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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.

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.

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

Examples of Earthquakes Cause Fissures include:

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...


  • Superman (1978).
    • Scenes of the destruction of the planet Krypton included earthquakes 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.
    • This are all strangely Justified Trope examples by the fact that technically these are fissure events which lead to earthquakes not the other way around. Krypton is exploding and California is breaking off from the continent to drop into the sea. These are so positively unscientific in 101 other ways that makes asking for further justification pointless.
  • 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 (I think some Mooks fall in too).
  • The Ten Commandments: when Moses throws the titular 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, quite literally, the Word of God.
    • Doesn't the Bible simply have Moses ordering the Levites to slaughter the lot?
    • Yes, but the scene's conflated with the ground swallowing up a few hundred people in a later rebellion.
      • He had the gold calf melted down and the powder put in the drinking water (the "you shall drink bitter waters" line probably refers to it.)
  • 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.
  • Many instances in the Land Before Time movies.
  • Twenty Twelve is using this trope to the point of overkillage. All of LA fissures and refissures and that's just IN THE TRAILER.
  • While it's a small one compared to many other examples, in Ghostbusters the titular 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 is now damaged and partially collapsing.
  • The Sci Fi channel movie Mega Fault. The premise is that a giant earthquake opens a crack from the east coast to the Grand Canyon. Argh!
  • A man is caught and crushed in a fissure in the Japanese disaster movie Jishin Retto/Death Quake. It goes from scary to camp when he spits up red kool-aid.
  • Disney's Fantasia during The Rite of Spring. The fissures are up to 20 feet wide and swallow whole dinosaur skeletons.


  • In Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, one of the later Land of Oz books, 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.
  • The protagonist in Shogun gets a very powerful friend by saving him from such a fall during an earthquake.

Live Action TV

  • In the earthquake episode of Spike TV's Surviving Disaster, a massive earthquake along the New Madrid fault line (y'know, 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.
    • Another justified one. Missouri is riddled with caves and limestome. In addition there is so much coal mining under cities and towns that mine subsidence is a valid insurance policy. Since sinkholes while rare are unsurprising without an earthquake, with one is completely plausible. Also the 1812 earthquake re-routed the Mississippi river.
  • 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.

Newspaper Comics

  • One strip of Little Nemo in Slumberland had the ground becoming impossibly fissured.

Real Life

  • Footage now coming out of Japan includes amateur video clips of cracks opening up in the pavement, albeit cracks too small to swallow more than a careless toe.
    • Images are available online of fissures about six inches wide from the Miyagi Prefecture.
  • 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.


  • 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

  • Early Dungeons and 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.

Video Games

  • The Quake spells in in Final Fantasy I, III, IV, and VIII. Oddly enough, in Final Fantasy VI the thing just creates an actual hole.
    • Doesn't VIII's Quake spell just make the various blocks of the ground bounce up and down under the enemies (or allies)?
    • 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, Kefka was literally reshaping the world.
  • Averted Trope 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.
  • 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.
  • Black and White 2's Earthquake miracle causes fissures to form in the earth. For whatever reason they gradually dissipate after the spell ends.


  • Spoofed in The Wotch, when a regressed-age Anne triggers an earthquake that causes a foot-deep fissure, nothing more.

Western Animation

  • DuckTales did this on more than one occasion, as I recall. 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.
  • In the infamous "Mama Luigi" episode of Super Mario World, a "Fire Sumo" 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 title event causes fissures in the street of Metropolis.
  • 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.
  • Inverted in the Lite Sprites special. A falling wand causes the earth to crack, with an earthquake quickly following.
  • The stated purpose of Experiment 513 in Lilo and Stitch: The Series was to "bifurcate" a planet in half with earthquakes.
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