March 27, 2012
As you may be aware, there were two reasonably strong earthquakes in central Chile over the weekend. I think we must have the kindest subscribers on the planet, because our customer service team had a flood of well-wishing emails and inquiries to make sure everything was OK.
Most people seemed to have the idea that we were digging ourselves out of rubble, that entire cities lay waste in ruin, and that some imminent tsunami was about to wipe this entire civilization off the planet.
No such luck.
The first earthquake we had was Friday night / Saturday morning about 4:30am. It was measured at a magnitude 5.2 by the University of Chile’s seismology lab, and it had an epicenter about 40km from Santiago.
No doubt, I felt it. It woke me up at night as if I was being shaken awake by an excited friend who wanted to tell me some good news. And then it was over. I was conscious long enough to check the time, and then my head flopped back on to my pillow for a few more hours of Zzzzzz.
Sunday evening around 7:30pm, another earthquake hit. This one was measured at a magnitude of 6.8 on the Richter scale, with an epicenter a few hours south of Santiago near where my farm is located.
[The US Geological Survey says it was a 7.2. I couldn’t care less what the US government says.]
Someone sent me an article later from an Edmonton, Canada based news site which made heavy use of the words ‘alarm’, ‘panic’, and ‘devastation’. Leave it to gringo news media to overblow a story thousands of miles away that they have no understanding of.
Down here, the weekend’s events were no big deal. Local news reported on the earthquakes and then moved on to more important things– like soccer, President Pinera’s trip to Asia, and the Aysen hydroelectric struggle.
Earthquakes are simply part of the landscape here. Chile is in the ring of fire, a seismic zone that runs from southern Chile up the coast to California and northern Alaska, across the Bering Strait, down the coast of China and Japan, across to Indonesia, and down to New Zealand. There’s no avoiding nature.
Chileans, however, have learned this lesson. Things here are built to last. Not so much as a picture frame fell over in my apartment, and there wasn’t a speck of damage at my farm either.
Consequently, there’s a big difference between a 6.8 earthquake in Chile, and a 6.8 earthquake in Haiti. In Chile, people stop what they’re doing briefly, say, “hey that was an earthquake”, and then go on with their lives.
As I write this note, in fact, most of my local staff is down in Talca (near the epicenter of Sunday’s quake) conducting meetings with contractors, negotiating to sell my wine grapes at a tidy profit, and carrying out business as usual. I’ve stayed back in Santiago for a few meetings and to prepare for my trip to Asia.
Sure, in a perfect world, I’d be able to snap my fingers and eliminate all earthquakes in Chile. But since I can’t do that, I simply have to learn to manage a risk that is… quite manageable.
For me, this is a much more desirable scenario than being trapped in a police state where I have very little influence over what happens. It may not be everybody’s cup of tea… and that’s fine. The world is a big place, and chances are you’ll be able to find exactly what you’re looking for.