The Daly City Earthquake of 1957

On 22nd March 1957 at 19:44ut, Daly City (near San Francisco) was hit by a magnitude 5.3 earthquake. Although only a moderate earthquake, it is still the largest earthquake to have been located on the San Francisco Peninsular since 1906.

In 1995, I studied this earthquake as a part of my MSc in Geophysics at the University of Durham (UK), in co-operation with the Branch of Seismology at the US Geological Survey (Menlo Park, California). The project led to the paper "M5.3 normal? faulting event adjacent to the San Andreas fault on the San Francisco Peninsular" by Marsden, Zoback, et al. which was presented to the Fall 1995 Meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

My thanks go to the staff at Menlo Park - especially Drs. Mary Lou Zoback and Bruce Julian, as well as Dr. Doug Dreger at UC Berkeley.

Sound File

Play (44k WAV file)

This is a sound recording of the 1957 Daly City Earthquake. The recording is from a Benioff seismometer (T0=1sec, Tg=90sec) at the PAS (Pasadena) station located 540 km away. This may sound like a long period instrument, but is actually one of the shorter period recordings which I had available. The original was a paper (analogue) record, which was scanned at UC Berkeley, and then digitised at USGS Menlo Park.

This recording is unfiltered, but speeded up by 134x relative to real time so that is audible. Ideally it should be played through speakers with a reasonable bass response. Unfortunately many cheaper PC speaker systems do not.

Personal Accounts

Since I created these pages, a number of people have emailed me with their recollections (Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4) of this earthquake. These are included here with permission from the authors.

If you experienced the earthquake and would like to have your recollections included on this page, you are welcome to email them to me!

Other Pages

I regularly receive email from people wishing to know more about the Daly City Earthquake. The following pages are strongly recommended and provide much more information than I have available.

You can experience this earthquake by visiting the Museum of Science and Natural History in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco where they have a shake-table of the 1957 event.

Also, the Museum of the City of San Francisco has a web page on this earthquake, as well as pages for other San Franciscan earthquakes. I have also written a short article for the Museum about the earthquake and why we should expect normal faulting in the area.

The UC Berkeley site also has a page devoted to the Daly City Earthquake. This includes a number of pictures of the damage.

For more information on earthquakes in general, the British Geological Survey and US Geological Survey earthquake pages are well worth a look. The short article I wrote for the Museum of the City of San Francisco might also be of interest.

Robert Keil's book Little Boxes describes suburban architecture in Daly City during the 1950s, and also includes the Daly City earthquake.

Although I try to answer all email and to help with specific queries, I receive so much email that I can no longer reply to general requests for information. If you are looking for further information on the Daly City Earthquake, earthquakes in general, or even the wider field of plate tectonics; the above pages are strongly recommended.



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