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Tape disaster strikes in Christchurch earthquake

In February 2011 an animator got up from his desk to return the company’s animation LTO tape to its secure data storage safe.  The tape held all of the company’s animation output for the past twelve months.

As the animator approached the data safe he realised that other staff and a client were working nearby. Rather than intrude he placed the tape on top of the safe and decided to lock it away later. It was an unfortunate decision because within the hour the earth moved as a massive 6.3 magnitude earthquake rocked Christchurch causing immense loss of life and extensive damage throughout the city.

The studios building was extensively damaged and suffered from liquefaction, whereby the ground vibrations turn solids such as soil into a liquid mass. Within minutes water was coming up through the floor of the studios. ‘It looked like a CGI (computer generated image) project’, commented one of the staff members.

The earthquake had knocked the tape off the data safe and onto the floor where it was soon covered in the liquefaction mud. After the clean-up of the studios, the LTO was sent to Kroll Ontrack’s specialised tape facility in the U.S. to increase the chances of a successful recovery.

The results surprised everyone who had seen the tape. The Kroll Ontrack technicians recovered 100 per cent of the data.  Despite being shaken up, dropped to the ground and covered in mud, nothing had been lost. Within ten days the contents of the animation tape were on their way back to the animation studio.

Recovering data from damaged and degraded tapes is possible in many cases and is best performed by tape recovery experts.

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