Japan Is (Was) Sinking! Right?

On Friday, March 11, 2011, an “undersea megathrust earthquake,” one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded, hit off the coast of Japan. The earthquake and tsunami that followed caused unimaginable damage, not the least of which being several nuclear accidents, including the Fukushima Daiichi plant meltdown, the effects of which are still being felt today.

The earthquake was powerful enough, in fact, to shift the Earth’s axis “by estimates of between 10 cm (4 in) and 25 cm (10 in).”

There were, however, other more curious results of the Tohoku earthquake. Footage, shot by people in Japan, showed the ground beneath their feet moving like waves.

Many wondered if Japan was, in fact, sinking.

Fortunately, there was a simple answer to this phenomenon, and no one (as far as I know) died because of it: Liquefaction can occur after an earthquake when water-saturated soil becomes dislodged. Most of the land these videos were shot on was reclaimed, meaning it was most likely looser or more prone to liquefaction than more solid ground.

The over-saturated soil and sand underneath, broken loose by the powerful earthquake, began to rise with the water, and everything above began to sink. However, it wasn’t an end-of-days scenario; while it certainly caused damage to infrastructure and building foundations, the liquefaction reportedly stopped within a few days.

But it was certainly interesting to watch.


Rob Schwarz

Writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. Editor-in-chief of Stranger Dimensions. Might be a robot.