October 4, 2011
Keith Madden, projectionist and technician at the National Air and Space Museum theater, reports:
“When the [Mineral, Virginia] earthquake struck at 1:51 p.m. on Tuesday, August 23, it unnerved most of our staff and visitors—except patrons in the NASM IMAX® theaters on the Mall and at the Udvar Hazy Center. The timing of the earthquake coincided exactly with thunderous subwoofer action in the Niagara Falls scene in To Fly! at the Lockheed IMAX Theater, and also with the booming space shuttle launch scene in Hubble in 3D at the Airbus IMAX Theater. Patrons in both theaters were oblivious to the earthquake, but many did observe after the show that the sound system was so impressive that their seats shook.
“I too was fooled for a moment. I looked up when I felt the booth floor shake and saw Niagara Falls and thought it was just an everyday occurrence. As it grew in intensity I thought to double-check the subwoofer setting. Only when the heavy equipment rocked back and forth did I realize that this was not just our everyday earth-shaking sound system at work.
“Kyle Lee was the projectionist at the UHC that day, and he too was not sure at first if it was the sound system or something else. Sure enough, at exactly 1:51 p.m. the shuttle launched and the seats shook with up to 105 dB of sonic power. That launch scene was a bit shorter than the earthquake but that explained why not a soul panicked.”