This is one of the most loved of Peter Nicholson’s cartoons featuring the Whitlams.
Gough and Margaret Whitlam were in Tientsin, China, in 1977 when a severe earthquake struck. At first, the Whitlams’ whereabouts was not known. We now know that the earthquake was at that time one of the worst natural disasters ever. Officially, a quarter of a million people died, although the real figure could be much higher.
An article on Inside Story by Richard Whitington, a member of Whitlam’s staff, provides a detailed account of the earthquake.
Nicholson’s cartoons drew some criticism at the time for being in poor taste. As Peter Hartcher of the Sydney Morning Herald reported in 2014: “Gough bought the original, framed it and hung it over the marital bed. The Whitlams had a sense of humour. And Gough was entirely at home with great tectonic shifts.”