Historic Events - Earthquakes

2012 - Victoria - Moe

This magnitude 5.4 earthquake occurred on 19 June 2012 at 8:53pm local time and was 10km southwest of Moe and 130km southeast of Melbourne. The earthquake was felt right across Victoria, with reports of it being felt from as far away as Deniliquin in NSW, around 330km from the epicentre. There were over 300 aftershocks recorded, the largest of which was a magnitude 4.4 recorded on the 20th of July 2012. The Moe earthquake was the largest earthquake recorded in Victoria since the magnitude 5.7 Mt Hotham earthquake in May 1966. From 2009 there has been an exceptionally high occurrence of seismicity related to significant earthquakes recorded in Gippsland, Victoria.

2011 - Queensland - Bowen

Isoseismal map of the Bowen earthquake. The map depicts the QLD coast from Cairns to Bundaberg and shows isoseismal zones around Bowen epicentre.  Zone IV extends from Townsville to just north of Mackay and zone III extends from Townsville and Mackay out to south of Cairns and north of Gladstone.

Isoseismal map of Bowen
earthquake, 16 April 2011

On Saturday, 16 April 2011, a magnitude 5.3 earthquake occurred at 3:31pm local time, located 50km west of Bowen in central Queensland, near Mount Abbot. The event was widely felt along the Queensland coast, including Cairns about 400km from the epicentre, and further west in Hughenden about 370km away. Local residents experienced significant ground-shaking, with a maximum intensity of MMI V experienced in Ravenswood and Bowen with reports of slight damage in Guthalungra and Bowen. A focal mechanism produced for the main shock indicates that movement was predominantly strike slip. Four temporary seismic stations were installed around the epicentre, recording over 300 small aftershocks in the six weeks following the main shock. Five aftershocks ranging in magnitude from ML 3.2 to 4.1 were recorded on 16, 17 and 19 April. The Bowen earthquake was the largest recorded in the region since a magnitude 5.7 earthquake occurred north of Ravenswood (about 80km west of Mount Abbot) in December 1913.

  • Source: Mathews, E.J., Bathgate, J., Allen, T., Collins, C., Lissogourski, M., Bevan, K., Saikal, L., Herrmann, R., 2011. Evaluation of the April 2011 Bowen ML 5.3 earthquake and aftershock sequence, Proceedings of the 2011 Australian Earthquake Engineering Society Conference, Barossa Valley
  • AusGeo News, Issue 104, Bowen shaken after recent earthquakes
  • For details on this earthquake see: Earthquakes@Geoscience Australia

2010 - Western Australia - Kalgoorlie

On 20 April 2010 a magnitude 5.0 earthquake, which caused significant damage in Kalgoorlie, occurred under the southern part of Boulder, at a depth of approximately 1.7km. Five temporary recording systems were deployed around which recorded aftershocks between 22 April and 8 June. The epicentres of the aftershocks extend 3km in a N-S direction, providing an estimate of the overall rupture length of the mainshock. A large fault occurs just to the east of the mainshock and dips in the direction of Boulder. At a depth of 2-3km this fault intersects the mainshock location, making it a prime candidate for being the fault that ruptured during the earthquake.

  • Source: Bathgate, J., Glanville, H., and Collins, C., 2010. The Kalgoorlie Earthquake of 20 April 2010 and its Aftershock Sequence. Australian Earthquake Engineering Society 2010 Conference, Perth, Western Australia

2000 - Victoria - Boolara South

This magnitude 5.0 earthquake occurred on 29 August 2000 just west of Boolara in Gippsland and 130km southeast of Melbourne. There were unconfirmed reports of minor damage in Gippsland where it was felt strongly. It was felt in all suburbs of Melbourne. It had only one recorded foreshock of magnitude 2.6 and an aftershock with a magnitude of 1.5.

  • Source: Atlas of isoseismal maps of Australian earthquakes, GA Record, January 2002 on CD

1997 - Western Australia - Collier Bay

This magnitude 6.3 earthquake at 5.20pm WST on 10 August 1997 was felt strongly across the Kimberley region of north-western WA with reports received from Halls Creek, Fitzroy Crossing, Derby, Broome and even as far as Darwin and Kununurra 600km away. Some damage was reported on Cockatoo Island 70km from the epicentre where concrete spalled off the RC footings of some houses built for the now disused mine, and a water tank was damaged. On Margaret Island steel poles supporting a shelter bent at the base leaving the walls offset about 150mm at the top. Ground waves were reportedly observed and many people were frightened. Small objects were overturned on shelves at Lombadina,120km from the epicentre. Observers at Cape Leveque reported that the shaking was so strong that the wheels of stationary vehicles left the ground, whilst campers at the mouth of the Fitzroy River felt their camping van rocking quite strongly. At Backstein Creek, 110km from the epicentre, swimmers in a lake quickly left the water when it suddenly appeared to start boiling. At magnitude Mw 6.3 this was the largest Australian earthquake since the Tennant Creek NT events of January 1988 and the largest WA earthquake since the June 1979 earthquake at Cadoux. Only three aftershocks of magnitude 3 or more occurred.

  • Source: Atlas of isoseismal maps of Australian earthquakes, GA Record, January 2002 on CD

1992 - Northern Territory - Arnhem Land

This magnitude 5.1 earthquake occurred at 8.48pm local time on 30 September 1992 off the coast of Arnhem Land. It is Australia┬┐s deepest known earthquake with a focal depth of 39 km. It was felt most strongly at Nhulumbuy, Milingimby and Maningrida. At Nhulumbuy there was one report of cracked plaster, and a reliable observer saw waves ripple a concrete pavement. A naval ship anchored off Maningrida shook violently with the shaking apparently transmitted up the anchor chain.

  • Source: Atlas of isoseismal maps of Australian earthquakes, GA Record, January 2002 on CD

1989 - New South Wales - Newcastle

One of Australia's most serious natural disasters occurred on 28 December 1989 when an earthquake shook Newcastle in New South Wales, leaving 13 people dead and more than 160 injured. The damage bill has been estimated at A$4 billion, including an insured loss of more than A$1 billion. The earthquake had a magnitude of 5.6 with an epicentre about 15km south of the Newcastle central business district at an estimated depth of 11km. Only one aftershock, magnitude 2.1, was recorded.

The effects were felt over 200 000 square kilometres with isolated reports of movement up to 800 kilometres from Newcastle. Damage to buildings and facilities was reported over an area extending 9000 square kilometres. The earthquake caused damage to more than 35 000 homes, 147 schools, and 3000 commercial and other buildings. At the height of the crisis, between 300 and 400 people were placed in temporary accommodation. In the month following the earthquake, the Disaster Welfare Recovery Centre assisted almost 14 000 people.

1988 - Northern Territory - Tennant Creek

A series of three powerful earthquakes ranging from 6.3 to 6.7 in magnitude shook the region with each occurring about half an hour apart. The main infrastructure damage was severe warping of a major natural gas pipeline as large ground ruptures occurred and a 35km long fault scarp with up to two metres vertical displacement was formed.

Foreshocks started a year before the three large earthquakes, and thousands of aftershock followed over a number of years.

  • Source: Attorney General's Department Disasters Database
  • Source: University of Western Australia

1979 - Western Australia - Cadoux

This 6.2 magnitude earthquake caused surface faulting, with many homes and buildings damaged or destroyed. Despite the township of Cadoux, population 36, being wrecked, only one person was injured. Roads, railway lines, pipes and power lines were damaged. Some buildings 180km away in Perth also sustained structural damage.

  • Source: University of Western Australia
  • Atlas of isoseismal maps of Australian earthquakes, BMR Bulletin 214

1968 - Western Australia - Meckering

Although the magnitude 6.9 Meckering earthquake of October 1968 was not the largest in Western Australia's history, it was certainly the most significant in terms of damage done and cultural upheaval. It caused ground rupturing almost 40km long, some of which can still be seen. In Meckering, a bank, hotel, shire hall, three churches and 60 of about 75 houses were wrecked. Where the fault crossed the highway, the road had an approximately 1.5 m high step in it. Railway lines were buckled, and a water main was folded in upon itself.

  • Source: Attorney General's Department Disasters Database
  • Source: University of Western Australia
  • Atlas of isoseismal maps of Australian earthquakes, BMR Bulletin 214

1954 - South Australia - Adelaide

On 1 March 1954 most people in Adelaide were awakened by a magnitude 5.4 earthquake, the first felt earthquake recorded in that city in almost 100 years. It resulted in three serious injuries and damage to 3000 buildings, including collapsed and cracked walls, smashed windows and collapsed chimneys, and 30,000 insurance claims were filed. A magnitude 3.2 aftershock was felt two days later.

  • Source: Attorney General's Department Disasters Database
  • Natural Hazards - Atlas SA External site link
  • Source: Atlas of isoseismal maps of Australian earthquakes, GA Record, January 2002 on CD

1946 - Tasmania - West Tasman Sea (Flinders Island)

The largest southeastern Australian earthquake last century occurred 100 km east of Flinders Island on 14 September 1946. Its magnitude was 6.0 and it was felt strongly throughout Tasmania and Gippsland, Victoria. It caused minor damage in Launceston, where a hotel guest was slightly injured by an 18 kg piece of plaster that bruised his leg. He escaped serious injury because he was awake and saw the plaster falling from the ceiling.

  • Source: The West Tasman Sea (Flinders Island) earthquake of 14 September 1946, BMR Journal, v.13, 1993, pp.369-372

1941 - Western Australia - Meeberrie

The Meeberrie earthquake is Australia's most powerful known onshore Australian earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2. It was felt over a wide area of Western Australia from Port Hedland in the north to Albany and Norseman in the south. Because the population in the epicentral area was sparse, the damage was small, but it cracked all walls of Meeberrie Homestead, burst rainwater tanks and cracked the ground.

1934 - New South Wales - Dalton-Gunning

This magnitude 5.6 earthquake occurred at 7.59am local time on 19 November 1934. It was preceded by a week of foreshocks and was followed by a long series of aftershocks. It was felt widely over southeastern New South Wales with the worst damage in Gunning where trees were felled, rocks split, fissures opened in the ground and almost all stone and masonry buildings were damaged. Damage was also extensive at Dalton. This earthquake had the same magnitude as the notorious 1989 Newcastle earthquake and happened about 60 km north of Canberra.

  • Source: Atlas of isoseismal maps of Australian earthquakes, GA Record, January 2002 on CD

1918 - Queensland - Bundaberg

This magnitude 6.0 earthquake at 4.15am local time on 7 June 1918 is the largest known Queensland earthquake. The epicentre was probably about 100km off the coast between Rockhampton and Gladstone. The earthquake was felt from Mackay to Grafton (NSW) and west to Charleville. It caused some damage in Rockhampton and Bundaberg, and stopped many clocks, including the one in the Pile Light in Brisbane, where it was felt in most suburbs.

  • Source: Atlas of isoseismal maps of Australian earthquakes, GA Record, January 2002 on CD

1902 - South Australia - Warooka

This magnitude 6.0 earthquake is the second largest known South Australian earthquake. The epicentre was probably in the Gulf of St Vincent between Warooka and Adelaide. It caused significant damage to several stone and masonry buildings in Warooka, includung a school, and was the first earthquake to do damage in Adelaide. It was also the first earthquake in Australia known to have caused fatalities ┬┐ two people in Adelaide died of heart attacks.

  • Source: Atlas of isoseismal maps of Australian earthquakes, GA Record, January 2002 on CD

1897 - South Australia - Beachport

This magnitude 6.5 earthquake is the largest-known South Australian earthquake. It occurred just off the coast between Beachport and Robe on 10 May 1897. It was felt throughout southern South Australia and in southwestern Victoria, and caused liquefaction at Robe, Beachport and Kingston, with sand volcanoes and water spouts. In the first two days, 90 aftershocks were felt at Kingston.

  • Source: Atlas of isoseismal maps of Australian earthquakes, GA Record, January 2002 on CD

1883-1892 - Tasmania - West Tasman Sea Earthquake Swarm

During the period 1883-1892 around 2000 earthquakes occurred off the NE coast of Tasmania, in the west Tasman Sea, mainly to the east of Flinders Island. These were felt in NE Tasmania or in the islands off the coast and the three largest, in July 1884, May 1885 and January 1892, had estimated magnitudes of 6.3, 6.6 and 6.9. All three caused damage in Launceston and were felt over most of Tasmania, in SE Victoria and the far southeast of NSW.

  • Source: Macroseismic effects, locations and magnitudes of some early Tasmanian earthquakes, BMR Journal, v.11, no.1, 1989, pp.89-99

20,000 years ago - Tasmania - Lake Edgar

Several quaternary fault scarps have been mapped in Australia during routine geological mapping. One of the most prominent scarps relates to the Lake Edgar Fault in southwest Tasmania. The 30km long north-south trending scarp occurs within the boundary of the Southwest National Park. The scarp traverses the Huon Plains and is notable because faulting resulted in the defeat of westerly flowing drainage and the consequent formation of Lake Edgar. Recent research indicates this fault scarp is the result of a magnitude 6.5 to 7.0 earthquake.

70,000-20,000 years ago - New South Wales and Victoria - Cadell Fault

The Cadell Fault Scarp is an approximately north-south-trending fault scarp running from the Deniliquin area of New South Wales, past Echuca, Victoria to the Elmore area, north of Bendigo, Victoria. The scarp is almost 80km long and up to 15m high, and reflects the accumulated displacement resulting from at least five earthquakes of magnitude 7.0-7.3.

These events occurred over roughly a 50,000 year time interval between 70,000 and 20,000 years ago, and involved a total slip in the order of 25m.