Earthquake Myths – #1 A Fault will Open Up and Swallow You

EArthquake Myths

Since most of my posts have been pretty serious, warning people of the dangers of earthquakes and getting you to prepare yourselves, I decided to write something more fun. Earthquake myths! Yup, there’s a lot of misconception about earthquakes so I’ll be writing a series of articles focusing specifically on earthquake myths so that you are not misinformed.

A Fault will Open Up and Swallow You

You might ask “Will an earthquake swallow me whole?”. This popular myth comes mostly from movies or novels where a person is in an earthquake and the ground just splits wide open creating a a huge gap and deep crevice where they eventually fall to their death or heroically  get saved last minute while clenching onto the hero’s hand.

This actually is false as faults do NOT open up. The ground on the two sides of the fault passes each other, they don’t pull apart. The friction between these two is what causes an earthquake. Without friction, there is no earthquake.

Fissure in groundEarthquakes often cause physical damage to structures on the ground itself like buildings, not as much to the ground itself. They can, however, cause fissures or cracks in the ground. Most fissures that result from earthquakes form due to landslides or slumps tied to the rapid withdrawal of groundwater and can go up to a meter in width and aren’t that deep. You can probably safely stand in them and they won’t be spewing red-hot lava or seal themselves back up like in the movies.

There have been cases of large fissures but those are usually caused by water erosion and takes a long time to form. Here’s an article by that shows one of these cases in Mexico which caused for alarm because they thought the ground was moving apart but was actually caused by erosion of the soil causing it to sink instead.

Stay tuned for more Earthquake Myths to be posted soon!

And remember to be safe and be prepared.

Read about more Earthquake Myths here


  1. Lynne

    Thanks for clearing that up. There are so many movies depicting these faults opening up and swallowing people!
    I must say that movies really do give people a lot of misinformation don’t they?

    I look forward to more interesting facts.

  2. Jenny

    Interesting post! I guess a lot of myths outhere thanks to movies hahaha. We have a lot of earthquakes in Latinamerica and can tell you, it doesn’t feel good. I would really like to read the next myth. ☺

  3. Chuka

    Andy, I’ve actually bookmarked your website because I am so fascinated by this subject. Your post is written in a way that helps people like me to understand this complex subject.

    The ‘myths’ are actually what I thought were the facts about earthquakes. Maybe it’s the ways the events have been reported in the media that created the myth. Thank you for clarifying this.

    1. Andy (Post author)

      Thanks for bookmarking Chuka! Yes, there are lots of misinformation that a lot of people think is real because of the media and movies. This can potentially put them in danger if they follow things that they think are right but are actually wrong when it comes to earthquake safety. My goal for the site and the “Myths” post is to spread awareness and make sure everyone knows what to do in the event of a major earthquake.

  4. Donna

    I would definitely be with the movie versions if I was ever asked what happens during an earthquake!!! And that is even after taking a geology class, I should probably know a little better!!! I will feel much better now if one of my children ever decides to live in California!!! THANK YOU!

  5. Aaron

    It seems with all natural disasters there seems to be a lot of urban myths to go along with them. I like your post to dispel the rumors and myths. I live in Vancouver BC where apparently we are due for a big one. When you hear these types of statements “the big one” do you actually put stock in it or is this a myth? How ready should I be in your opinion?

    1. Andy (Post author)

      Hi Aaron,

      Actually I live in Vancouver, BC too! Which is what motivated me to build this site. Like you said we always hear about “the big one” but people don’t think much about it and think “It’ll never happen to me”. Just like when you hear news on TV about home burglaries, random crime events, and scams and you think “it won’t happen to me”. Well, maybe it won’t happen while we’re here but scientists have been saying for a long time that we’re long over due for a major earthquake. And they say it’s a matter of “when” and not “if”.

      Unfortunately they can’t predict when it will happen but the best thing we can do is prepare ourselves in case it happens. Just like how people are prepared for the worst they buy various types of insurance. Home insurance to protect from unforeseen events, car insurance to protect from car accidents, life insurance to protect from life threatening events. These are some examples of what we do in our everyday life to protect ourselves “in case” something happens. That’s exactly the same for earthquakes. We don’t know if or when it may happen but it’s better to be prepared than sorry.

      Just imagine if a major earthquake struck and you are stranded in your house and access to the kitchen is blocked, outside pipes burst so there’s no clean water, no electricity, and no heat. You can immediately see why having an earthquake kit is so important as it contains necessary items to help keep you alive. And all you have to do is buy the earthquake kit once and leave it in your closet just in case. After that you won’t have to think about it other than replenishing the expired food and water (usually every 5 years).

      Even if you don’t intend on getting an earthquake kit you should at the very least know what to do in the event of a major earthquake.
      Earthquake preparedness is key and knowledge is powerful. Knowing what to do may end up saving your life one day.
      Great question Aaron!

  6. Kelechukwu22

    I cant tell you how relieved to hear that. Its not that I have ever been in a earthquake but me, my brothers and sister will be talking natural disasters and imagine if we were in the same position. Keep up the good work Andy and thank you for this post.


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