Small earthquakes strike west of Martha’s Vineyard


Seismologists at the Weston Observatory at Boston College detected two small earthquakes in an area between Martha’s Vineyard and New Bedford Sunday, May 15. A magnitude 2.1 quake struck at 8:39 pm followed by a smaller 1.3 shake at 8:46 pm.

The Observatory operates the New England Seismic Network (NESN), a network of broadband seismometers distributed throughout the New England states that monitor earthquakes in New England.

The Weston Observatory placed the center of the earthquake on a map of seismic activity 14 miles west of Vineyard Haven and 15 miles south, southeast of New Bedford at the western end of the Elizabeth Islands in the immediate vicinity of Nashawena Island.

Newspapers throughout the Southeastern Massachusetts region said that people reported feeling the tremors, and that there was no damage.

According to the observatory’s historical atlas, the last significant earthquake to strike New England was a category 5.5 shake that struck central New Hampshire on December 20, 1940.

The last major earthquake to strike Massachusetts was a magnitude 6.2 earthquake that struck at 4:12 amon Nov. 18, 1755, about 34 miles southwest of Cape Ann.

The effects of that quake were strongest on infilled land near the wharves, according to the Weston Observatory.

“About 100 chimneys were thrown down, and as many as 1,500 others were damaged. Walls of several brick buildings fell. Stone fences fell throughout the countryside. Springs formed or stopped. In eastern Massachusetts, ground cracks opened; some emitted sand and water. Aftershocks were reported. Shaking was felt from Nova Scotia to Maryland, and from New York State to a ship 200 miles at sea. Those aboard the ship thought it had run aground.”