A recent earthquake in Winchester appears to have led to subterranean shifts in the geology that have in turn allowed remarkable sonic phenomena to be detected and recorded, particularly in the area of Cathedral Close and the Pilgrim’s School.
The earthquake of the 27 January 2015 occurred at 18:30hrs, with an epicentre approximately 1 km northeast of the centre of Winchester. The instrumental magnitude was determined at 2.9 ML.
Over 230 reports were received from members of the public, almost all of them coming from within a 10 km radius of the epicentre, covering Winchester and its surrounding hamlets.
Further afield, reports were received from Southampton (20 km to south of epicentre), near Petersfield (30 km to east of epicentre), near Newbury (30 km to north of epicentre), and near Bournemouth (60 km to southwest of epicentre).
Over half the reports described the shaking strength of the earthquake to be moderate, mainly with a trembling effect, and described the sound strength as moderate to loud. Over half the reports stated that windows rattled. Reports described sounds that “felt like a rhino had run into the house” and “A loud bang and feeling of impact as if a lorry or vehicle had hit the building”.
One respondent reported that the sonic phenomena associated with the earthquake were so pronounced that, “most of the other neighbours came out into the street following the tremor”. Another said: “It felt like the chimney had fallen in or someone fell down the stairs, there was a loud bang as if something heavy hit the side wall”. In some areas, the sonic vibrations were so severe that “items on the windowsill rattled and made very loud noises”.
Since this occurrence, there have been numerous reports of ‘sonic aftershocks’ in the Pilgrim’s School area, suggesting that the earthquake has stimulated conversational, melodic, ambient and proto-historic sonic phenomena through its disturbance of the underground strata.
This fortunate occurrence offers NISG an opportunity to record and analyse one of the most important field sites in Sonic Geology in the UK for the last 50 years.
The Winchester- East Meon Anticline is one of a series of parallel east-west trending tectonic folds in the Cretaceous chalk of Hampshire. It lies at the western end of the South Downs, immediately to the north of the Hampshire Basin and south-east of Salisbury Plain. The fold is around 35 kilometres (22 mi) long. In the Winchester area the core of the anticline has been eroded to expose the older Cenomanian Zig Zag Chalk formation. This is surrounded by progressively younger rings of the Turonian Holywell Nodular Chalk and New Pit Chalk Formation (the 'Middle chalk') and the Coniacian Lewes Nodular Chalk and Santonian Seaford Chalk Formation ('Upper chalk').
This results in a near-complete ring of inward-facing chalk scarp slopes including Magdalen (Morn) Hill to the north, Chilcomb Down, Cheesefoot Head and Telegraph Hill to the east, Deacon Hill, Twyford Down and St. Catherine's Hill to the south.
It is suggested that this geological ring acts to focus subterranean sonic phenomena in the manner of a ‘speaker cone’, allowing for detection of Deep Sound by means of NISG Ear Trumpet technology, and that this should be the focus of NISG investigations in the area.
The core of the anticline is also crossed by the M3 motorway, completed in the 1990s. Homeley and Finch (NISG North Hampshire (affiliated)) have suggested that this construction, which involved deep earthworks within the anticline itself may also have released detectable sonic phenomena, in the manner of repeated echo-type, induction, and auricular events.
To the east of Winchester the tectonic fold swings southwards as the Winchester-Meon Pericline. This has a slightly westward plunge. To the west of Winchester the fold runs on slightly southwards through Farley Mount. To the south-west across the River Test is a similar fold, the Dean Hill Anticline. As with other nearby folds, the structure is controlled by movement of fault blocks within the Jurassic strata below. The anticline has been explored for hydrocarbons, and as a site of potential fracking operations to release shale gas.
NOTE: Sonic Geology clearly benefits from the subterranean disruption caused by such commercial gas-mining in terms of the release of new data and the stimulation of hitherto unknown Deep Stratum sonic activity.
However, some experts in the field also believe that the phenomena themselves could be permanently erased from the geological sound profile by fracking activity. A recent, internally divisive, NISG motion led to a slim majority decision that the Society should express its concern to the relevant authorities on this issue.
Legend and Fable:
King Arthur’s Return:
King Arthur's messianic return is a recurrent aspect of Arthurian literature surrounding the notion that he and his knights lie dormant beneath the ground and will one day return to save the British people from tyranny. The possibility of Arthur's return is first mentioned by William of Malmesbury in the early 12th century. A number of locations were suggested for where Arthur would actually return from, among them the mound beneath Winchester Castle, where the Round Table still hangs on display.
NOTE: Subterranean sonic phenomena have been detected in this area by NISG members, which might offer a rational scientific explanation for longstanding local folkloric reports of music from below ground, the sounds of swords on armour, minstrelsy and incantation that have been associated with the King Arthur’s Return myth.
Archaeology of the field site: Cathedral Close and Pilgrim’s school
Winchester has one of the richest histories of any city in Britain. Occupation and activity in the immediate area can be traced back thousands of years, from the construction of the Iron Age earthworks at Oram’s Arbour and St Catherine’s Hill, to the establishment of the civitas capital Venta Belgarum in the Roman period, Wintanceaster in the Saxon period, through “medieval” to modern-day Winchester.
The Sounding Space lies on the former floodplain of the River Itchen, before the river was diverted towards the east on its present course (James 1997, 30-1). The Iron Age oppidum of Orams Arbour lies to the northwest. The site lies within the later historic walled city in an area which successively comprised part of the Roman civitas of Venta Belgarum, the Saxon town of Wentanceastre, and the medieval city of Winchester. The archaeological resource within the walled city is recognised as being of national importance and the Cathedral Close is regarded as of special archaeological value with an active status as a Scheduled Monument.
Pilgrims School sits on Holocene Clay. It was the site of a Mesolithic forest of alder, lime, hazel and elm and later a marshy water meadow, drained by the Romans, who diverted the river channel, grazed animals and grew figs and plums. The Saxons gathered blackberries, hazlenuts and apples here, medieval monks raised the ground levels as they built the nearby cathedral. Archaeologists have recovered pottery, coins minted by the Roman Emperors Claudius II and Carausius, transported from across the Roman Empire.
NOTE: A key research question surrounds the extent to which archaeological objects may emit charged sonic signals that have been stored within them as a result of human possession and transportation.