Contrary to media reports,
the Richter 7.3 earthquake that shook eastern Japan for some 5 minutes
on Pearl Harbor Day, causing a 1-meter-high tsunami, was certainly not
an “aftershock” of last year’s quake that triggered the Fukushima meltdowns.
The Richter 8-plus seismic event of March 11, 2011, occurred in the Pacific
Trench, near where the edge of the Pacific Plate slips under the Eurasia
Plate. The epicenter of the recent quake of December 7 was located more
than 100 kilometers to the east of the trench and on the sea floor of
the Pacific Plate itself.
A Google map (below)), posted by the Australia Broadcast Corporation,
shows that the epicenter was inside a wrinkle along a diagonal southwest-northeast
axis in the seabed. This long crease appears to be a submarine rift valley,
where the seabed is being split apart by tectonic stress, as the plate
edge lurches toward and under the undersea shelf off the Tohoku coast.
Volcanoes Under the Sea and On Land
Tracing this groove further to the northeast, one comes across a peak
rising from the rift valley. That is likely a dormant volcano, which erupted
when the underlying deep rock was split apart long ago, releasing magma
The other end of the groove, which is cut off by the Pacific Trench, points
toward the southern Hamadori coast off Ibaraki Prefecture, site of the
Tokai-mura nuclear plant. That coastal area is not far from the northern
Hamadori coast of Fukushima, location of the two TEPCO nuclear plants,
and Miyagi Prefecture with the Tohoku Electric’s Onagawa nuclear facility.
The 1-meter-high wave landed at the 311 tsunami-ravaged port of Ishinomaki,
east of Sendai, the capital of Miyagi Prefecture.
What it all means is that Japan is entering another phase of land-building
by titanic forces against which human technology pales. The other older
line of undersea volcanoes, parallel to the rift valley, was created at
about the same time that subduction pressure forced magma to the surface
of the Honshu landmass, resulting in the formation of huge volcanic ranges
- Nikko, Bandai, Adatara and Zao - that comprise the backbone of the Tohoku
Land-building is an unstoppable destructive force in the periodic rebirth
of the Japanese archipelago. Quakes and volcanic eruptions have wiped
out human settlements on many occasions and promise to do so again, sooner
than later. Without these violent acts of nature however, Japan would
Geophysics of Creation and Destruction
As indicated by the Pearl Harbor Day quake, what is happening is a much
larger geophysical movement, with quakes being just symptoms of unseen
subterranean forces that are inexorably redrawing the map of Japan, the
Euro-Asian Continent and the Pacific Basin. The earth below our feet is
in constant motion, which we with our short lifespan fail to notice. Terra
firma is an illusion. Like stones in the mud, we are deaf to the symphony
of earth changes all around us.
The 311 disaster, unimaginable in its vastness, was only one small piece
of a larger geophysical jigsaw. For example, the recent tunnel collapse
on the Central Expressway section in Yamanashi Province, west of Tokyo,
was due to bolt-loosening caused by the March 15, 2011, earthquake in
the Mount Fuji region, four days after the 311 disaster. That quake occurred
on a completely different network of fault lines than from the 311 temblor,
a key point that still goes unnoticed by the Tokyo authorities and the
expressway engineers puzzling over the tumbled ceiling panels and smashed
On a visit to Mount Fuji in early October, local residents told me about
how the March 15 quake knocked out roadways, smashed buildings and triggered
landslides far inland. While washing headstones at the family cemetery,
I detected black grime inside the south-facing inscriptions in the granite
blocks. As it turns out, Mount Fuji has been splitting apart down its
southern face and venting steam through dozens of cracks.
The Central Expressway tunnel is located just north of Mount Fuji, and
the hills there were formed by ancient eruptions of the landmark volcano,
which is now overdue for another huge blast that will effectively divide
Japan into two halves and destroy the infrastructure of the Kanto Plain
under hot ash and poisonous gas.
Slightly to the southeast on a little peninsula, where the slope of Fuji
meets the Pacific, lies the Hamaoka nuclear plant. Hamaoka Point is hammered
by at least five typhoons every year, meaning that if it is disabled by
Mount Fuji eruptions and a quake along the nearby Suruga Bay fault line,
powerful winds will sweep the radiation release directly into the Yokosuka
U.S. Navy base, Yokohama and Tokyo, forcing more than 35 million residents
to flee a disaster greater than anything Godzilla is capable of. And
the survivors will have only one direction of escape - toward Fukushima.
Dump the Pro-Nuclear Madmen
Anyone who suggests that nuclear power stations are safe in this land
of catastrophe is, simply stated, out of his mind and should be put away
in a psychiatric ward. The nuclear proponents have no place in politics,
government, public works or the scientific establishment, since the risk
of any further radiation exposure is the final blow to the continuance
of life in Japan. The puny designs of madmen have zero chance of survival
against the titans of molten rock or, in Japanese mythology, against the
gigantic salamander reawakening under a trembling archipelago.
The Japanese Archipelago was created by tectonic movements and volcanic
eruptions, and its shoreline shaped by tsunami. These geophysical
movements have wiped out human settlements repeatedly over the past 30,000
years and, judging from the destruction along the Tohoku coast, that process
continues with bigger disasters on the way.
The Pacific seabed is being ripped asunder, promising the creation of
volcanoes across Japan eight times taller than the eroded snow-capped
mountains of the Tohoku. The superheated steam from the magma flows will
lift the Fukushima radioactive sludge from the Pacific sea floor and into
the jet stream, dooming North America and Europe. Insects and humans must
move themselves out of the way or be annihilated without a trace. Unfortunately,
with the amount of radioactivity pouring out of Fukushima into that rift
under the sea, you can run, you can swim or you can fly - but there’s
no place left to hide.
Author: Yoichi Shimatsu, former editor of the Japan Times Weekly, is a
science writer and health consultant to surviving residents of Fukushima.