Trove Tuesday: 1 March 1954, The Day the Earth Shook South Australia

This post is about earthquakes, but let me start off by saying that South Australia is not known for its quakes. In fact it is more known for the lack of quakes, which is why it is big news if we have one.

Yesterday was one of those rare days when South Australia (well parts of it) shook. I found this when I was driving home from work and heard it on the news. The report said that South Australia had had two small earthquakes (see the picture below). Remember I said we don’t get them here, so even the small ones make news!

Anyway I did my usual weekday routine of getting up and off to work, then busy, busy all day. And I can confirm that I wasn’t one of the ‘hundreds’ who claim to have heard or felt the earthquakes, so I can’t say what it would be like, and don’t particularly want to go through one.

A graphic showing the epicentres of the quakes that hit South Australia. Source: The Advertiser

A graphic showing the epicentres of the quakes that hit South Australia. Source: The Advertiser

Now going back a few years to when I was eight years old, my family moved into the “Springvale” property at Gumeracha in the Adelaide Hills. This is an old house, dating back to pre-1900. And from the day I moved in, till when I left, I felt the walls in my room would collapse whenever there was a big storm as there were huge cracks in the walls, which I was told was from the 1954 earthquake.

the inside of my room. As the crack don't show that well in the pic, I've highlighted it with an orange line

the inside of my room
As the crack didn’t show that well in the pic, I’ve highlighted it with an orange line

the outside wall of my room - which you can see where it's been patched

the outside wall of my room – which you can see where it’s been patched.
This picture was taken when the house was being demolished, which is why there’s no roof on it and the door is leaning against the front of the house

Having known nothing of the ’54 earthquake as it was way before my time, I headed over to Trove, and found some amazing articles.

Here’s the first one I found. It is a LOOOOONG article, so I’ve only copied a small portion of the beginning of the article here. For the full details, check out  Trove.

Most Severe Earthquake In State's History. (1954, March 2). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved January 6, 2014, from

Most Severe Earthquake In State’s History. The Advertiser,
2 March 1954, p.1.

The next one I found titled “Earthquake Centre May Have Been Few Miles From City” dated 3 March 1954 and this also made the front page news. And it has a map which I’ve put below. As this is also a long article, so I’ve not included that here, but you can read it for yourself on Trove.

Earthquake Centre May Have Been Few Miles From City. (1954, March 3). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved January 6, 2014, from

Earthquake Centre May Have Been Few Miles From City. The Advertiser, 3 March 1954, p.1

So although unusual, South Australia (or should I be more specific and say the Adelaide metro region) has been known to  get the odd earthquake on rare occasions.

5 Responses to “Trove Tuesday: 1 March 1954, The Day the Earth Shook South Australia”

  1. Alan Phillips says:

    I have pretty clear memories of the 1954 earthquake. I was just seven at the time and it is one of those remembered educational experiences. Not only did I experience a significant earthquake, but I learnt another new thing about the world we live in when my mother explained to me what earthquakes were.

    According to Australian Geographic ( Adelaide 1954 was 5th on the list of Australia’s worst recorded earthquakes at (magnitude 5.5). The three worst were Newcastle (NSW) at magnitude 5.6 in 1989, with lives lost, and $4 billion in damage, Beachport (SA) , magnitude 6.5 in 1897 and Meckering (WA) in 1969 at magnitude 6.9.

    But for some perspective, apart from Newcastle the effects of earthquakes in Australia are very small compared to the big ones in other parts of the world.

  2. Alan Phillips says:

    I should have said we lived at Modbury at the time of 54 earthquake – now a north east suburb of Adelaide, but then a small country town.

  3. Alan Phillips says:

    As for the house we lived in (Springvale) at Gumeracha, it did have significant cracking in its 16 inch thick stone walls. The high walls (almost 12 ft to ceilings) and early 19th century building ‘standards’ left them pretty exposed to cracking from movements due to earthquakes soil over the seasons. The walls had been tied together by steel rods across the main rooms, just below the ceilings – time minimise further damage. Sadly the house had to be demolished in 2008 and replaced with something more structurally sound, less prone to fire risk – and less costly to maintain and live in.

    Another Gumeracha earthquake legacy is the well known Ring of Oaks memorial. This unique feature of the Salem Baptist Church was the open-air baptistery, opposite the church, which was surrounded by the ring of oaks. It was fed by a spring until an earthquake stopped the spring in 1899. The pool was then filled in, and the shady site was used for tea meetings. It is now a public park. Incidentally the spring did not always flow, and church minutes record baptisms postponed until it did.

  4. Elaine Gifford (Bolton) says:

    I have only subscribed to your blogs this week, and was interested to see the article about the 1954 SA earthquake.
    I was almost 13 at the time, and had just that year become a boarder at Woodlands CEGGS at Glenelg.
    The morning after the earhquake it seemed that everyone in my dormitory was talking ezcitedly about something I didn’t know about. I enquired, and discovered that I had slept right through the quake!

    • Alona says:

      Hi Elaine, it’s great that you’ve stopped by to say Hi. As for the 1954 earthquake, I guess it’s good and bad that you slept through it. Good that you slept, but disappointing as you don’t have you own memories of the actual event. I know the more recent ones Adelaide has had (small I know) I’ve slept through, though people I know ‘heard’ and felt them.

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