The 1888 North Canterbury earthquake occurred at 4:10 am on 1 September 1888 following a sequence of foreshocks that started the previous evening, and whose epicentre was in the North Canterbury region of the South Island of New Zealand. The epicentre was approximately 35 kilometres (22 mi) west of Hanmer.
In Christchurch, about 100 kilometres (62 mi) southeast of the epicentre, shaking lasted for 40 to 50 seconds. The magnitude of the earthquake is estimated to be in the range 7.0–7.3. Severe damage to farm buildings in the epicentral region was reported and the top 7.8 metres (26 ft) of the spire of ChristChurch Cathedral collapsed. It was the first earthquake observed to be associated with mainly horizontal fault displacement.
The earthquake occurred on the Hope Fault, one of the group of dextral strike-slip structures known as the Marlborough Fault System that transfer displacement between the mainly transform and convergent type plate boundaries in a complex zone at the northern end of South Island.Alexander McKay, a geologist working for the geological survey, observed horizontal offsets in farm fences between 1.5 and 2.6 metres (4.9 and 8.5 ft) along the fault. He was the first to associate a strike-slip displacement with an earthquake.
This surveyor stands at a fence that crosses the Hope Fault near Glynn Wye Station. The fence, originally straight, has been kinked by the sideways movement of the land.
In the North Canterbury region many buildings were severely damaged, particularly in the Hope Valley and Hanmer areas. Landslides occurred in unconsolidated sediment and fissures up to 30 centimetres (12 in) wide were observed.