New Zealand's third most deadly recorded earthquake struck 90 years ago today near the town of Murchison, southwest of Nelson.

Now thought to have been centred north of the spot in the Upper Buller Gorge where the road split apart with a 4.5m vertical gap, the magnitude 7.8 shake was accompanied by what some said sounded like cannon blasts.

The earthquake is estimated to have caused nearly 10,000 landslides, many of them in what is now Kahurangi National Park. One destroyed the lighthouse keeper's house at Kahurangi Point.

Today, the Herald looks back at the quake and remembers the 17