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Earthquakes Cause Fissures

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You can't fault Mother Nature for decreasing property values.

"Do you fear a shake of the earth? It would take a large crack to swallow you up."
Uchitel, Red Holocaust

When an earthquake strikes, it will create fissures into the depths of the earth in random locations, usually with a lot of people. According to fiction, anyway.

In reality, the ground often just shakes, shifts and quakes — the physical damage is usually to structures on the ground, not the ground itself. If fissures do open up, it is usually due to a landslide triggered by the quake, which means they're restricted to hillsides, mountains, and cliffs. If you see roads with cracks and fissures and dislodged pieces, it is because the wet, sandy ground underneath has liquefied, causing the road to sink unevenly and crack. And yes, that can happen to buildings too.

Fissures more directly related to earthquakes can happen. When a normal (extensional) fault slips, the soil near the surface can rip apart on a vertical rupture (the actual fault plane being at about a 45 degree slope), producing a fissure. It will, however, usually be fairly small, less than a metre wide. At most a few unlucky people might fall down and get stuck. Poorly constructed roads can also fracture like this, but never as severely as the media depicts it. In other words, you probably won't fall into a pit of lava that's apparently just 20 feet from the surface.

Sometimes, unlucky victims will fall for hours down the cracks until they reach anything.

It's yet another area in which nature fails to observe the Rule of Cool. (Probably for the best.)


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    Anime & Manga 
  • One Piece's Whitebeard and his Tremor-Tremor Fruit. Possibly justified in that he can control the vibrations and their point of activity. And now Blackbeard has it...

    Comic Books 
  • MonsterVerse: In the graphic novel Godzilla Aftershock, a series of violent tremors in Guam cause a giant sinkhole to open up, before the MUTO Prime which caused the tremors emerges for the first time.
  • Supergirl:
    • "The Unknown Legionnaire": Strong earthquakes strike the underground city of the Llorn, opening up massive rifts and swalling up many buildings.
    • Supergirl: Being Super: Kara's friend Jen is swallowed by a gigantic fissure when a severe quake strikes Midvale.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: As Crisis on Infinite Earths brings about the end of the worlds and the continuity of the comic it causes serious tectonic activity which opens up fissures one of which Lauren Haley dies falling into.

    Comic Strips 

    Film — Animated 
  • At the end of the "Rite of Spring" segment of Disney's Fantasia, a massive earthquake strikes. One of the first things to occur is the ground ripping apart to form a canyon like two hands grabbed the earth and pulled in opposite directions.
  • Koati: In one of the first scenes, the ground shakes and a fissure opens up right in the center of Xo. After just a minute, it closes back up, nearly crushing a jaguar cub.
  • Many instances in the Land Before Time movies.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • 2012 is using this trope to the point of overkillage. All of LA fissures and refissures and that's just IN THE TRAILER.
  • Justified in Crack In The World, where underground nuclear explosions inadvertently create the giant rift of the title, causing lots of Stock Footage earthquakes and volcanoes.
  • While it's a small one compared to many other examples, in Ghostbusters (1984) the eponymous crew fall into a fissure when an earthquake strikes just before they go in for the final showdown. A moment of drama and then they crawl out and wave. It makes more sense knowing that the street (Central Park West) is built directly on top of a subway tunnel, which would have been damaged and partially collapsed.
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. When Dr. Elsa Schneider crosses the seal while holding the Grail, a mammoth earthquake hits and causes huge cracks to form in the cave. Dr. Schneider falls in, as does Indy later on (Possibly some Mooks fall in too).
  • A man is caught and crushed in a fissure in the Japanese disaster movie Jishin Retto/film/Death Quake. It goes from scary to camp when he spits up red kool-aid.
  • Jumanji: The final danger unleashed by the game is an earthquake. It causes a fissure that rips the Parrish family mansion in half. This is at least partly a good thing, since it frees Alan, who was trapped in the floor due to the game turning the ground to quicksand earier.
  • The plot of A Kid in King Arthur's Court kicks off when an earthquake strikes and the main character falls down an crack into medieval times.
  • The Syfy movie Mega Fault. The premise is that a giant earthquake opens a crack from the east coast to the Grand Canyon.
  • Superman: The Movie (1978).
    • Scenes of the destruction of the planet Krypton included Kryptonquakes, with cracks opening up and many Kryptonians falling to their doom.
    • When the missile hits California, it causes a quake which opens two fissures: one underneath the train tracks and one which Lois Lane's car drops into.
  • Supervolcano: The quake near the beginning creates a large crack with chunks of ground falling into it.
  • The Ten Commandments (1956): when Moses throws the eponymous tablets at the Golden Calf, the Calf explodes and a massive earthquake ensues which opens up massive rifts in the Earth, consuming the mooks and The Starscream of the piece. Justified by the fact it's the wrath of God rather than a natural event.

  • The very beginning of Earth's Children has the protagonist's family swallowed by, well... A gigantic Earthquake Fissure.
  • In Brandon Sanderson's Elantris, a big earthquake caused a giant fissure to split the country in half. This turns out to have extremely plot-relevant implications.
  • Land of Oz: In Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, Dorothy is visiting California when a crack in the ground swallows her up during an earthquake, and she and her companions fall to the center of the earth. Fortunately, in the book this is a habitable place.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien's The Fall of Númenor: When Ar-Pharazôn attempts to invade the Undying Lands, a massive earthquake shakes the ocean, and his whole fleet is swallowed by a gigantic fisure which stretches from one horizon to the other.
  • The protagonist in Shogun gets a very powerful friend by saving him from such a fall during an earthquake.

    Live Action TV 
  • A fissure big enough to swallow a river is opened up by "the greatest earthquake ever known" in the opening credits of Land of the Lost (1974).
  • In the earthquake episode of Spike TV's Surviving Disaster, a massive earthquake along the New Madrid fault line (the one in mid-eastern U.S., the one that hasn't had a major earthquake since 1812?) creates an equally massive sinkhole in a park. Semi-justified in that stress along faults BUILDS the longer an area goes without a tremor to "relieve" the stress. Even in areas not a plate boundary, and I Dont Mean Dinner Plates.


  • Cracks are shown all over the backglass of Earthshaker!. There is also a mechanism that simulates California tearing off from Nevada whenever a multiball starts.

  • Q is the mascot of the San Jose Earthquakes soccer team. According to his origin story, Q was a 26 year old human male who fell into a radioactive fissure in the Earth's crust during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. He eventually emerged from the fissure as an unaging furry blue "creature" with a shock of silver hair and was soon afterward taken in by a family in nearby San José.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech has optional rules for seismic activity. One of the potential effects is fissures that appear underneath ground units and can potentially swallow them whole.
  • Early Dungeons & Dragons. The Earthquake spell would cause cracks to open in the ground, causing creatures to fall in and be killed.
  • Magic: The Gathering has an Earthquake card that implies that it opens fissures.
  • In Pathfinder First Edition adventure path Wrath Of the Righteous, this occurs in the very initial scene, leading to the player characters awakening deep in the earth.

    Video Games 
  • Black & White 2's Earthquake miracle causes fissures to form in the earth, swallowing everything in their path. For whatever reason they gradually dissipate after the spell ends.
  • Cruis'n Blast has a Death Valley track where an earthquake causes a fissure that destroys part of an airfield, which the player car can leap over.
  • Averted in The Dead Mines. While one note reveals that an earthquake caused the mine to fill with gas, the mine remained structurally intact and the only thing damaged are the human-made pipes.
  • Deep Rock Galactic: One of the threats in the Magma Core is the sheer geological instability of the area. Thankfully, the frequent earthquakes won't collapse the caverns or drop massive chunks of earth on your head... but what they will do is open up massive crevices of dangerous half-molten rock into the nearby earth, where you can fall in and cook to death if you aren't careful. They're not quite deep enough to cause fall damage, but that's the least of your problems.
  • Divinity: Original Sin II: The Geomancy spell "Earthquake" is an Area of Effect that inflicts heavy elemental damage and knockdown, creates oil surfaces, and causes cracks in the ground to radiate outwards from the caster, though the latter effect is short-lived and purely cosmetic.
  • The Quake spells in in Final Fantasy, III, IV, and VIII. Oddly enough, in Final Fantasy VI the thing just creates an actual hole.
    • The earthquake that Kefka causes halfway through VI. There's a big montage of seismic faults and fissures opening up in the ground all over the place during the cutscene. Possibly justified, as it wasn't just an earthquake, it was the power of the Warring Triad literally reshaping the face of the world.
  • Kessen II has the Earthquake spell, one of the more powerful (and nastier to receive) spells in the game that opens up a gigantic fissure that sucks in a good deal of an entire enemy unit if aimed right.
  • In Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous, this happens very early in the game as of its alpha build. This is unlikely to change as the game leaves alpha and goes into beta and beyond, as the same event occurs during the table top adventure.
  • Averted in Pokémon: Earthquake and Fissure are separate moves. However, in Pokémon Stadium, it shares the same animation as Fissure, so they're only told apart by effect: Earthquake is a powerful, yet average Ground move (i.e. not very effective against Grass and Bug, no effect on Flying...) while Fissure causes an OHKO if it connects.
    • Oddly enough, the animation is an Earthquake, NOT a Fissure, as it's a large chunk of earth rumbling and shaking...with very few cracks, which can be attributed simply to the floor breaking.
    • Modified in Pokémon Colosseum. The animation for Earthquake has a large section of the floor thrust up under the target, breaking in a fissure pattern as it does so.
    • Inverted in the Generation III GBA games. Fissure's animation causes even more violent shaking than Earthquake, ending with a picture of a fissure replacing the background.

  • Earthquakes in The Redacverse don't always cause fissures, but when it happens, the ground can be broken apart even inside a house.
  • Spoofed in The Wotch, when age-regressed Anne triggers an earthquake that causes a fissure that "Miss E"/Teen-Lilly falls into— only to find out its just a foot deep.

    Western Animation 
  • DuckTales (1987) did this on more than one occasion. Most notably, an earthquake kicked off a major plot arc when the fissure opened up under Scrooge's money bin (after he comically raced it home and tried to stop it) and all of his money fell deep inside the earth.
  • Lilo & Stitch: The Series: The stated purpose of Experiment 513, a.k.a. "Richter", is to "bifurcate" a planet in half with earthquakes. His quake-causing ability is powerful enough to cause massive fissures on the ground, and could split a planet in two if he finds the perfect spot.
  • Inverted in the Lite Sprites special. A falling wand causes the earth to crack, with an earthquake quickly following.
  • In the My Goldfish is Evil episode "Forgetful Fish" Admiral Bubbles creates an invention that causes earthquakes, and said earthquakes cause fissures.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Applejack plants a flagpole on a fault line, causing an earthquake. The earthquake is so minor it doesn't affect the nearby house or crystal cave, but it creates a fissure that makes Holder's Boulder fall off a cliff.
  • In the infamous "Mama Luigi" episode of Super Mario World (1991), a "Fire Sumo" (Sumo Bro.) stomps the ground, causing cracks to open and Luigi to fall through. Of course, this couldn't happen in the game.
  • In the Fleischer Superman cartoon "Electric Earthquake", the eponymous event causes fissures in the street of Metropolis.
  • In the Tiny Toon Adventures episode "Journey to the Center of ACME Acres", earthquakes caused by gremlins create huge fissures on the ground. Plucky and Hampton fall down one of them, and it leads them to the Earth's core.
  • Rumble from The Transformers was always doing this with his earthquake-causing abilities, and even seemed to be able to control their direction to more effectively use them as a weapon. He got a bit of payback from Sludge in the debut episode of the Dinobots.
  • In Visionaries, the Sun Imps (six mischievous sprites) were sealed into a tomb during the First Age of Magic. The tomb was then buried, but later earthquakes caused an enormous fissure to open up in the ground, exposing the tomb. When Merklynn learns of this, he sends the Visionaries to rebury the tomb, but things don't go as planned.

    Real Life 
  • Fissures are a regular formation produced in association with earthquakes in Iceland, but they are from the same cause, not the consequence of the quakes. They are often an immediate prelude to a fissure eruption, a phenomenon common in volcanism in Iceland (due to the unusual geological structure of the island) and rare elsewhere. Fissures also periodically open up in the spreading zone without immediate vulcanism (although you'd have to be mad to live in the spreading zone as it is highly subject to vulcanism).
  • The strongest earthquake of "recent" years, the one in Chile in 1960, actually had this happen. Since it was so long ago, all we have are Unreliable Narrators, but people that old actually say that the ground opened up and swallowed houses. Make of that what you will, and don't overlook that Chile is a mountainous country, making tremor-induced landslides plausible.
  • The 1964 Alaska Earthquake was the most powerful earthquake in North American history, and opened fissures in several places. Including downtown Anchorage, where one side of the street was pushed 10 feet above the other.
  • The 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake caused a mile-long fissure near its epicenter in the Santa Cruz Mountains. In some places, it is large enough for a person to fit, and in more places large enough for a camera to fit.
  • The 1995 Kobe Earthquake caused significant damage to the artificial islands making up the Kobe Port, the sixth busiest port in the world... here the fissures were the result of the sand used to make the island liquifying (or compacting so tight that water between the grains was forced up to the surface, with enough force to cause significant fissures). The Akashi Kaikyō Bridge, which was under construction at the time, had to be extended a full meter after the two towers of the suspension bridge were moved.
  • The magnitude 7.1 earthquake that hit New Zealand in 2010 reportedly shifted parts of the country up to 11 feet sideways, and actually did create some menacing but shallow fissures. Some photos can be found here.
  • Footage out of Japan from the 9.0 2011 Tohoku earthquake includes amateur video clips of cracks opening up in the pavement, albeit cracks too small to swallow more than a careless toe.
    • This footage taken from Makinohara in Shizuoka Prefecture demonstrates this phenomenon quite well; due to the area being built on land reclaimed from the sea, chunks of soil had cracks form between them when the soil liquefacted and released groundwater, resulting in small fissures appearing.
    • Images are available online of fissures about six inches wide from the Miyagi Prefecture.
  • Footage from the 7.8 April 2015 quake in Nepal showed several large cracks torn in the ground (though none appeared wide enough for a person to enter).


Video Example(s):


Littlefoot's Mom vs Sharptooth

When the Sharptooth is about to eat Littlefoot and Cera, Littlefoot's mom comes to their rescue.

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