisbon and live at Belém, nearby the big Jeronymus Monastery...
I do hope you will visit us again, Kevin!
Thank you very much!

RIC disse...

Hello Minge!
There are several places in town where you can get information about what happened then, mainly in downtown area, which was completely devastated by the quake, the tsunami, and the fire...
It's not reassuring at all living with the thought that something of the same scope can happen again... More or less every 250 years Lisbon has been hit by an earthquake of greater proportions... I don't like that much to think about it, but... when it happens there's just no place where you can hide...
Can you imagine that a sh...t like that was felt in England, Finland, Russia...? Years ago I read somewhere that even in New York there were people saying they had felt something... Creepy...
Have a marvellous day!

Rafael Magnago disse...

nuss
pra quem entende ingles seu blog é show
pena q nao manjo muito
abração
té mais
mas msm assim voltarei mais vezes
té mais
abraços
rafael
fuizzzz

RIC disse...

Olá Rafael! Não vais dizer que não encontraste o que ler...
Muito obrigado pela tua visita! E quando houver aqui assunto especial eu aviso!
Abraços para ti também!

Ricardo disse...

Meu querido, desculpe por estar tão apartado daqui!
Vou tentar estar mais presente!

Falta de tempo!

Beijão!

RIC disse...

Olá Ricardinho! Tudo bem! «No problems»! Eu sei que tens estado muito ocupado com o novo template. Espero que fique uma beleza!
Um beijão para ti também!

Shadow disse...

Se há algo que receio, são os possíveis «vómitos» da Natureza.
O ano passado, no México, presenciei um bem de perto. Foi, verdadeiramente, assustador! (Melhor mesmo não recordar...)

Espero que o teu feriado, tenha decorrido pelo melhor.

:-)

RIC disse...

Olá querida Carla! Foi pacato o meu feriado, sim. E preguiçoso também... Fiz o que queria e não propriamente o que devia.
Susto sísmico só apanhei o de 1968: era miúdo, mas nunca mais esqueci: ainda vejo o corredor da casa em movimento como se fosse um barco...
Um bom resto de semana para ti! :-)
Beijinho!

kevin disse...

Hi Ric,
Well i think blonds are pretty cute too lol.

Well you asked for a bit of information on New Zealand. We are situated in he south pacific 12hrs ahead of Portugal in time. We are situated very close to the international dateline and we are East of Australia. We have two main islands, The North Island and The South Island. Total population is 60million sheep and 4 million people! Most of us are from European descent. The country is about the size oz Japan and it is larger than Portugal. Our capital city is Wellington. Our primary source of income is agriculture and tourism. We get lots of tourists from Europe especially Germany, UK, Ireland and Netherlands. Our language is English. I live on the South Island which is very scenic with lakes mountains and glaciers. The year of our foundation was 1842 so we are a very young country. This isjust a little info but i will try and get some photos posted on my site for you to see at some time.

I hope you are having a good day in Portugal.

Kev in NZ.

RIC disse...

I do thank you so very much, Kevin, for the information you kindly gave me! I guess I some times forget there is actually an internet for people to get informed... That's just me...
I had a peaceful November 1.st, yas, thank you!
Wish you all the best!

Mariano disse...

Thanks for such and interesting and well written article, Ric. It was a pleasure to read it.

Cheers!

Mariano

RIC disse...

Welcome, Mariano! And thank you very much! But it just wouldn't be right to accept all the credits for it: I had to check many details, especially the seismological ones, and that in turn gave me further ideas...
Wish you all the best up there «i Norge»!

Gray disse...

What an informative article, Ric!! I knew that Portugal was on the Europe Tectonic Plate and, of course, so very close to the African Plate. But, I was completely in the dark about the 1755 earthquake! The following tsunami had to make the people wonder if it was, indeed, the end of the world.

Living in Southern California keeps one on his toes when it comes to earthquakes! Thank God we have not undergone a 9.0 for well over a century.

Here's hoping that neither of us will ever experience something so devastating!

RIC disse...

Yes, Gray, we both live in not so quiet zones of the planet...
Many survivors did think it was the end of the world, and there are journals and other writings where you get an idea of how people were traumatised and how the church took advantage of that...
Your Southern California is more LA or San Diego?...
Yes, let's really hope we won't!