"It was like 10 guys were on both sides of the truck rocking it as hard as they could. I sat up and tried to hang on to the side of the truck rail and braced against the roof as the quake went on and on"
At 3:34 am local time, Saturday, February 27th, a devastating magnitude 8.8 earthquake struck Chile, one of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded. The epicenter was just off the coastal town of Constitucion . An 8.8 earthquake has more energy than 1.2 million atomic bombs, of the size dropped on Hiroshima during World War II. It has been calculated that the quake even shortened the earth's day by 1.26 microseconds. A microsecond is one-millionth of a second.
I was not there, but my friend Bud Andersen was sleeping in his truck, parked just yards from the ocean. You may recall that Bud is the director of the Falcon Research Group (FRG)and was trapping peregine falcons on the Chilian beach as part of his Southern Cross Peregine project. He was approx. 55 mi./90 km. north of the epicenter when the quake hit.
Just the day before the quake, life was quite normal. Bud had just recorded the return of 'Island Girl' who flew 243 km. (151 mi.) in one day to return to the Putu dune fields along the coast near Talca, Chile, where she was first tagged nearly a year ago. Her migration from Baffin Island in the Canadian artic lasted 60 days and covered 13250 km. (8233 mi.), averaging 221 km. (137 mi.) per day.
Lets pick up Bud's rude awakening told in his own words:
"We had driven south all day from Santiago. There were three of us, Kathy Gunther, myself and Steve Gibby, a producer friend from California. We had arrived at the Putu dunes a couple of days prior to Saturday and were staying at the beach restaurant/hotel of our friend, Paul Paredes and his girlfriend, Jacquelina. We had just started trapping the day before and had seen one peregrine flying over the extensive dunes.
On Thursday afternoon, Kathy and I had to drive into the town of Constitucion to finish up on some errands for our colleague, Christian Gonzalez. Little did we know then that this would be one of the locations hit hardest by the tsunami less than 48 hours later. In fact. we have been told that there were more fatalities in Constitucion than at any other single place on the coast. And we were camped about 7 miles north of there, right on the beach. In fact, as luck would have it, we were in one of the two hardest hit locations in Chile.
On the morning of the quake, I was sleeping soundly in back of Lula Belle, the project pick-up truck, right out back of Paul's cement and log structure. Kathy was asleep in one of the small rooms and Steve was in the other. Both were on the lee side of the building and about 15 feet away from the truck.
Around 0332, the truck started rocking and I woke up, knowing it was an earthquake. I had experienced these several times before on our previous expeditions and knew exactly what was going on. As I was laying there, assessing the quake to see if I should get up (not really wanting to leave my warm bag), the gentle rocking started to increase in intensity and rapidly got seriously strong. It was like 10 guys were on both sides of the truck rocking it as hard as they could. I sat up and tried to hang on to the side of the truck rail and braced against the roof as the quake went on and on.