7.8 Magnitude Earthquake in New Zealand

February 27, 2018

"What the *&$% is going on!?"  - November 14, 2016

If we are being completely honest here, that is the only thing i could think of when i woke up that night to a 7.8 magnitude earth quake.

Let’s back up 24 hours: Me and my group had been Canoeing down the Clarence river for almost 2 weeks and had made it into this big gorge, it was absolutely beautiful with sheer walls on either side for the most part. Our camp that night had amazing views, including these boulders that we had thought were cool. They were literally just chillin' on the side of the cliff right above one of our tent spots. When we woke up in the morning, it was a little cold out and the sun hadn't burned the mist away yet, the river had risen a good bit and was REALLY rushing. Our instructors were very experienced and knew our limits so we ate breakfast and got on the water to try and make it to our next camp spot. I remember getting in the boat and looking at my instructor like he was a nut case for wanting to paddle on that water. None the less, me and my mate got in and just paddled our hearts out and followed the lines we were instructed to in order to get to the next pull off.

Somehow everybody makes the pull off and we start walking down the bank to scout out the next rapid. I'm in a s*** mood, standing there just talking to my mate when all the sudden I see it and yell "BOAT!!" ... Sure enough, everybody turns around and just starts sprinting down the bank but there was obviously nothing we could do so we all just stopped and watched this boat with 2 people's barrel's (containing ALL of their group's rations) and 2 people's dry bags (containing all of their clothes, sleeping bags, ect..) take a vicious line down the river and finally disappearing around a wall shot. Obviously the next thing on everybody's mind was who was the dumba** that didn't secure their boat.. (It was these two meat heads Hunter and Gabe)

One of our instructors, who might as well have been Poseidon, went down to try and catch it. All by himself... so down 2 boats and 1 instructor, we were forced to tie up all the boats and make camp in this little creek bed. Honestly, I was pretty relieved. Me and Stephen went wandering around and eventually made camp up the creek a little bit under a tarp. Just a normal night!

Wrong. 12:00 sharp we are woken up by the biggest and deepest boom i have ever heard. Stephen was up before i was and was obviously terrified. I had absolutely no idea what was going on. My first reaction was to grab the nearest tree because no way a tree would be moving... Right? No, the tree was definitely moving and just freaked me out to the point of actually almost pissing myself. I army crawled 5 feet away so it didn't get on my bag and I think it went everywhere except where I was aiming. I crawl back to Steph and we still have no idea what to do but the first wave was calming. It sounded like it was raining, it didnt take long to make the connection that those were rocks falling, not rain, so we jump down into the creek bed to try and find some type of cover, hoping the rocks would go over our heads. Eventually, after trying out a bunch of different "safe spots", one of the instructors made her way up to check on us and to regroup down by the river. We gathered up together, mostly freaking out, then Hunter walks out of his tent just waking up.. This guy literally just slept through a 7.8 earthquake AND a few aftershocks!

We are all just admiring all the damage, when we notice the other side of the bank, it was pretty much just a straight drop cliff maybe 40 or 50 meters tall, it had totally collapsed and the air was filled with dirt and dust. That right there is when we started asking questions like "was that a bad one??" hahaha We got choppered out 7 or 8 hours later and really realized how bad it was. Our previous camp spot that we almost stayed at was completely submerged in water but also covered in ruble. We would have been toast. 100%. Then we got to the airport and there was a news story about us missing and all this craziness. I just remember thinking "Woah... that was actually really bad!" little did we know it was the biggest one since 1855 and the epicenter was about a mile away. 

After that day it's been pretty difficult to take a day for granted. Obviously, some days you just aren't really feeling it but then I think about how that night I went to sleep in a bad mood just because i had wanted to stay at the other camp site instead of this rocky, crappy site. When the reality was if we were to stay comfortable and not push ourselves, we would have died that night. Most likely waking up to being covered in mud and water till we just smothered to death. I have to keep pushing now, there is no standing still. No matter how uncomfortable the task at hand is, you have to keep pushing because comfort is dangerous. Trust the process, sometimes the most uncomfortable days and tasks are there to save you.

 

- Zac Szostak