Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 2, 2014
Goldau buried, painting by Triner

Goldau buried, painting by Triner

September 2, 1806: The Swiss city of Goldau is buried. Lying between two mountains – the Rigi which is known as the Queen of the Mountains and Rossberg, the town was the victim of a 120 million tonne landslide. As the rocks and debris came down the mountainside, some of the debris fell into Lake Lauerz which had coincidentally been created by an even larger landslide in the 1300s. The displaced water caused a tsunami like effect and even more damage near Seewen. Goldau was destroyed as were nearby villages. Two churches, 111 houses, and 220 barns were buried with some debris reaching heights of 100 to 230 feet high. There were 457 confirmed deaths from the disaster.

Landslides are geological phenomena which include a wide range of ground movements. The action of gravity is the primary driving force but there are other factors playing into the event. When the stability of a slope changes, there can be a landslide event. There are a number of ways the stability can be undermined. Groundwater pressure can destabilize the slope. The soil structure can change as the result of loss of vegetation such as happens with  wildfire. Erosion of the toe of the slope can take place with wave action. Saturation changes can take place as glaciers melt or with heavy rains. Natural disasters such as earthquakes or volcanic eruptions can also lead to landslide events.

Human activity is also a risk factor. Deforestation, cultivation, and construction can lead to undermined slopes. Vibrations from machinery or traffic as well as outright blasting can change the stability. Earthworks alter the shape of a slope and can affect new loads which are untenable for the existing slope underpinnings. In shallow locations, the removal of deep-rooted vegetation contributes to the lessened binding of the colluvium (upper portion) to the bedrock. Manmade effects include construction, agriculture, and forestry activity as well. There are not only several underlying factors or contributing forces, but there are several types of landslides, too.

A debris flow or mud flow takes place when a slurry of rocks and mud slides down the slope picking up trees and other vegetation along the way. This type of slide in alpine areas can move massive amounts of debris rapidly and is often cause for great loss of life. Also possible are earthflows when saturated fine-grained materials begin to move. A debris landslide includes rocks and soils mixed with water and/or ice and usually begin with large rocks sliding from an elevated region. There are both shallow landslides and deep-seated landslides which are explained by their name and where the movement of material begins either near ground level to deep within the earth.

Even with all our technology and the inventions that make modern life so much easier than it once was, it takes just one big natural disaster to wipe all that away and remind us that, here on Earth, we’re still at the mercy of nature. – Neil deGrasse Tyson

Sometimes it takes a natural disaster to reveal a social disaster. – Jim Wallis

I find it vulgar that people are so fascinated by natural disasters, and we allow footage of young people that are looting because they have no choice because of natural disaster. – Sasha Grey

We cannot stop natural disasters but we can arm ourselves with knowledge: so many lives wouldn’t have to be lost if there was enough disaster preparedness. – Petra Nemcova

Also on this day: Liberal Arts and Music – In 1833, Oberlin College is founded.
London Burns – In 1666, the Great Fire of London began.
World War II – In 1945, the war ended.
Rock Springs – In 1885, the Rock Springs Massacre took place.

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