A black framed filter with a red cord attached to a blue and grey tray.
A black frame filter sitting on a blue and grey tray, is in front of a blue and white vertical information panel.

Earthquakes occur due to energy released from compressed rocks.

How it works

Hold the frame up to the light. Push in the lever and watch the panel.

Things to try or ask around the exhibit

How does stress within rocks cause an earthquake?


Colours within the frame show stress on the panel, similar to stress between tectonic plates rubbing against each other.

The Earth’s crust is broken into about twelve pieces called tectonic plates (a bit like a cracked egg shell). As the tectonic plates push or drag against each other, a lot of stress builds up. This stress is released when the rocks break under pressure, causing the violent vibrations we know as an earthquake.

While earthquakes mostly occur at the edge of tectonic plates (interplate earthquakes), earthquakes can occur within a tectonic plate as intraplate earthquakes. This is because rocks become compressed and energy is released as an earthquake further towards the centre of a plate.

Finding the science in your world

All of mainland Australia's earthquakes are intraplate earthquakes, which occur at fairly shallow depths. Adelaide has the highest recorded earthquake activity within Australia, but other (less populated) areas of Australia have higher magnitude earthquakes.