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Rated: E · Poetry · Sci-fi · #2317793
On October 7, 2135, a predictable event happens in Lisbon.
In the middle of Lisbon, Portugal
Roman tunnels gently shake
As the Vale do Tejo Region
Is overdue for a quake.

The shaking starts softly and gently;
news pages ding and chime;
But a total eclipse distracts them-
The first since 1999.

As three o’clock passes to quarter past three,
family auto-cars drive-
They gather in an opening
To see the eclipse arrive.

Over the brittle city
news pages ding and chime-
the eclipse was brief and pretty,
and as predictable as time.

Under the streets of Lisbon,
plates begin to shake.
A temblor like 1755's
Shudders and rips and breaks.

But a Martian starship, seeing
families out for play
Beams them aboard in passing,
while the old city crumbles away.

Their predictable calculations
Led them to know the time
That the next earthquake would hit Lisbon
Up to a clock’s chime.

It was the day of the eclipse
Twenty-one thirty-five
When the citizens of Lisbon
Thanked the Martians for being alive.

When they were set on earth again
with formulas in tow,
they contacted authorities
and now we know.

Author’s note: This poem was written for a daily contest called The Writer’s Cramp, for a prompt about an eclipse happening somewhere in Europe in 2135 with a sci-fi theme. I have added to the poem since first submitting it to the contest, in response to reviews. I do believe that it will one day be possible to predict earthquakes in the same way as future eclipses can now be predicted. We already have the technology that lets us give rough estimates for when earthquake prone regions might experience their next quake. The 1755 earthquake and tsunami that destroyed Lisbon is part of history. The event marked a division between the religious and scientific response to disaster. Religion led to murders in an attempt to appease what was thought to be an angry God. Science led to the beginning of modern seismology.



The 1755 earthquake affected not just Lisbon, but surrounding areas as well, including the Vale de Tejo region.

The Lower Tagus Valley Fault (which has 7.3 magnitude potential by itself) may have had co-involvement in the 1755 Lisbon earthquake.


However, the primary fault responsible for the disaster was the offshore Azores-Gilbralter transform fault.

A 2020 study suggests "the source was complex and spatially distributed, with part of the rupture taking place onshore or inshore" with the additional offshore part causing the tsunami (peak height of the tsunami was 65 feet in Cadiz, Spain; in Lisbon, it only reached 20 feet).
In other words, instead of being one gigantic 9.0 or 8.5 earthquake, it may have been multiple slightly smaller (but still very large) quakes that caused the damage, and one of these was onshore near Lisbon, while the other was in the ocean, further from Lisbon.



Because of developments in building codes and tsunami warning systems, Lisbon would be unlikely to be completely destroyed even if a major quake did happen.



So what was once sci-fi is now just fact, even without Martian intervention. Now what will we do about the water crisis in Hawaii and trash in the ocean? That I don’t know.

-About the “Roman tunnels”:
The 1755 earthquake revealed the remains of a Roman village buried under Lisbon, approximately 2,000 years old.


On the 1999 solar eclipse visible in Europe:
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