SCOTLAND’S EARTHQUAKE HISTORY
by Nancy Lee Badger
Earthquakes across the world have been in the news lately. From the recent devastation in Turkey, to the underwater quake and its accompanying tsunami that caused thousands of deaths in Japan, when the earth moves, we listen. Even here in North Carolina, I felt the house shake when an earthquake hit near Washington, DC just this past August. What about another location where we rarely hear about experiencing tremblers: Scotland. Yes, Scotland has earthquakes but unless you live there, you probably do not hear talk of them on the news. Why, then, are earthquakes found in my latest romantic fantasy, DRAGON IN THE MIST?
When I write a story—any story—I research the location. To me, location is also a character, and as important as my hero or heroine. Where a story takes place is quintessential to my plot, so my readers can feel they are there, in the story. For DRAGON IN THE MIST, loosely based on the Loch Ness Monster, I needed a secondary reason for my hero, the American scientist Rory Hawthorn, to travel to a small town on the banks of Loch Ness. When my research gave me a glimmer of an idea, I quickly made my present-day American hero a geologist. Covertly searching for the root of a family curse, he told his family he was traveling Scotland to research its earthquake history.
Does Scotland experience quakes? I was as surprised as you to find statistics reporting several large earthquakes every century. One of Scotland’s largest quakes occurred back in 1816, so I set the beginning of my book in the past and used my heroine, Nessía—in her Loch Ness Monster from—causing the quakes by slamming her head into the loch’s underwater sheer sides. 1816 fit the timeline I wanted to show in the book’s first chapter, after which the story continues in present day.
So, what exactly causes an earthquake? Let me start with a little information about the area that includes Loch Ness, where my book takes place. Loch Ness, south of Inverness, is 23 miles long and about 1 mile wide. Though narrow, it averages a whopping 600 feet in depth, making the loch dark, cold, and eerie. The loch is shaped like a long, deep trench and follows the line of the Great Glen Fault. The area was originally beneath a huge glacier.
Yes, Scotland’s Loch Ness has a fault similar to the large, active San Andreas fault in California. Luckily for the residents of the Highlands of Scotland, the Great Glen Fault is much less active, but it has seen activity for over 400 million years. Scientists have discovered Foyers and Strontian granite from the same intrusion now 66 miles apart. Let’s just agree the land is shifting and moving, slow but sure.
Guess where the shatter belt of rock produced by the fault movement mostly lies? Under Loch Ness! Visitors to Urquhart castle overlooking the loch might not have noticed the shattered rock evident in road cuttings. Heat and stress evidence tells local geologists that movement occurred over and over.
Let’s get back to the earthquake frequency. The Loch Ness area, where DRAGON IN THE MIST is set, averages 3 earthquakes each century that measure at least a 4.0 on the Richter Scale, the method used to describe an earthquakes ferocity. In comparison to the strengths and amounts of quakes that hit the state of California, Scotland’s rumbles are rare. Could I use such a history in my story? You bet! I twisted this history to claim that my heroine, Nessía of the Lake, caused the earthquakes while in her serpentine, underwater wingless dragon form.
Why not? In fiction, even in a romance where I have set my story and its characters in our same world, I have the freedom to change the rules a little.
What about other areas of Scotland? I found an article from August 2011 about recent Scottish earthquakes. Apparently, five earthquakes were felt in the west Highlands followed by the recording of three lesser quakes. The British Geological Survey (BGS) recorded the first and largest, of 2.9 magnitude, at Lochailort, with smaller quakes recorded between 11:13 and 18:24. The weekend's events occurred in the Lochaber Geopark. As reported by the BBC.com/UK, Park director Noel Williams said: "Most earthquakes in Lochaber occur as unweighting of the earth after the melting of the ice formed during the last glacial period some 12,000 years ago. The land effectively 'bounces back up again' a process Earth scientists term isostatic rebound."The BGS said earthquakes were a common event in the west Highlands but added that to have five on the same day was "slightly unusual".
As I mentioned earlier, earthquakes measuring over 4.0 are rare, but these smaller quakes still made the news because they were noticeable in quiet places, during a quiet time. A previous quake was reported in Knoydart on 30 July. Earthquake ‘swarms’ have also been recorded in Dumfrieshire and in parts of Perthshire. I did find another story reporting a 3.5 quake rocked the western shores of Scotland in January 2011, which included the southern end of Loch Ness. People in Inverness, at the northern end of Loch Ness, reported feeling it over 120 km away. It is safe to say Loch Ness rippled!
The islands off the western coast of Scotland were formed by volcanoes, and volcanoes breed quakes. I set my book DRAGON’S CURSE on the island of Staffa due to its odd hexagonal rock formations and huge caves. Scotland has no dormant or active volcanoes, but plenty of ‘plugs’. A plug is the remainder of the neck of a Volcano. Devil’s tower in Wyoming is a good example of an ancient volcano neck. In Scotland, ancient dwellings have been discovered on the summit of North Berwick Law, the rounded volcanic remains which sit 613 feet above sea level. It even has a ‘tail’ caused by a retreating glacier. A famous tourist attraction sits on another plug: Edinburgh Castle.
Earthquakes might be considered a minor aberration in Scotland…unless you live there! What my research taught me, is that you never know what you might find when you delve into the history behind the topography of a book’s location. Use the facts to your advantage when writing to give your readers a better perspective while they fall in love with your characters. And to my readers, I hope you fall in love with Nessia, Rory, and Scotland when you read DRAGON’S CURSE and my latest release, DRAGON IN THE MIST.
Nancy has a prize for one very special commenter! Leave a comment and be eligible for a lovely 2012 Scottish Calendar full of lovely photos and funny comments! Sure to put a smile on the face of any laddie or lassie.
Nessía of the Loch has lived beneath the murky water of Loch Ness since ancient times. The pain of loneliness manifests in anger so strong, the entire valley shakes with earthquakes. In 1816, a Faerie queen pleads for her to cease the tremors and rewards Nessía with a human form. To stay human, she must find love. When the man she believes she loves casts her aside, Nessía responds to the betrayal by cursing the men of the MacDonald clan with the inability to keep a woman’s love. Only an act of true selflessness will break the curse.
After centuries pass, Nessía again searches for love. When Rory Hawthorn, an American scientist, arrives under the pretext of researching the earthquakes but in reality to research his MacDonald heritage and the curse, she believes she has found the perfect mate.
Amid stolen kisses, another earthquake, a steamy night of passion, and a broken heart, Nessía returns to the murky depths of the loch. When Rory dives in to follow her, he meets the green, scaly Loch Ness Monster. Assuming Nessía is in danger, he is intent on killing the monster and saving the woman he loves.
“Why did he call you Nessie? You obviously don’t like it. What’s your real name?” the stranger asked while his gaze bore into her chest.
Let him feast his eyes.
He sipped his ale, all cool and calm, as he waited for an answer. She pulled back both shoulders. Waiting until he glanced up, she turned away to ring up a departing customer’s bill, then added the excess to her apron pocket.
Ha! Monty gave me a ‘tip’ then left me for his wife.
“I do not share familiarities with strangers, sir.” She preferred to tug the dress’s lace edging up, but held back. The trim chafed her low neckline and upper arms, but Mac insisted his servers dress in period costume.
“For the tourists, lass,” Mac explained the day she walked in and asked for a job. She did not mind the long dress and doeskin shoes, per se. The whole idea of clothing was bothersome. She enjoyed swimming to the dark depths of the loch clad only in deep green scales.
Even now, she yearned to swim naked.
“Well, now. I can fix that.”
It took Nessía a few heartbeats to understand his comeback. Did he refer to her clothing, or to swimming naked? Only one way to find out. “Fix what, sir?”
“I’ll introduce myself, and then you tell me your name. ‘Easy as pie, and polite as rain’, my father always said.”
Nessía froze. No, her response caught in her throat and her blood thickened into ice. Fingering the coins in her apron, she willed her talons to stay retracted while her left foot tapped the plank floor. The stranger’s sultry voice was not familiar, but the words rang true, because Monty had spoken those, centuries ago.
Nessía stepped closer to the bar. A million questions popped into her head, but she stayed silent. Let him speak first and prove he has no affiliation to that damnable clan.
“I go by Rory Hawthorn. Though I’m American, I’ve traced my ancestors to this town. I plan to be here for quite some time exploring. Learning. Studying the unusual earthquake history of the area.”
Earthquakes? What would he say if he knew I caused those tremors?
Rory Hawthorn, so called, moved closer. He leaned on the bar, and whispered as if the next words were for her ears only.
“And I very much want to know you better.”
Nancy loves chocolate-chip shortbread, wool plaids wrapped around the trim waist of a Scottish Highlander, the clang of dirks and broadswords, and the sound of bagpipes in the air. Nancy lives the dream. After growing up in Huntington, New York, and raising two handsome sons in New Hampshire, Nancy moved to North Carolina where she writes full-time. She and her family continue to volunteer at the New Hampshire Highland Games each fall. Nancy is a member of RWA, Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, Sisters In Crime, FF&P Romance Writers, and the Celtic Heart Romance Writers.
Check out her website www.nancyleebadger.comand her blog www.RescuingRomance.nancyleebadger.com.
Follow her on Twitter @NLBadger
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Title: DRAGON IN THE MISTAuthor: Nancy Lee Badger
Genre: Romantic Fantasy
Length: 17,000 words
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/pzEYYh