5 February 1924

The Royal Greenwich Observatory begins broadcasting the hourly time signals known as the Greenwich Time Signal.

Graph of the six pips

The Greenwich Time Signal (GTS), popularly known as the pips, is a series of six short tones broadcast at one-second intervals by many BBC Radio stations. The pips were introduced in 1924 and have been generated by the BBC since 1990[1] to mark the precise start of each hour. Their utility in calibration is diminishing as digital broadcasting entails time lags.


There are six pips (short beeps) in total, which occur on each of the 5 seconds leading up to the hour and on the hour itself. Each pip is a 1 kHz tone (about a fifth of a semitone above musical B5) the first five of which last a tenth of a second each, while the final pip lasts half a second. The actual moment when the hour changes – the "on-time marker" – is at the very beginning of the last pip.[2]

When a leap second occurs (exactly one second before midnight UTC), it is indicated by a seventh pip. In this case the first pip occurs at 23:59:55 (as usual) and there is a sixth short pip at 23:59:60 (the leap second) followed by the long pip at 00:00:00.[3] The possibility of an extra pip for the leap second thus justifies the final pip being longer than the others, so that it is always clear which pip is on the hour. Before leap seconds were conceived, the final pip was the same length as the others.[4] Although "negative" leap seconds can also be used to make the year shorter, this has never happened in practice.[5][6]

Although normally broadcast only on the hour by BBC domestic radio, BBC World Service use the signal at other times as well. The signal is generated at each quarter-hour and has on occasion been broadcast in error.[citation needed]

Up to 1972 the pips were of equal length and confusion arose as to which was the final pip, hence the last pip is now of extended length.


The pips are available to BBC radio stations every 15 minutes but except in rare cases, they are only broadcast on the hour, usually before news bulletins or news programmes. Normally, BBC Radio 4 broadcast the pips every hour except at 18:00 and 00:00 and at 22:00 on Sundays (at the start of the Westminster Hour) when they were replaced by the Westminster chimes of Big Ben at the Palace of Westminster. However, the chimes have been suspended temporarily for the duration of the refurbishment of the clock mechanism. No time signal is broadcast at 15:00 on Saturdays and at 10:00 and 11:00 on Sundays. This is caused by the scheduling of the afternoon play on Saturday and the omnibus edition of The Archers on Sunday. On BBC Radio 2, the pips are used at 07:00, 08:00 and 17:00 on weekdays, at 07:00 and 08:00 on Saturdays and at 08:00 and 09:00 on Sundays.

The pips were used on Radio 1 during The Chris Moyles Show at 06:30 just after the news, 09:00 as part of the Tedious Link feature, 10 am (at the end of the show) and often before Newsbeat. As most stations only air the pips on the hour, The Chris Moyles Show was the only show where the pips were broadcast on the half-hour. Chris Moyles continues to use the pips at the beginning of his show on Radio X. Zane Lowe's Masterpieces, the playing of an album in its entirety, is begun with pips, and they also feature at 19:00 on Fridays to signify the start of the weekend and at 16:00 on Sundays to mark the start of The Official Chart Show. The Weekend Breakfast Show with Dev begins with the pips at 06:00, and they sometimes feature on the hour at other points during the show, and Gemma Cairney's Early Breakfast Show begins with the pips. Dev's previous Early Breakfast Show also featured the pips at the beginning, and on the half-hour/hour at other points, particularly at 06:00 before or after the "I'm Here All Week" track. The pips are also used at 19:00 on Saturday evenings at the start of Radio 1's 12-hour simulcast with digital station BBC Radio 1Xtra.

BBC Radio 3 and BBC Radio Five Live do not currently feature the Greenwich Time Signal in their scheduled programming.

The BBC World Service broadcasts the pips every hour.

Pips can also be heard on many BBC Local Radio stations although their use is up to the discretion of individual stations. A rare quarter-hour Greenwich Time Signal can be heard at 05:15 weekdays on Wally Webb's programme on six BBC Local Radio stations in the east of England, as part of his "synchronised cup of tea" feature.

In 1999, pip-like sounds were incorporated into the themes written by composer David Lowe to introduce BBC Television News programmes. They are still used today on BBC One, BBC World News and BBC News.

The BBC does not allow the pips to be broadcast except as a time signal. Radio plays and comedies which have fictional news programmes use various methods to avoid playing the full six pips, ranging from simply fading in the pips to a version played on On the Hour in which the sound was made into a small tune between the pips. The News Quiz also featured a special Christmas pantomime edition where the pips went missing, and the problem was avoided there by only playing individual pips and not the whole set. The 2012 project Radio Reunited, however, did use the pips not as a time signal, but simply to commemorate 90 years of BBC Radio.


The pips for national radio stations and some local radio stations are timed relative to UTC, from an atomic clock in the basement of Broadcasting House synchronised with the National Physical Laboratory's Time from NPL and GPS. On other stations, the pips are generated locally from a GPS-synchronised clock.

The BBC compensates for the time delay in both broadcasting and receiving equipment, as well as the time for the actual transmission. The pips are timed so that they are accurately received on long wave as far as 160 kilometres (100 mi) from the Droitwich AM transmitter, which is the distance to Central London.

As a pre-IRIG and pre-NTP time transfer and transmission system, the pips have been a great technological success. In modern times, however, time can be transferred to systems with CPUs and operating systems by using BCD or some Unix Time variant.

Newer digital broadcasting methods have introduced even greater problems for the accuracy of use of the pips. On digital platforms such as DVB, DAB, satellite and the internet, the pips—although generated accurately—are not heard by the listener exactly on the hour. The encoding and decoding of the digital signal causes a delay, of usually between 2 and 8 seconds. In the case of satellite broadcasting, the travel time of the signal to and from the satellite adds about another 0.25 seconds.


The machine used to generate the pips in 1970

The pips have been broadcast daily since 5 February 1924,[7] and were the idea of the Astronomer Royal, Sir Frank Watson Dyson, and the head of the BBC, John Reith. The pips were originally controlled by two mechanical clocks located in the Royal Greenwich Observatory that had electrical contacts attached to their pendula. Two clocks were used in case of a breakdown of one. These sent a signal each second to the BBC, which converted them to the audible oscillatory tone broadcast.[7]

The Royal Greenwich Observatory moved to Herstmonceux Castle in 1957 and the GTS equipment followed a few years later in the form of an electronic clock. Reliability was improved by renting two lines for the service between Herstmonceux and the BBC, with a changeover between the two at Broadcasting House if the main line became disconnected.

The tone sent on the lines was inverted: the signal sent to the BBC was a steady 1 kHz tone when no pip was required, and no tone when a pip should be sounded. This let faults on the line be detected immediately by automated monitoring for loss of audio.

The Greenwich Time Signal was the first sound heard in the handover to the London 2012 Olympics during the Beijing 2008 Olympics closing ceremony.[8]

The pips were also broadcast by the BBC Television Service, but this practice was discontinued by the 1960s.

To celebrate the 90th birthday of the pips on 5 February 2014, the Today programme broadcast a sequence that included a re-working of the Happy Birthday melody using the GTS as its base sound.[9]

Crashing the pips

The BBC discourages any other sound being broadcast at the same time as the pips; doing so is commonly known as 'crashing the pips'. This was most often referred to on Terry Wogan's Radio 2 Breakfast show, although usually only in jest since the actual event happened rarely.[10] Different BBC Radio stations approach this issue differently. Both BBC Radio 1 and Radio 2 generally take a more laid-back approach with the pips, usually playing them over the closing seconds of a currently playing song or a jingle 'bed' (background music from a jingle), followed by their respective news jingles. Many BBC local radio stations also play the pips over the station's jingle. BBC Radio 4 is stricter. It is an almost entirely speech-based network; incidents at the end of the Today programme regularly cause listeners' complaints.[citation needed]

As a contribution to Comic Relief's 2005 Red Nose Day, the BBC developed a "pips" ring-tone which can be downloaded.[11]

Bill Bailey's BBC Rave includes the BBC News theme, which incorporates a variant of the pips (though not actually broadcast exactly on the hour). The footage can be seen on his DVD Part Troll.

In the late 1980s Radio 1 featured the pips played over a station jingle during Jakki Brambles' early show and Simon Mayo's breakfast show. This was not strictly crashing the pips as they were not intended to be, or mistaken for, an accurate time signal.

Technical problems

At 8 am on 17 September 2008, to the surprise of John Humphrys, the day's main presenter on the Today programme, and Johnnie Walker, who was standing in for Terry Wogan on Radio 2, the pips went adrift by 6 seconds, and broadcast seven pips rather than six. This was traced to a problem with the pip generator, which was 'repaired' by switching it off and on again.[12] Part of Humphrys' surprise was probably because of his deliberate avoidance of crashing the pips with the help of an accurate clock in the studio.

A sudden total failure in the generation of the audio pulses that constitute the pips was experienced on 31 May 2011 and silence was unexpectedly broadcast in place of the 17:00 signal. The problem was traced to the power supply of the equipment which converts the signal from the atomic clocks into an audible signal.[13] Whilst repairs were underway the BBC elected to broadcast a "dignified silence" in place of the pips at 19:00.[14] By 19:45 the same day the power supply was repaired[13] and the 20:00 pips were broadcast as normal.[15]

Similar time signals elsewhere

Many radio broadcasters around the world use the Greenwich Time Signal as a means to mark the start of the hour. The pips are used in both domestic and international commercial and public broadcasting. Many radio stations use six tones similar to those used by the BBC World Service; some shorten it to five, four, or three tones.

  • Argentina – all news/talk stations (Radio Nacional, Radio Mitre, Radio Continental, Radio 10, Cadena 3, etc.) air the six pips similar to the BBC every hour, and 3 pips for every half-hour similar to Catalonia. Also some online radios like Comucosas Radio, plays the pips.[citation needed]
  • Australia – pips are used on ABC Radio National and ABC Local Radio at the top of every hour, as well as on Fairfax Media talkback stations- 2UE, 3AW, 4BC and 6PR. In Australia, the news pips are closer to 735 Hz and each of the six pips lasts for half a second. After each pip, there is half a second of silence.[16]
  • Brazil - Some news stations, like the national station Radio Bandeirantes, and the regional stations and Radio Gaúcha broadcasts a similar time signal every 15 minutes. In Radio Bandeirantes, there is 5-pips signal (called as "fifth signal"), brodacasted every 15 seconds. In Radio Gaúcha, a 4-pips signal with 3 tones in 920 Hz and the last in 1360 Hz is broadcast every 15 minutes. The musical radio network Atlântida FM, which broadcasts to the states of Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina transmits an audible signal every 15 minutes.[citation needed]
  • Canada – the National Research Council Time Signal is broadcast daily on Ici Radio-Canada Première at 12:00 EST/EDT and on CBC Radio One at 13:00 EST/EDT. It is Canada's longest running radio feature and has been broadcast every day since 5 November 1939.[citation needed]
  • ChinaChina National Radio and all local radio stations use a similar 6-pip time signal on the hour. 5 short lower-pitched (0.25 s, 800 Hz) pips are played to count down the final 5 seconds of the old hour, and a longer, higher-pitched (0.5 s, 1600 Hz) pip is played to mark the beginning of the new hour.[citation needed]
  • Czech Republic - The pips broadcasting on Czech Public Radio Český Rozhlas on , , and on the Regional Stations (3 little pips and 1 long pipe). The pips are not broadcasting at special programs and Transmission.[citation needed]
  • Egypt - Nile FM broadcasts pips similar to the BBC at 16:00hrs daily at the start of the Drive Show.[citation needed]
  • Finland – on YLE's radio services the pips are broadcast on the hour.[citation needed]
  • France – the station France Inter broadcasts four very short pips every hour, which are almost invariably crashed. The last pip, which is as long as the other ones, marks the top of the hour. Some local stations of the France Bleu network also air four pips that are a little longer than Inter's.[citation needed]
  • GermanyDeutschlandfunk broadcasts three beeps every hour, the last one being longer than the others; between 05:00 and 18:00 on weekdays they are broadcast every half-hour and sometimes omitted at 21:00 when there is no news programme scheduled. The sister station, Deutschlandfunk Kultur omitted Pips altogether with their rebrand in 2017.[citation needed]
  • Hong Kong – a six-pip time signal is used on RTHK's radio channels.[17] The signals, which are provided by the Hong Kong Observatory, are broadcast every half-hour during the day and on the hour at night, immediately before the news headline reports.
  • Hungary – the national radio channel Kossuth broadcasts five stereophonic pips at the top of every hour, the fifth being longer than the others.[citation needed]
  • India – six pips are used by All India Radio before starting its Delhi news bulletins.[citation needed]
  • Ireland – six pips are broadcast before news bulletins at 07:00, 13:00 and 24:00 on RTÉ Radio 1.[citation needed]
  • Israel – On Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation hourly radio news, 5 tones (part of a recording of Kol Israel's original beeps) play counting down to the hour. Right as the hour starts, a jingle starts playing, the end of which includes the IPBC's sonic ident and an a cappella singing the name of the broadcaster "Kan".[18] This jingle replaced the original 6 tones that played on Kol Israel's hourly newscasts - six tones, with the sixth tone being longer. As of 2017 (when public broadcaster IBA got shut down and replaced by the IPBC or "Kan"), the intro got changed and added a jingle.
  • Italy – The National Italian Radio "Rai" uses 6 tones to signal exact time in all its stations. They differ in the timing: Rai Radio 1 tells the hour. Rai Radio 2 tells on the half hour (at 6:30, 7:30, 8:30, 10:30, 12:30, 13:30, 17:30, 19:30, 21:30 and 23:30). Rai Radio 3 signals the 45 minute of selected hours (at 6:45, 8:45, 13:45 and 18:45) All the signals come from the Istituto Metrologico di Torino, the national study centre for measure and time. Also on Rai Radio 2 and Rai Radio 3 tells at 6 o'clock on start the new day.[citation needed]
  • JapanNHK Television formerly used three short pips played at :57 to :59 of the clock ident and a longer three-second pip from :00 to :03 just before the start of news programmes.[19][20] The longer three-second pip can however be crashed shortly after the :00 mark on certain special events or if there was time constraints.[21]
  • Lithuania – All lithuanian public & commercial radio stations broadcasting every hour, but LRT Radijas and LRT Klasika non broadcasting at midnight (after the National Anthem) and midday (before Midday News), and on special transmissions, before and after mass.
  • MalaysiaRTM radio stations use the pips hourly before the news broadcast but only the top-of-the-hour pip is sounded. Until late 2012, the time signal is simply a short pip on the 59th second before the hour and a longer pip on the top of the hour. In a news report in The Star on 1 January 1982, the pips were used to sound similar to the BBC's.[citation needed]
  • Netherlands – only three pips (two pips and one beep) were used from 1991 to 2018.[22] Broadcast of the pips has stopped with the last transmission at 7:00 on 2 October 2018.[23]
  • New Zealand – the equivalent of BBC Radio 4, Radio New Zealand National, plays the six pips at the top of every hour.[citation needed]
  • North Korea the pips are heard on Voice of Korea before its startup at 17:00.[citation needed]
  • Poland - The main Radio used the pips is a Polish Radio. Polish radio tells 5 pips and 1 beep before the hour from the Laboratory of Time and Frequency of the Central Office of Measures in Warsaw. Not broadcasting in Polskie Radio Jedynka on Every Sunday's, 3 May (Polish Constitution Day), 15 August (Polish Armed Forces Day) and 11 November (Polish Independence Day) at 9:00 in the morning, because broadcasting The Holly Mass and the Special Presentation. On Polskie Radio 24 not broadcasting on Special Reports & Presentation. The Pips are not broadcasting on Polskie Radio Czwórka, Polskie Radio dla Zagranicy and other digital radio stations. The pips in commercial radio is broadcasting on RMF FM (5 little pips (since 2001 to 2003) and 4 little pips (since 2003 to now)) before newscast in each hour, but before 2001, the pips broadcasting only at Midnight (5 little pips) on 31 December/1 January each New Year. In 1990-2002 the used on Radio ZET before newscast and welcoming the year. The pips used too in 1992 to 2004 before the newscast and welcoming new year. Since 12 September 2002 to 20 October 2014 the pips broadcasting on former commercial radio station at from 06:00 to 18:00 (2 little pips at :58 and :59 and 1 beep at :00) before the Newscast.[citation needed]
  • Romania - Romanian state radio channel Radio România Actualități broadcast 6 little beeps before each news bulletin. On Radio Cluj, it broadcasts 5 short beeps and 1 beep before local news. Radio Iași uses 16 beeps before local news. Pips were also used on regional stations before Radiojurnal when relaying Radio România Actualități.
  • Russia - Russia's state radio channels broadcatsting 6 tones (5 little pips and 1 short beep) Russia's state television Channel One broadcasts 6 tones too (at the end of a short melody) before newscasts and Vremya (the primetime news program).[citation needed]
  • Slovenia - on RTV Slo radio stations, 5 low-pitched short beeps and 1 high-pitched short beep is broadcast before the news and the information programmes at 5:30, 7:00, 13:00, 15:30, 19:00 and 22:00.
  • Sindh The Sindhi language news channel KTN News plays 5 pips at the start of each news hour.[citation needed]
  • Spain – the signal is broadcast by almost all radio stations, even by music stations, but depends on the frequency: music stations usually use pips on the hour, but most of the non-musical stations broadcast the signal every 30 minutes. Los 40 Principales, the most important music radio in Spain, broadcast a different version of GTS: two first pips sound and then a music is added on the background, using the rhythm to create the corporative jingle of the radio. This station in particular uses only 4 pips, typically the two last using two different frequencies (resulting in a modern rhythm). Other musical radios like Máxima FM and M80 Radio, both owned by PRISA, and Europa FM use a similar effect.[citation needed]
    • Catalonia, Spain – dance music station Flaix FM and Hot AC station Ràdio Flaixbac, both owned by the same media group, broadcast every half-hour a very short sequence of two very short tones followed by a longer one, the whole lasting not more than one and a half seconds. Els 40 Principals, the Catalan edition of Spanish radio Los 40 Principales, use the same jingle, using a mix of GTS and corporative music.[citation needed]
  • Sri LankaSri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation uses GTS pips on their radio channels to mark the start of the hour at each main newscast just after playing the news theme music. Other stations do not use pips.[citation needed]
  • United States – the pips can be heard on the Middlebury College radio station WRMC.[citation needed] CBS News Radio broadcasts a single tone on the hour before the hourly news broadcast.
  • former Yugoslavia – JRT broadcast the six pips before the news (on the hour) on radio as well as on television, before the start of the TV Dnevnik at 8:00 pm. The broadcast on TV was stopped in 1974 because the TV Dnevnik was moved to its current term at the bottom of the hour (7:30 pm).

See also


  1. ^ McIlroy, Jim (Spring 1990). "Network Radio: New Time and Frequency distribution system" (PDF). Eng Inf (40). Archived from the original (pdf) on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 30 May 2012.
  2. ^ "What's the time?". Astronomy & Time. Royal Museums Greenwich. Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. Retrieved 5 February 2014.
  3. ^ "Leap second: Keeper of the pips". BBC News. 30 December 2008. Retrieved 5 February 2014.
  4. ^ "The comforting tone of the hourly radio pips". BBC News (Magazine Monitor). 5 February 2014. Retrieved 5 February 2014.
  5. ^ "Leap years and leap seconds". Royal Museums Greenwich. Archived from the original on 22 February 2014.
  6. ^ "Adjusting after a 'long' weekend at the Royal Observatory – Precision clocks and the leap second". Royal Museums Greenwich. Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. Retrieved 5 February 2014.
  7. ^ a b Sci/Tech – Six pip salute, BBC News, 5 February 1999, retrieved 23 April 2009
  8. ^ Simpson, Peter (25 August 2008). "Baton Passed to London for 2012". South China Morning Post. Archived from the original on 22 March 2012. Retrieved 24 September 2011.
  9. ^ Lister, Charles (5 February 2014). "The 'time pips' at 90". Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  10. ^ Tom Leonard (28 February 2002). "Pip, pip! Woman of Today is gone tomorrow". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 18 November 2012.
  11. ^ "The Radio 4 Pips – How you download the pips". Today Programme. BBC News. March 2005. Retrieved 18 November 2012.
  12. ^ 'Pips' slip in BBC radio error, BBC News, 17 September 2008, retrieved 23 April 2009
  13. ^ a b Denis Nowlan (1 June 2011). "What happened to the Radio 4 pips?". Radio 4 and 4 Extra Blog. BBC. Retrieved 2 June 2011.
  14. ^ Harry Wallop (31 May 2011). "Radio 4's pips die". The Telegraph. Retrieved 31 May 2011.
  15. ^ "The Pips return from a 3 hour break" Radio Today 31 May 2011 Retrieved 31 May 2011.
  16. ^ ABC Radio incoming News sound, retrieved 3 April 2018
  17. ^ "Time Synchronization with Hong Kong Time System". Hong Kong Observatory. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  18. ^ "תאגיד השידור הציבורי "כאן"- אותות הפתיחה והסיום של החדשות ברדיו". YouTube. Retrieved 22 May 2017.
  19. ^ "時報(TV Clock)". YouTube. Retrieved 29 April 2016.
  20. ^ "NHK 1987年 ニュースOP集". YouTube. Retrieved 29 April 2016.
  21. ^ "昭和から平成への変わり目". YouTube. Retrieved 29 April 2016.
  22. ^ De rode lopers van de radio – book review in Trouw (4 August 2007, in Dutch).
  23. ^ Vanaf vandaag: vernieuwde 'pips' op NPO Radio 1 (in Dutch), retrieved 11 November 2019

External links

5 February 1931

The Hawke’s Bay earthquake, New Zealand’s worst natural disaster, kills 258.

1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake
Hastings Post Office 1931.jpg
1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake is located in New Zealand
1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake
UTC time1931-02-02 22:46:52
ISC event906607
Local date3 February 1931
Local time10:47 NZDT
Magnitude7.8 Ms, 7.7 Mw[1]
Depth20 km (12 mi)
Epicenter39°18′S 177°00′E / 39.3°S 177.0°E / -39.3; 177.0Coordinates: 39°18′S 177°00′E / 39.3°S 177.0°E / -39.3; 177.0
Areas affectedNew Zealand
Casualties256 dead, thousands injured
Damage to the Hawkes Bay Tribune building

The 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake, also known as the Napier earthquake, occurred in New Zealand at 10:47 am on 3 February, killing 256,[3] injuring thousands and devastating the Hawke's Bay region. It remains New Zealand's deadliest natural disaster. Centred 15 km north of Napier, it lasted for two and a half minutes and had a magnitude of 7.8 Ms (7.7 Mw).[1] There were 525 aftershocks recorded in the following two weeks, with 597 being recorded by the end of February. The main shock could be felt in much of New Zealand, with reliable reports coming in from as far south as Timaru, on the east coast of the South Island.[4]

Tectonic setting

New Zealand lies along the boundary between the Indo-Australian Plate and Pacific Plates. In the South Island most of the relative displacement between these plates is taken up along a single dextral (right lateral) strike-slip fault with a major reverse component, the Alpine Fault. In the North Island the displacement is mainly taken up along the Hikurangi Subduction Zone, although the remaining dextral strike-slip component of the relative plate motion is accommodated by the North Island Fault System (NIFS).[5]

The earthquake is thought to have occurred on one of the larger thrust faults within the accretionary wedge, at between ca. 5 km depth and ca. 20–25 km depth (which is the approximate depth of subducted Pacific plate at that location).[6]


Comparison map of the extent of Ahuriri Lagoon before(left) and after(right) the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake.

Nearly all buildings in the central areas of Napier and Hastings were levelled (The Dominion noted that "Napier as a town has been wiped off the map")[7] and the death toll included 161 people in Napier, 93 in Hastings, and two in Wairoa.[3] Thousands more were injured, with over 400 hospitalised.

The local landscape changed dramatically, with the coastal areas around Napier being lifted by around two metres.[7] The most noticeable land change was the uplifting of some 40 km² of sea-bed to become dry land. This included Ahuriri Lagoon, which was lifted more than 2.7 metres[7] and resulted in draining 2230 hectares of the lagoon. Today, this area is the location of Hawkes Bay Airport, housing and industrial developments and farmland.

Within minutes fires broke out in chemist shops in Hastings Street, Napier. The fire brigade almost had the first fire under control when the second broke out in a shop at the back of the Masonic Hotel. The hotel was quickly engulfed in flames. The wind at this point also picked up strength and began blowing from the east, pushing the fires back over the city. With water mains broken, the brigade was unable to save many buildings. Pumping water from Clive Square, they were able to stop the fires spreading south. Only a few buildings in the central Napier area survived. Some withstood the earthquake only to be gutted by fire. Trapped people had to be left to burn as people were unable to free them in time. By Wednesday morning, the main fires were out, but the ruins still smouldered for several days.

In Hastings, the fires were quickly brought under control.

The death toll might have been much higher had the Royal Navy ship HMS Veronica not been in port at the time. Within minutes of the shock the Veronica had sent radio messages asking for help. The sailors joined survivors to fight the fires, rescue trapped people and help give them medical treatment. The Veronica's radio was used to transmit news of the disaster to the outside world and to seek assistance. The crew from two cargo ships, the Northumberland and Taranaki, also joined the rescue works, while two cruisers, HMS Diomede and HMS Dunedin, were dispatched from Auckland that afternoon with food, tents, medicine, blankets, and a team of doctors and nurses. The cruisers sailed at high speed overnight, arrived on 4 February and provided valuable assistance in all areas until their departure on 11 February.

A group of prisoners working at Bluff Hill in Napier had four of their number buried in a landslip by the quake. The remaining prisoners dug them out, but two had been killed. The prisoners re-assembled without any attempt to escape and were locked up in the Napier Jail. In Taradale, Mission Estate missionaries' accommodation block had been built and opened in February 1931. The next day the Hawke's Bay earthquake struck, causing serious damage to the entire Mission. Two priests and seven students were killed when the stone chapel was destroyed. In Havelock North, St Luke's church was damaged (but not destroyed) just before a wedding was due to take place. The couple got married later in the day, but outdoors.

Within four days of the quake, cinemas around New Zealand offered news specials about the disaster.

Telegram from King George V to Governor-General of New Zealand, 3 February 1931

Another casualty of the earthquake was the Napier trams. The tracks were twisted by the earthquake, and were never restored.[8]

New Zealand's first commercial air disaster occurred six days after the quake, when a Desoutter monoplane crashed near Wairoa. The small airline had been making three return trips a day between Hastings and Gisborne, carrying passengers and supplies. All three on board were killed.

The Napier Daily Telegraph had recently celebrated its diamond jubilee with an article describing Napier as "the Nice of the Pacific". The newspaper office was destroyed by the quake. The Hawke's Bay Herald offices in Hastings were also destroyed.


On 13 February, Hawke's Bay was struck by a 7.3 Ms  aftershock. At the time, this second event was New Zealand's fourth strongest recorded earthquake. Author Matthew Wright reported that "the power failed three seconds before the earthquake was felt in Napier. People from Napier to Dannevirke ran for their lives as previously damaged buildings cracked and fell".[9] He added "Some inland parts of Hawke’s Bay felt this aftershock more strongly than the 3 February quake. In Taupo, goods were thrown from shop shelves, but ‘there was no damage of any moment’. People rushed into the streets in Dannevirke and Masterton. In Wellington all but one of the clocks stopped working in the Dominion Observatory, and ceiling lights in the Evening Post offices swayed ‘more vigorously’ than they had the week before".[9] The earthquake of 13 February 1931 is widely regarded as an aftershock of the larger event ten days earlier. But Messrs Adams, Barnett and Hayes commenting on the rapid decline in the frequency of aftershocks in the Journal of Science & Technology stated, "The fresh outbreak on the 13th February, due to the severe shock on that date, may almost be regarded as a separate disturbance, although it probably arose from conditions produced by the original shock on the 3rd".

Aftershocks continued to shake Hawke's Bay frequently until July 1931, where the average aftershock occurrence dropped to less than one daily. Aftershocks continued for several years, with the last major jolt shaking the Bay in April 1934.

Below is a list of all recorded aftershocks following the main event.

Year Month Date Number of Aftershocks Major Aftershocks
1931 February 597
3 February 151 5.5 Ms
4 February 55
5 February 50
6 February 29
7 February 24
8 February <20 6.4 Ms
9 February <20
10 February <20
11 February <20
12 February <20
13 February 81 7.3 Ms
14 February 23
15 February 18
16 February 19
1931 March 75
1931 April 52 5.5 Ms
1931 May 40 6.0 Ms
1931 June 40
1931 July 26
1931 August 17
1931 September 20
1931 October 16
1931 November 19
1931 December 14
1932 May 5.9 Ms
1932 September 6.9 Ms
1934 March 6.3 Ms
1934 April 5.6 Ms

In all, 597 earthquakes were recorded at Hastings during February 1931, and more than 900 by the end of December 1931.[9][10]


The government quickly realised that the Napier borough council would be overwhelmed with organising the rebuild and appointed two commissioners for this task, John Barton and Lachlan Bain Campbell.[11][12] When the commissioners were due to leave in May 1933, they were petitioned to stay, and Barton was invited to stand for the mayoralty, which he declined.[13]

The earthquake prompted a thorough review of New Zealand building codes, which were found to be totally inadequate.[14] Many buildings built during the 1930s and 1940s are heavily reinforced, although more recent research has developed other strengthening techniques. Building regulations established as a result of this event mean that to this day, there are only four buildings in Hawke's Bay taller than five storeys, and as most of the region's rebuilding took place in the 1930s when Art Deco was fashionable, Hawke's Bay architecture is regarded today as being one of the finest collections of Art Deco in the world.

On the tenth anniversary of the earthquake, the New Zealand Listener reported that Napier had risen from the ashes like a phoenix. It quoted the 1931 principal of Napier Girls' High School as saying "Napier today is a far lovelier city than it was before".


See also


  1. ^ a b Webb, T.H.; Anderson, H. (1998). "Focal mechanisms of large earthquakes in the North Island of New Zealand: slip partitioning at an oblique active margin". Geophysical Journal International. 134 (1): 40–86. doi:10.1046/j.1365-246x.1998.00531.x.
  2. ^ "Tsunami – Hawke's Bay Emergency Management Group". www.hbemergency.govt.nz. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  3. ^ a b The exact number of deaths varies according to different sources; the New Zealand Listener article cited below gives 258 deaths, but the Bateman New Zealand Encyclopedia gives 256. The difference is due to two people "missing" and presumed dead. Some articles add these two to the death toll, while others do not.
  4. ^ "M 7.4 Hawke's Bay Tue, Feb 3 1931". GeoNet.
  5. ^ Mouslopoulou, V; Nicol, A; Little, T. A; Walsh, J. J (2007), "Terminations of large strike-slip faults: An alternative model from New Zealand", Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 290 (1): 387–415, Bibcode:2007GSLSP.290..387M, doi:10.1144/SP290.15
  6. ^ "Bay quake highlights NZ's vulnerability". www.gns.cri.nz. GNS Science.
  7. ^ a b c New Zealand Historical Atlas – McKinnon, Malcolm (Editor); , 1997, Plate 87
  8. ^ "Napier Earthquake". Christchurch City Libraries. Archived from the original on 16 February 2008. Retrieved 13 February 2008.
  9. ^ a b c "Hawke's Bay Earthquakes 1931 « Wild Land". Wildland.owdjim.gen.nz. 13 February 2006. Retrieved 18 June 2015.
  10. ^ Alan G. Hull (1990) Tectonics of the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake, New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics, 33:2, 309–320, doi:10.1080/00288306.1990.10425689
  11. ^ McSaveney, Eileen (13 July 2012). "Historic earthquakes – Rebuilding Napier". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
  12. ^ Astwood, Karen (24–26 November 2014). Learning from experience: three case studies of New Zealand natural disasters and engineers’ responses, 1878–1953 (PDF). 4th Australasian Engineering Heritage Conference. Lincoln University, New Zealand.
  13. ^ Axford, C. Joy. "John Saxon Barton". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  14. ^ Walker, Paul (1992). "Shaky Ground". Interstices: Journal of Architecture and Related Arts. 0.


External links

5 February 1971

Astronauts land on the moon in the Apollo 14 mission.

HOUSTON, Friday, Feb. 5 1971 —Two astronauts of Apollo 14—the fifth and sixth human beings ever—landed on the moon early this morning.

Capt. Alan B. Shepard Jr. and Comdr. Edgar D. Mitchell of the Navy steered the four?legged landing craft named Antares to a smooth touchdown at 4:18 A.M., Eastern standard time, on the moon’s highlands.

Their landing, the third made by American astronauts, came after a four?day, 250,000?mile voyage across the void of space. It came a year and a half after man’s first landing, Apollo 11’s pioneering visit to the Sea of Tranquility.

The four other men on the moon were Neil A. Armstrong, the first to set foot on the lunar surface — on July 20, 1969 — and Col. Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. of the Air Force, from Apollo II, and Comdr. Charles Conrad Jr. and Comdr. Alan L. Bean of the Navy, from Apollo 12.

In a Level Valley

The Apollo 14 astronauts brought their 16?ton landing craft down on a fairly level valley in the Fra Mauro highlands, a cratered and rockstrewn area where the astronauts should be able to find rocks as old as the solar system itself. They plan a 33½hour visit.

Continue reading the main story
While Maj. Stuart A. Roosa of the Air Force was scheduled to pilot the command module Kitty Hawk in a watchful orbit overhead, Captain Shepard and Commander Mitchell would take two long excursions outside their landing craft to set up a nuclear?powered scientific station and get rock samples.

The descent engine on the lunar module fired at 4:05 A.M., at which time Captain Shepard declared:

“It’s a beautiful day in the land of Fra Mauro.”

And just before Antares touched down on the moon, Commander Mitchell exclaimed:

“There it is. Right on target. Beautiful. Right out the window. Just like you said it would be.”

Comments From Moon

When the craft set down—two minutes behind schedule—the first words were those of Captain Shepherd, who said:

“We’re on the surface. We made a good landing.”

After Mission Control acknowledged the success, tho astronaut added:

“That was a beautiful one. We landed on the slope. But other than that, we’re in great shape—right on the landing site.”

The first of their moon walks, which would last up to five hours each, was to begin around 9 AM. today. Captain Shepard would take the first steps down the ladder, followed a few minutes later by Commander Mitchell.

All their activities should be seen on earth through a color television transmission from Antares. The second moon walk, scheduled for early tomorrow morning, also was scheduled to be televised.

Captain Shepard and Commander Mitchell were cleared shortly before midnight to begin the landing maneuver. Mission Control issued the goahead for “undocking.”

At 11:51 P.M., on Apollo 14’s 12th revolution of the moon, Antares and Kitty Hawk separated. The docking mechanism that had given the astronauts trouble early in the flight unlatched without flaw.

“You’re moving out,” Major Roosa radioed from Kitty Hawk. After a pause, Major Roosa said:

“Okay, we seem real steady. I’m going to back off from you.”

Major Roosa then fired maneuvering rockets on the command ship and moved back to a safe distance, flying higher than Antares.

Later at 1:10 A.M., Kitty Hawk’s main rocket fired a short burst to gather speed and move into a more circular orbit, about 70 miles above the moon. At that altitude, Kitty Hawk was in a favorable position to link up with Antares after its return from the moon.

As Kitty Hawk moved away, Antares followed an orbit ranging from about 69 miles on the far side of the moon to about 10 miles as it passed over the landing path.

For the final descent, following a long, curving trajectory from 10 miles to touchdown, Captain Shepard and Commander Mitchell needed an 11?minute firing of the rocket in the lunar module’s lower stage. The descent was carefully plotted by radar, computer and the experienced eyes of the astronauts.

A problem with mysterious abort signals in the guidance computer on Antares caused concern as Captain Shepard and Commander Mitchell prepared for the landing. Strange signals monitored on the ground indicated that an “abort command” was showing up in the computer, perhaps because of contamination in the abort switch.

New Instructions

If this had happened during a lunar?module rocket firing, it would have caused an unintentional abort of the lunar landing.

Consequently, mission control gave the astronauts a new set of instructions to be fed into the computer immediately after the descent rocket firing was begun. The new procedure would, in effect, tell the computer to ignore such an unintentional abort signal.

The astronauts got about six hours of sleep during a 10?hour rest period before their long and critical night began.

In making Apollo 14’s first status report of the day to Mission Control, Major Roosa said:

“We went to bed all healthy and we’re getting up the same way.”

At about 9 o’clock last night, Captain Shepard and Commander Mitchell donned their heavy space suits, opened the hatch and crawled through the connecting tunnel into the attached lunar module.

One of their chief concerns during the inspection tour, was the condition of one of the two storage batteries in the lunar module’s ascent stage. When it was tested two days ago, it was found to have lost about three?tenths of a volt from its level at liftoff.

Had it further degraded, indicating problems in more than one cell, flight controllers would have had to call off the landing attempt.

But when the batteries were powered up, the astronauts reported their condition “exactly as it was last night.” The landing, in short, was still “go.”

Apollo 14 reached lunar orbit early yesterday morning and by 9 P.M. had looped the moon 11 times, traveling at a speed of about 3,500 miles an hour.

Target for Landing

Each time Apollo 14—the combined command ship and lunar module—swung around the face of the moon and swooped down to within 10 miles of the surface, the astronauts could see the rugged features of Fra Mauro.

It was early dawn at the time there, giving the astronauts the ideal lighting conditions for their landing. Their arrival was timed so that the astronauts would have the sun low on the horizon and behind their backs as they made the tricky descent to the moon.

The hills of Fra Mauro rise along the eastern rim of the Ocean of Storms, just south of the lunar equator. The landing area is about 110 miles east of where Apollo 12 touched down in November, 1969.

The precise landing target was set in a narrow valley between two clusters of craters that the astronauts nicknamed Triplet and. Doublet.

Some of the nearby hills and ridges rise as much as 8,000 feet high, seemingly even greater than a similar elevation on earth because the moon is roughly one?fourth the size earth.

Scientists believe that on this rugged terrain is material dating back 4.6 billion years to the creation of the moon. Analysis of the samples could determine much about the processes of the moon’s origin.

The goal for the first walk was to deploy instruments to record moonquakes, to measure electrically charged particles on the lunar surface and to collect imprints of solar particle bombardment.

The nuclear?powered scientific station was designed to operate more than a year. The Apollo 12 seismometer is still returning data.

On the second walk—EVA for extravehicular activity—the objective was hiking to a feature known as Cone Crater. The crater is situated at the top of a gentle hill that arise: about 330 feet above the relatively level landing site.

Cone Crater Objective

Rocks around the lip of the crater are thought to have been tossed there from the impact that formed the crater. They would thus come from much deeper inside the moon than any samples previously returned by astronauts.

Getting into position for the landing attempt took a two?step maneuver.

First, the Apollo 14 astronauts fired the spaceship’s main rocket to swing into a wide looping orbit of the moon. After two revolutions, they refired the same rocket, which is at the stern of the spaceship, to lower the orbit.

Both rocket firings cut off fraction of a second early, but that did not significantly throw the spaceship off its intendedi orbit.

In the lower orbit, Apollo I dipped as low as 12 miles fro the surface over the front ski: and then swung out to about 67 miles high while over the far side of the moon.

On previous missions, the lower orbit was achieved by the lunar module’s descent rocket after the two ships had separated. The change on this mission’ saved enough lunar module fuel to allow the astronauts an additional 15 seconds to hover at the last moment before touchdown.

While orbiting the moon, awaiting the landing attempt, he astronauts described the desolate world they saw below.

“It looks like a plaster mold that somebody has dusted vii grays and browns.” Commander Mitchell radioed.

“It has all the grays, browns, whites and dark craters ever body’s talked about before.” Captain Shepard added. “lt’s really quite a sight.”

5 February 1971

The Astronauts land on the moon in the Apollo 14 mission.

HOUSTON, Saturday, Feb. 6 — Apollo 14 astronauts Alan Shepard Jr. and Ed Mitchell, sleeping only briefly after an incredible four hours and 44 minutes spent wandering on the moon yesterday, left their lunar ship Antares at 3:23 a.m. today to begin a second recording-breaking moonwalk.

The astronauts were up and on the surface nearly two hour early, their spectacular walk beamed to earth via a color television camera set up on the surface yesterday.

A major task was to return 600 feet to a scientific package they had laid out yesterday to reposition an antenna designed to send seismic and other information to earth for months after America’s third successful lunar landing mission has ended.

The astronauts first set out on a long 4,600-foot hike to collect moon rocks which geologists believe will date back 4.6 million years to the beginning of the universe.

Like most of the gremlin-riddled Apollo 14 flight, the first moon walk was not without trouble. Communications problems stalled its start for 50 minutes. Unforeseen difficulties in some of their tasks caused its extension for an extra 30 minutes. And one of their experiments failed completely.

But the flaws were minor. The first of two long moon walks for the crew of the little lunar landers Antares accomplished its goal admirably. The astronauts were so pleased that they talked Mission Control into letting them begin today’s four to five-hour walk before its planned 5:38 a.m. start.

Only one small problem arose. A minor heat leak in Mitchell’s pressure suit was expected to limit the second walk to no longer than the one yesterday. The leak was not expected to interfere with any of the day’s goals.

5 February 1971

Apollo 14 astronauts land on the moon.

Apollo 14 was the eighth manned mission in the United States Apollo program, and the third to land on the Moon. It was the last of the “H missions,” targeted landings with two-day stays on the Moon with two lunar EVAs, or moonwalks.

Commander Alan Shepard, Command Module Pilot Stuart Roosa, and Lunar Module Pilot Edgar Mitchell launched on their nine-day mission on January 31, 1971 at 4:04:02 p.m. local time after a 40-minute, 2 second delay due to launch site weather restrictions, the first such delay in the Apollo program. Shepard and Mitchell made their lunar landing on February 5 in the Fra Mauro formation – originally the target of the aborted Apollo 13 mission. During the two lunar EVAs, 42.80 kilograms of Moon rocks were collected, and several scientific experiments were performed. Shepard hit two golf balls on the lunar surface with a makeshift club he had brought with him. Shepard and Mitchell spent 33½ hours on the Moon, with almost 9½ hours of EVA.

In the aftermath of Apollo 13, several modifications had been made to the Service Module electrical power system to prevent a repeat of that accident, including a redesign of the oxygen tanks and the addition of a third tank.

While Shepard and Mitchell were on the surface, Roosa remained in lunar orbit aboard the Command/Service Module Kitty Hawk, performing scientific experiments and photographing the Moon, including the landing site of the future Apollo 16 mission. He took several hundred seeds on the mission, many of which were germinated on return, resulting in the so-called Moon trees. Shepard, Roosa, and Mitchell landed in the Pacific Ocean on February 9.