Travel Pics Theme: N for Napier. Shake, rattle and wrangle over science.

Napier Art Deco everywhere

Napier Art Deco everywhere


I’ve mentioned in earlier posts this week that Napier’s Art Deco architecture is the result of the town being wiped out by an earthquake in 1931, and the decision to rebuild in the aspirational, modernistic style.

I also mentioned that the reason New Zealand gets so many earthquakes is that it sits on the border of two tectonic plates – the Australian and Pacific plates.

Now, I’ve understood that since I was a young lad – I think I was introduced to the concept of Plate Tectonics when I was about 8 years old.

What I didn’t know until years later was that the reason I learned about Plate Tectonic in the mid-sixties was that it wasn’t until then that the theory had finally become accepted as real.

It was then that a series of papers – and symposiums – nailed down the concepts.

Of course, the idea had been floated (if you will excuse the pun) decades earlier – but there was strong resistance to the theory, despite mounting evidence – and some scientists went to their deathbeds arguing that the science “wasn’t settled”

For those who may not be aware, the theory of plate tectonics holds that there are a series of ‘plates’ that make up the earth’s crust – and that they float on the magma beneath them. Convection currents in that molten magma make the plates move around (slowly) – sometimes forming super-continents like Columbia two billion years ago, Rodinia about a billion years ago, and Pangaea (about 300 million years ago).

But it’s not like these jigsaw puzzle pieces just fit together and come apart seamlessly – it’s a violent, if slow-motion, process.

The Himalayan Mountains, for example, are the likely result of a collision between the Indian and Eurasian plates. Just how violent that collision must have been .. The highest mountains on the planet were once at the bottom of a massive body of water – the Tethys Ocean – before being thrust seven kilometres into the air.


Anyway, back to New Zealand, and the Art Deco of Napier.

The Australian and Pacific plates have been having this little tête-à-tête for millennia, and New Zealand cops the result.

It’s on the boundary between the two plates – and whenever the two plates grind against each other, NZ gets a bit shaky.

The Hawkes Bay quake of 1931 was a 7.8 magnitude quake – and the epicentre was about 20km below the surface, creating massive disruption.

A large lagoon which was a feature of Napier no longer existed after the quake (in fact the lagoon was thrust up by more than two metres – creating a slab of land large enough for an airport and an industrial estate, amongst other things!)

And virtually every building in Napier was destroyed or seriously damaged – hence almost all of the (rebuilt) structures having a similar Art Deco look.

Hastings Street, the subject of today’s #travelpic, has example after example .. and you could spend hours walking along here, taking hundreds of pics from every angle, and still not get it all.

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