Sunday morning at around 9:30 AM, we were lying in bed as a low rumbling started lightly shaking room around us.  Teddy woke from a dead sleep and I dropped my phone from my hands as the quaking continued for around 30 seconds.  No damage was done, but that, my friends was the effects of an earthquake from under the sea on the other side of the British Virgin Islands….


Did you know that we get earthquakes here on St. John?  Generally you don’t really know that they happen unless they are a big one.  Even with Sunday’s, which was 5.5 magnitude and only 50 miles north of Anegada, some people said they were out walking around town and didn’t even feel it.  Our guests on Asante Monday afternoon said those who were on the upper level of their rental villa felt the impact but those who were downstairs did not.

A few years back, I came home from being out on the water all day and EVERY cabinet in my house was open!  I lived by myself at the time and was freaked out that someone had broken in.  I popped into Facebook land for a moment and noticed a lot of my friends had posted about an earthquake earlier that day.  Having been on a boat, I had no idea that it had happened but it was intense enough to shake open the cabinets in my kitchen!

So, this one was somewhat minor and far enough away that it didn’t cause any real damage in the USVI.  But, in 1867 a double whammy impacted the territory.  Have you ever dove the Rhone?  The sunken Royal Mail Ship, just off of Salt Island, was placed there by the San Narsisco Hurricane which struck the US and British Virgin Islands on October 29, 1867.  The hurricane left 80 sunken ships in its path of destruction and killed at least 800 people on St. Thomas (I assume St. John casualties are categorized under that number as well).


Well, just TWENTY days later, a 7.7 magnitude earthquake shook the territories from the depths of the Anegada Trough just 20km from St. Thomas.  The quake caused some of the largest tsunamis to ever impact the Danish West Indies on November 18, 1867.

At Saint Thomas, the first wave was described as a “straight white wall, about 15 to 23 feet (4.6 to 7.0 meters)” which advanced to the harbor, 10 minutes after the earthquake. The wave picked up steamers along the way and broke to just a few feet in front of the town. Its run-up height was 9.1 meters across the town. A smaller wave came shortly and penetrated further in the island. Thirty people perished when the waves swept them away.[4] Run-ups of 6 meters were recorded at Charlotte Amalie, where 12 people died.[9] The La Plata, a steamship serving the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company was knocked over by the waves, killing nearly all of its crew onboard. – Wikipedia

Tsunami and La Plata steamship- Science Photo

In researching all of this, Sunday’s little shake up doesn’t seem so earth shattering….pun intended 🙂  These submarine earthquakes actually do occur quite frequently but, more often than not, the most we will feel here on St. John is a slight tremor.  When the plates under the sea shift, they sometimes hit a little rough patch that pauses the shifting of the plates.  When rough patches finally give way, the built up motion releases, causing the plates to crash into each other and the result is a quake from deep beneath the sea.

So, we are all okay, save maybe a couple of precariously placed pieces of glass ware in people’s homes 🙂  I hope that all of you enjoy a fantastic weekend…Follow along next week for some exciting updates from Cinnamon Bay Campground, Lovango Beach Club + Resort and some amazing views from the water.  We are heading out on a four night charter on Asante this weekend and I’ll be sure to grab some eye candy photographs to share with all of you!


3 thoughts on “EARTHQUAKE!”

  1. Glad to hear it was not serious. We have felt earthquakes on two different trips to St John in the past. Usually just a low noise and a small jolt. When it happens you can go to earthquake.usgs.gov/data/dyfi/ (“did you feel it”) website and report what you felt and see what others are reporting in real time.

    Thanks, Hillary, for keeping us all up-to-date on the goings on of the island!

  2. We are staying over in Coral Bay and we definitely felt it and heard rumblings for about 45 seconds. One of our ceiling fans shook.

  3. A few years back we were staying above Great Cruz Bay. I was awakened by what I thought was a helicopter going overhead. I later found out it was an earthquake! We live close to an airport so that was the reason I thought the earthquake was a helicopter! No damage, just a quick wake up!!

Leave a Comment