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Earthquake Article
A major earthquake in 1727 that toppled brick chimneys, collapsed cellars, and scattered stone fences may still be shaking the Merrimack Valley 280 years later.

The rumbling link to Colonial America resurfaced Monday at 7:15 a.m. when a loud bang rattled the towns of Merrimac and Amesbury.

"I thought it was some type of construction vehicle hitting a bump, but it sounded like I was standing right next to it," said Frank Boliver, 44, who was at home in Amesbury getting ready for work.

Amesbury police Sergeant William Scholtz said he felt a tremor "like a big bang" and went to look for a traffic accident that wasn't there.

Two-dozen residents called police to report plates rattling or a sonic boom. Scholtz said he knew of no damage or injuries.

The quake registered 1.8 on the Richter scale, said John Ebel, director of Boston College's Weston Observatory. It struck a few miles from the epicenter of the quake in Newburyport on Oct. 29, 1727, which was a 5.5 magnitude and shook the earth from Maine to Philadelphia.

Combing through Colonial records, Ebel said he counted more than 100 aftershocks that immediately followed the 1727 quake.

The frequency decreased, but aftershocks have continued, with four small quakes alone in January 1999. The persistence of seismic activity indicates that the quakes are connected, Ebel said.

"In a sense, it is a part of history," he said. "It could also be a warning about something that's going to happen."

Updated: October 11, 2007  

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