22nd December 1843

Guernsey struck by an earthquake

At 3.53pm, Guernsey was shaken by a violent tremor lasting several seconds. It was strong enough to cause the bell in Town Church to ring of its own accord, buildings to sway, and even the piers to rock on their legs.

As The Star reported, “unaccustomed as we are in this happy climate to all the fearful phenomena of nature, general surprise and alarm were created by this occurrence, the more especially as the shock was one of very considerable violence.”

Indeed, so violent was it that the staff of the paper ran outdoors for their own safety, fearing that the building might collapse on them.

Ominous signs

The full report has eerie overtones. Despite being late December, it had still been warm enough for people to be swimming in the sea. Two days before the quake, a luminous cloud had appeared above the water and hovered for 10 or 15 minutes. The nights had been “impenetrably dark”, and were only lit by the passing of a meteor. On the day of the quake itself, the clouds were “singularly tinted with pale green, red and purple”.

The earthquake was also felt in Jersey, Sark, Herm, Devon and even on a few ships close to the Channel Islands. However, despite its apparent severity, the level of damage sustained was low, amounting to little more than a few dislodged and broken roof tiles in St Peter Port and some collapsed chimneys in the parishes.

Some residents reported feeling an aftershock around an hour after the initial quake. The epicentre has since been calculated to have been close to Guernsey, with a magnitude of around 4.4. Earthquakes of this intensity are not particularly uncommon, with up to 15,000 occurring worldwide each year.

The 1843 incident was far from the only earthquake to shake the island. Further tremors were recorded in 1853, 1887, 1889, 1933, 2014 and 2015. The 2014 and 2015 shakes were less severe than that felt in 1843, registering 4.2 and 2.9 on the Richter scale respectively.


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Other events that occured in December

French fishing boats prepare to invade 1st
Two cargo ships collide on their way to Guernsey 2nd
Guernseyman Herbert Le Patourel wrongly thought killed 3rd
A Guernsey funeral takes place in Cornwall 4th
Guernsey steamship SS Rossgull is wrecked 5th
The Guernsey Tapestry is completed 6th
Air UK Fokker overshoots Guernsey runway 7th
Naftel’s paintings go on display 8th
Guernsey and Jersey newspapers agree to merge 9th
Sark holds its first election 10th
Beau Sejour opens for business 11th
Victor Hugo flees France and Napoleon 12th
Explorer Edmund Kennedy is speared to death 13th
Author Mary Ann Shaffer is born
Herm bribery case comes to court 14th
Alderney’s evacuees return to their island 15th
Guillaume de Beauvoir appointed dean of English Church in Geneva 16th
Castle Cornet surrenders to Guernsey 17th
Telex, phones and telegram cables go quiet 18th
Guernsey shipwreck results in starvation 19th
Channel Islands Securities Exchange founded 20th
G-COBO has a bumpy flight 21st
Guernsey struck by an earthquake 22nd
William Hedley Cliff buys Jethou 23rd
Wombles author Liza Beresford dies 24th
Asterix is discovered in St Peter Port harbour 25th
Guille and Alles lease the Assembly Rooms 26th
The Red Cross saves Guernsey from starvation 27th
Operation Hardtack targets the Channel Islands 28th
Ebenezer Le Page author GB Edwards dies 29th
Castle Cornet is struck by lightning 30th
Guernsey Police makes the world’s first underwater arrest 31st