A VIEW OF ST. PIERRE, WITH MOUNT PELEE IN THE BACKGROUND
This is one of the finest views in the town, showing the character of its houses and its principal street, from which can be readily understood
the character of the destruction which befell the city.
DESTRUCTION oF ST. PIERRE
AND ST. VINCENT
AND THE WORLD'S GREATEST DISASTERS
FROM POMPEII TO MARTINIQUE
With a Full Explanation in Language Easily Understood
of the Causes which lead up to these Most Disastrous and
DESTRUCTIVE UPHEAVALS OF NATURE
A Vivid and Accurate story of the Awful Calamity which Visited
the Islands of Martinique and St. Vincent, May 8,
gos2, as Told by Eye-Witnesses
BY OUR SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE
GENERAL SAMUEL A. McALSTER
Consul of the United States at Barbados
EDITED AND WRITTEN BY
CHARLES MORRIS, LL.D.
Member of the Geographical Society of PnSylrania and Author of many Valuable
Treatises on Physical Phenomena
Profusely Illustrated with Numerous Photographic
Reproductions Made Expressly for This Work
AMERICAN BOOK AND BIBLE HOUSE
Entered according to Act of
Congress in the year 1902 by
W. E. SCVLL. In the office
of the Librarian of Congress.
at Washington. D. C.
All Right Reserved
GREAT HISTORICAL DISASTERS
VOLCANO AND EARTHQUAKE
B.C. 285-Japan, earthquake, 800 square miles engulfed, volcanic
A.D. 68-Italy, earthquake, Pompeii and Herculaneum partly de-
stroyed, large numbers killed.
A.D. 79-Italy, volcanic eruption of Vesuvius. Pompeii and Herc -
laneum buried. Most of their people killed.
A.D. 626-Antioch, earthquake, 250,000 killed.
A.D. 898-India, earthquake, 180,000 killed.
1189-Persia, earthquake, 100,000 killed.
117--Sicily and Calabria, earthquake, 16,000 killed.
1456-Kingdom of Naples, earthquake, 60,000 killed.
1581-Lisbon, earthquake, 80,000 killed.
1608-Sicily, earthquake, 98,000 killed.
1703-Yeddo, earthquake, 190,000 killed.
1781-Peking, earthquake, 95,000 killed.
1746-Lima, earthquake, 18,000 killed.
1755-Lisbon, earthquake, 40,000 killed.
1772-Java, volcanic eruption, 8000 killed.
1778-Guatemala, earthquake, 88,000 killed.
1788-Calabria, earthquake, 40,000 killed.
1788-Iceland, volcanic eruption, 10,000 killed.
1797-Riobamba, Ecuador, earthquake, 41,000 killed.
1812-Caracas, earthquake, 10,000 killed.
1815-Island of Sumbawa, volcanic eruption, 12,000 killed.
1822-Aleppo, earthquake, 120,000 killed.
1822-Java, volcanic eruption, 4000 killed.
1858-Shiraz, Persia, earthquake, 12,000 killed.
1854-San Salvador, Guatemala, earthquake, 5000 killed.
1857-Kingdom of Naples, earthquake, 80,000 killed.
1859--Quito, earthquake, city destroyed, few lives lost.
1861-Mendoza, South America, earthquake, 10,000 killed.
1868-Ecuador and Peru, earthquake, 20,000 killed.
1888-Krakatoa, volcanic eruption, 86,000 killed.
1886-Charleston, earthquake, few lives lost.
1891-Island of Hondo, Japan, earthquake, 10,000 killed.
1894-Venezuela, earthquake, 8000 killed.
1902-Guatemala, earthquake, 2000 killed.
1902-St. Pierre, Martinique, volcanic eruption, 80,000 killed.
1902-Island of St. Vincent, volcanic eruption, 1000 killed.
ah i theWwtIndi Aga~r~~ab
A Thicol ED= of the V
TACITUS relates how the palaces and noble residences of the
beautiful ancient city of Pompeii were buried in ashes
fathoms deep when Vesuvius awoke in its wrath; and sacred
history reveals the fate of the doomed Cities of the Plain when a
rain of fire and brimstone poured down upon their spires and
domes. No record of the past comes to us in more appalling form
than these stories of sudden ruin and terrible slaughter by the
elemental powers of the underworld. But once again, in our own
days, these powers have awakened, and death and destruction
have been showered down upon the tropical city of St. Pierre, the
Pompeii of modern times. Dreadful as were the disasters of the
past, this frightful calamity of the present surpasses them all in
suddenness and fury. For days the ashes of Vesuvius rained
down upon the famed Roman city before its destruction was com-
plete, but minutes sufficed for the total overthrow of the fated
West Indian city and the hurling into the valley of death of its
thirty thousand doomed inhabitants. Here is a record of ruin
never equalled in the history of volcanic fury, and one that should
live in the memory of man as long as has that of the Roman city
of summer palaces or of Sodom and Gomorrah, far remote in time.
Dreadful is the work that follows the clashing of sinking
seas with the lakes of liquid fire pent up in the earth. Rack and
ruin attend their meeting, and the dense solid shell of the earth is
rent asunder by their might. It is to the battle of fire and water
in the depths of the rocks that the volcano and the earthquake are
due, and when these demons of the depths are at war man's puny
strength is as powerless as that of the leaf before the cyclone.
Then terror comes; then the earth trembles to its heart and is rent
in twain; then the ashes of a terrible burning are cast forth to bury
fertile plains and flourishing cities; then showers of burning rocks
bombard the air and rivers of glowing lava scorch the earth, and
human hopes and the results of man's labor are whelmed alike
beneath the dread torrent of death and dismay.
In ruined St. Pierre a myriad of dead were left entombed in
fiery lava and grey volcanic ash, while the few trembling fugitives
wandered homeless and hopeless, with bereavement tugging at
their heart-strings and famine dogging their errant footsteps. No
human power could restore the vanished island landscapes nor
bring back life to the charred cinders of what were once strong
men and noble women. All that the benevolent world could do
was to send quick relief to the starving fugitives and give fitting
sepulture to the bodies of the dead, while offering up fervent
prayers to the Almighty to stay the pent-up powers of the earth and
save man from a renewal of such death-dealing calamities as that
which befel the fair city of the tropic isles.
Mankind should not soon forget this dread disaster that has
horrified the world. Nothing that has happened in modern times
so amply deserves to be put upon record and thus kept for present
and future generations to read. The man and woman who are not
vitally interested in this story of terror can have no red blood in
their veins, no human feeling in their hearts. That it may not be
soon forgotten and its dread events rests as a shapeless horror in
our thoughts, this story of its intensely stirring incidents has been
written. It is a story that should be read far and wide throughout
the land and the memory of the terrible disaster thus fitly pre-
served. It is no work of the imagination of man that we present, no
wild flight of fancy into the realms of the terrible and the appalling,
but sober fact and actual history; but yet more thrilling in its
details than anything that fiction could well invent. Bulwer, in
his Last Days of Pompeii," surrounds the fall of the Roman city
with all the glamour of a story of the imagination, but for the
record of the "Last Days of St. Pierre" sober truth will suffice;
fiction could add no new interest to its dread details.
The fate of Martinique and St. Vincent cannot fail to awaken
a desire to learn of the work of the volcano and the earthquake,
those terrible sisters, in all times and all lands; the ruin caused by
the far-famed Vesuvius and Etna; the frightful work of East
Indian Krakatoa; the terrible slaughter done by the quaking earth
in fifty far-removed regions; the horrors that have widely enveloped
mankind when the demonic furies of the earth's deeps went forth
"conquering and to conquer," treading the nations beneath their
iron feet and leaving leagues of land a desolation and a curse.
The ruin of St. Pierre has served us as a text for many another
tale of destructive fury in past and recent ages and far and near
places. All the greatest convulsions of the earth are here recorded,
all those terrible phenomena of nature which have made man
almost fear to set his foot upon the earth, lest he might waken the
demons sleeping far below. The whole story is one replete with
pictures of the strength and force of the elemental powers, before
which the power of man is like that of a fragment of driftwood
borne on the ocean billows in their wrath.
We present here the record of the work of the dread sisters, from
the tale of Pompeii down to that of St. Pierre. No one can read it
without a deep sense of awe and a feeling of the instability of
man's works and the insecurity of human life. Truth is indeed
stranger than fiction, and it is also more absorbing and thought-
compelling when the truth is not that of the petty details of every-
day life, but the vast events that come to us once in a generation.
Such is the truth that is recorded in this book. Read it and be
MAP SHOWING RELATIVE LOCATIONS AND DISTANCES OF THE ISLANDS OF
MARTINIQUE AND ST. VINCENT FROM THE AMERICAN CONTINENT.
TYPICAL STRBBT 8CBNB, 8T. PIBRR, OLD TOWN."
YELLOW CARIB8 OF ST. VINCENT, LEEWARD ISLANDS, WEST INDIEB
Engaged in grating arrow root In a primitive mill of their own construction. These people were.utterly destroyed by the eruption of La Soufriere
on the slopes of which they resided.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE VOLCANO AND THE EARTHQUAKE, EARTH'S DEMONS
OF DESTRUCTION .................... 17
THE VOLCANOES OF THE WEST INDIAN REGION ..... 29
THE ISLAND OF MARTINIQUE AND THE CITY OF ST. PIERRE 39
MONT PELEE AND ITS HARVEST OF DEATH ........ 5o
AN ISLAND IN RUINS AND THE WORK OF RESCUE .... 85
ST. VINCENT ISLAND AND MONT SOUFRIERE IN 1zsa ... .io
THE DESOLATION OF ST. VINCENT ............. 16
xiv TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE SYMPATHY AND AID OF THE UNITED STATES.... 141
A VIVID PICTURE OF THE LAST DAYS OF ST. PIERRE... 154
ST. PIERRE BEFORE AND AFTER ITS FALL ........ 168
EXPERIENCES ON BARBADOS AND ST. VINCENT ..... x85
EXPERIENCES IN MARTINIQUE DURING AND AFTER THE
DESTRUCTION OF ST. PIERRE ............. .89
THE GUATEMALAN EARTHQUAKES AND THE NICARAGUAN
THE ACTIVE VOLCANOES OF THE EARTH ... ...... 213
UNDERGROUND WATERS AND THEIR RELATION TO VOL-
CANOES .. ... ... .......... .... 225
THE FAMOUS VESUVIUS AND THE DESTRUCTION OF POM-
PEII . . . .. . . . 236
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ERUPTIONS OF VESUVIUS, ETNA AND STROMBOLI ..... .255
SKAPTUR JOKULL AND HECLA, THE GREAT ICELANDIC
VOLCANOES ....................... 277
VOLCANOES OF THE PHILIPPINES AND OTHER PACIFIC
ISLANDS ..... ........... ... ...... 285
THE WONDERFUL HAWAIIAN CRATERS
LAKE OF FIRE ...........
THE VOLCANOES OF SOUTH AMERICA
AFRICAN ISLANDS .........
. . . 304
AND THE WEST
. . . 321
POPOCATEPETL AND OTHER VOLCANOES OF MEXICO AND
CENTRAL AMERICA .................. 332
THE TERRIBLE ERUPTION OF KRAKATOA ....... 340
SUBMARINE VOLCANOES AND THEIR WORK OF ISLAND
BUILDING ........................ 357
TABLE OF CONTENTS
MUD VOLCANOES, GEYSERS AND HOT SPRINGS ...... 367
THE THEORIES OF VOLCANIC AND EARTHQUAKE ACTION 383
THE GREAT LISBON AND CALABRIAN EARTHQUAKES 404
THE CHARLESTON AND OTHER EARTHQUAKES OF THE
UNITED STATES .................... 415
THE VERDICT OF SCIENCE ON MONT PELEE AND LA
SOUFRIERE ....................... .425
The Volcano and the Earthquake, Earth's
Demons of Destruction.
TO most of us, dwellers upon the face of the earth, this terres-
trial sphere is quite a comfortable place of residence. The
forces of Nature everywhere and at all times surround us,
forces capable, if loosened from their bonds, of bringing death and
destruction to man and the work of his hands. But usually they
are mild and beneficent in their action, not agents of destruction
and lords of elemental misrule. The air, without whose presence
we could not survive a minute, is usually a pleasant companion, now
resting about us in soft calm, now passing by in mild breezes. The
alternation of summer and winter is to us generally an agreeable
relief from the monotony of a uniform climate. The variation
from sunlight to cloud, from dry weather to rainfall, is equally
viewed as a pleasant escape from the weariness of too great fixity
of natural conditions. The change from day to night, from hours
of activity to hours of slumber, are other agreeable variations in the
events of our daily life. In short, a great pendulum seems to be
swinging above us, held in Nature's kindly hand, and adapting its
movements to our best good and highest enjoyment.
But has Nature,-if we are justified in personifying the laws
and forces of the universe,-has mother Nature really our pleasure
and benefit in mind, or does she merely suffer us to enjoy life like
so many summer insects, until she is in the mood to sweep us like
EARTH'S DEMONS OF DESTRUCTION
leaves from her path ? It must seem the latter to many of the
inhabitants of the earth, especially to the dwellers in certain ill-
conditioned regions. For all the beneficent powers above named
may at a moment's notice change to destructive ones.
THE WIND IS A DEMON IN CHAINS
The wind, for instance, is a demon in chains. At times it
breaks its fetters and rushes on in mad fury, rending and destroy-
ing, and sweeping such trifles as cities and those who dwell therein
to common ruin. Sunshine and rain are st.ject to like wild
caprices. The sun may pour down burning rays for weeks and
months together, scorching the fertile fields, drying up the life-
giving streams, bringing famine and misery to lands of plenty and
comfort, almost making the blood to boil in our veins. Its an-
tithesis, the rainstorm, is at times a still more terrible visitant. From
the dense clouds pour frightful floods, rushing down the lofty
hills, sweeping over fertile plains, overflowing broad river valleys,
and, wherever they go, leaving terror and death in their path. We
may say the same of the alternation of the seasons. Summer, while
looked forward to with joyous anticipation, may bring us only suf-
fering by its too ardent grasp; and winter, often welcomed with like
pleasurable anticipations, may prove a period of terror from cold
Such is the make-up of the world in which we live, such the
vagaries of the forces which surround us. But those enumerated
are not the whole. Can we say, with a stamp of the foot upon the
solid earth, Here at least I have something I can trust; let the
winds blow and the rains descend, let the summer scorch and the
winter chill, the good earth still stands firm beneath me, and of it
at least I am sure?"
EARTH'S DEMONS OF DESTRUCTION
Who says so speaks hastily and heedlessly, for the earth can
show itself as unstable as the air, and our solid footing become as
insecure as the deck of a ship laboring in a storm at sea. The
powers of the atmosphere, great as they are and mighty for destruction
as they may become, are at times surpassed by those which abide
within the earth, deep laid in the so-called everlasting rocks, slum-
bering often through generations, but at any time likely to awaken
in wrath, to lift the earth into quaking billows like those of the sea,
or pour forth torrents of liquid fire that flow in glowing and burn-
ing rivers over leagues of ruined land. Such is the earth with
which we have to deal, such the ruthless powers of nature that
spread around us and lurk beneath us, such the terrific forces which
only bide their time to break forth and sweep too-confident man
from the earth's smiling face.
THE SUBTERRANEAN POWERS
The subterranean powers here spoken of, those we had de-
nominated earth's demons of destruction, are the volcano and the
earthquake, the great moulding forces of the earth, tearing down
to rebuild, rending to reconstitute, and in this elemental work
often bringing ruin to man's boasted fanes and palaces.
No one who has ever seen a volcano or burning mountain"
casting forth steam, huge red-hot stones, smoke, cinders and lava,
can possibly forget the grandeur of the spectacle. At night it is
doubly terrible, when the darkness shows the red-hot lava rolling
in glowing streams down the mountain's side. At times, indeed,
the volcano is quiet, and only a little smoke curls from its top.
Even this may cease, and the once burning summit may be covered
over with trees and grass, like any other hill. But deep down in the
earth the gases and pent-up steam,are ever preparing to force their
EARTH'S DEMONS OF DESTRUCTION
way upward through the mountain, and to carry with them dis-
solved rocks, and the stones which block their passage. Some-
times, while all is calm and beautiful on the mountains, suddenly
deep-sounding noises are heard, the ground shakes, and a vast
torrent tears its way through the bowels of the volcano, and is
flung hundreds of feet high in the air, and, falling again to the
earth, destroys every living thing for miles around.
It is the same with the earthquake as with the volcano. The
surface of the earth is never quite still. Tremors are constantly
passing onward which can be distinguished by delicate instruments,
but only rarely are these of sufficient force to become noticeable,
except by instrumental means. At intervals, however, the power
beneath the surface raises the ground in long, billow-like motions,
before which, when of violent character, no edifice or human habita-
tion can for a moment stand. The earth is frequently rent asunder,
great fissures and cavities being formed. The course of rivers is
changed and the waters are swallowed up by fissures rent in the
surface, while ruin impends in a thousand forms. The cities
become death pits and the cultivated fields are buried beneath
floods of liquid mud. Fortunately these convulsions, alike of the
earthquake and volcano, are comparative rarities and are confined
to limited regions of the earth's surface. What do we know of
those deep-lying powers, those vast buried forces dwelling in uneasy
isolation beneath our feet ? With all our science we are but a step
beyond the ancients, to whom these were the Titans, great rebel
giants whom Jupiter overthrew and bound under the burning
mountains, and whose throes of agony shook the earth in quaking
convulsions. To us the volcanic crater is the mouth from which
comes the fiery breath of demon powers which dwell far down in
the earth's crust. The Titans themselves were dwarfs beside these
EARTH'S DEMONS OF DESTRUCTION
mighty agents of destruction whose domain extends for thousands,
of miles beneath the earth's surface and which in their convulsions
shake whole continents at once. Such was the case in 1812, when
the eruption of Mont Soufriere on St. Vincent, as told in a later
chapter, formed merely the closing event in a series of earthquakes
which had made themselves felt under thousands of miles of land.
ANCIENT AWE OF VOLCANOES
In olden times volcanoes were regarded with superstitious awe,
and it would have been considered highly impious to make any
investigation of their actions. We are told by Virgil that Mt. Etna
marks the spot where the gods in their anger buried Enceladus,
one of the rebellious giants. To our myth-making ancestors one
of the volcanoes of the Mediterranean, set on a small island of the
Lipari group, was the workshop of Vulcan, the god of fire, within
whose depths he forged the thunderbolts of the gods. From below
came sounds as of a mighty hammer on a vast anvil. Through the
mountain vent came the black smoke and lurid glow from the fires
of Vulcan's forge. This old myth is in many respects more con-
sonant with the facts of nature than myths usually are. In agree-
ment with the theory of its internal forces, the mountain in question
was given the name of Volcano. To-day it is scarcely known at
all, but its name clings to all the fire-breathing mountains of the
As before said, at the present day we are little in advance of
the ancients in actual knowledge of what is going on so far beneath
our feet. We speak of forces where they spoke of fettered giants,
but can only form theories where they formed myths. Is the
earth's centre made up of liquid fire ? Does its rock crust resemble
the thick ice crust on the Arctic Seas, or is the earth, as later
EARTH'S DEMONS OF DESTRUCTION
scientists believe, solid to the core ? Is it heated so fiercely, miles
below our feet, that at every release of pressure the solid rock
bursts into molten lava? Is the steam from the contact of under-
ground rivers and deep-lying fires the origin of the terrible rending
powers of the volcano's depths ? Truly we can answer none of these
questions with assurance, and can only guess and conjecture from
the few facts open to us what lies concealed far beneath.
RARITY OF ANCIENT ACCOUNTS
In the history of earthquakes nothing is more remarkable than
the extreme fewness of those recorded before the beginning of the
Christian era, in comparison with those that have been registered
since that time. It is to be borne in mind, however, that before the
birth of Christ only a small portion of the globe was inhabited by
those likely to make a record of natural events. The vast apparent
increase in the number of earthquakes in recent times is owing to a
greater knowledge of the earth's surface and to the spread of civil-
ization over lands once inhabited by savages. The same is to be
said of volcanic eruptions, which also have apparently increased
greatly since the beginning of the Christian era. There may possi-
bly have been a natural increase in these phenomena, but this is
hardly probable, the change being more likely due to the increase
in the number of observers.
The structure of a volcano is very different from that of other
mountains, really consisting of layers of lava and volcanic ashes,
alternating with each other and all sloping away from the center.
These elevations, in fact, are formed in a different manner from
ordinary mountains. The latter have been uplifted by the influence of
pressure in the interior of the earth, but the volcano is an immediate
result of the explosive force of which we have spoken, the mountain
EARTH'S DEMONS OF DESTRUCTION
being gradually built up by the lava and other materials which it
has flung up from below. In this way mountains of immense
height and remarkable regularity have been formed. Mount Orizabo,
near the City of Mexico, for instance, is a remarkably regular cone,
undoubtedly formed in this way, and the same may be said of Mount
Mayon, on the Island of Luzon.
In many cases the irregularity of the volcano is due to subse-
quent action of its forces, which may blow the mountain itself to
pieces. In the case of Krakatoa, in the East Indies, for instance,
the whole mountain was rent into fragments, which were flung as
dust miles high into the air. The main point we wish to indicate
is that volcanoes are never formed by ordinary elevating forces and
that they differ in this way from all other mountains. On the con-
trary, they have been piled up like rubbish heaps, resembling the
small mountains of coal dust near the mouths of anthracite mines.
It is to the burning heat of the earth's crust and the influence
of pressure, and more largely to the influx of water to the molten
rocks which lie miles below the surface, that these convulsions of
nature are due. Water, on reaching these overheated strata, explodes
into volumes of steam, and if there is no free vent to the surface,
it is apt to rend the very mountain asunder in its efforts to escape.
Such is supposed to have been the case in the eruption of Krakatoa,
and was probably the case also in the recent case of Mt. Pelee.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF ERUPTIONS
If we should seek to give a general description of volcanic
eruptions, it would be in some such words as follows: An eruption
is usually preceded by earthquakes which affect the whole sur-
rounding country, and associated with which are underground explo-
sions that seem like the sound of distant artillery. The mountain
EARTH'S DEMONS OF DESTRUCTION
quivers with internal convulsions, due to the efforts of its confined
forces to find an opening. The drying up of wells and disappear-
ance of springs are apt to take place, the water sinking downward
through cracks newly made in the rocks. Finally the fierce un-
chained energy rends an opening through the crater and an eruption
begins. It comes usually with a terrible burst that shakes the
mountain to its foundation; explosions following rapidly and with
increasing violence, while steam issues and mounts upward in a lofty
column. The steam and escaping gases in their fierce outbreaks hurl
up into the air great quantities of solid rock torn from the sides of
the opening. The huge blocks, meeting each other in their rise
and fall, are gradually broken and ground into minute fragments,
forming dust or so-called ashes, often of extreme fineness, and in
such quantities as frequently to blot out the light of the sun. There
is another way in which a great deal of volcanic dust is made; the
lava is full of steam, which in its expansion tears the molten rock
into atoms, often converting it into the finest dust.
The eruption of Mt. Skaptar, in Iceland, in 1783, sent up such
volumes of dust that the atmosphere was loaded with it for months,
and it was carried to the northern part of Scotland, 600 miles away,
in such quantities as to destroy the crops. During the eruption of
Tomboro, in the East Indies, in 1815, so great was the quantity of
dust thrown up that it caused darkness at midday in Java 300 miles
away and covered the ground to a depth of several inches. Float-
ing pumice formed a layer on the ocean surface two and a half feet
in thickness, through which vessels had difficulty in forcing their way.
The steam which rises in large volumes into the air may be-
come suddenly condensed with the chill of the upper atmosphere
and fall as rain, torrents of which often follow an eruption. The
rain, falling through the clouds of volcanic dust, brings it to the
EARTH'S DEMONS OF DESTRUCTION
earth as liquid mud, which pours in thick streams down the sides of
the mountain. The torrents of flowing mud are sometimes on such
a great scale that large towns, as in the instance of the great city
of Herculaneum, may be completely buried beneath them. Over
this city the mud accumulated to the depth of over 70 feet. In
addition to these phenomena, molten lava often flows from the lip of
the crater, occasionally in vast quantities. In the Icelandic erup-
tion of 1783 the lava streams were so great in quantity as to fill
river gorges 600 ft. deep and 200 ft. wide, and to extend over an
open plain to a distance of 12 to 15 miles, forming lakes of
lava 0oo feet deep. The volcanoes of Hawaii often send forth
streams of lava which cover an area of over 1oo square miles to
a great depth.
GREAT OUTFLOWS OF LAVA
In the course of ages lava outflows of this kind have built up
in Hawaii a volcanic mountain estimated to contain enough material
to cover the whole of the United States with a layer of rock 50 feet
deep. These great outflows of lava are not confined to mountains,
but take place now and then from openings in the ground, or from
long cracks in the surface rocks. Occasionally great eruptions
have taken place beneath the ocean's surface, throwing up material
in sufficient quantity to form new islands.
The formation of mud is not confined to the method given, but
great quantities of this plastic material flow at times from volcanic
craters. In the year 1691 Imbaburu, one of the peaks of the Andes,
sent out floods of mud which contained dead fish in such abund-
ance that their decay caused a fever in the vicinity. The volcanoes
of Java have often buried large tracts of fertile country under
EARTH'S DEMONS OF DESTRUCTION
An observation of volcanoes shows us that they have three
well marked phases of action. The first of these is the state of
permanent eruption, as in case of the volcano of Stromboli in the
Mediterranean. This state is not a dangerous one, since the steam,
escaping continually, acts as a safety valve. The second stage is
one-of milder activity with an occasional somewhat violent erup-
tion; this is apt to be dangerous, though not often very greatly so.
The safety valve is partly out of order. The third phase is one in
which long periods of repose, sometimes lasting for centuries, are
followed by eruptions of intense energy. These are often of
extreme violence and cause widespread destruction. In this case
the safety valve has failed to work and the boiler bursts.
OFTEN REST FOR LONG TERMS OF YEARS
Such are the general features of action in the vast powers
which dwell deep beneath the surface, harmless in most parts of the
earth, frightfully perilous in others. Yet even here they often rest
for long terms of years in seeming apathy, until men gather above
their lurking places in multitudes, heedless or ignorant of the
sleeping demons that bide their time below. Their time is sure to
come, after years, perhaps after centuries. Suddenly the solid earth
begins to tremble and quake; roars as of one of the buried giants
of old strike all men with dread; then, with a fierce convulsion, a
mountain is rent in twain and vast torrents of steam, burning rock,
and blinding dust are hurled far upward into the air, to fall again
and bury cities, perhaps, with all their inhabitants in indiscriminate
ruin and death. A thrilling instance of this is that which came
upon the beautiful West Indian Island of Martinique in May, 1902,
the story of which it is our purpose to relate.
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Y *^-- ----fte m fsofen 0mm by An wow.h~
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The Volcanoes of the West Indian Regions.
THE volcanic outburst in the Caribbean Islands, which has so
astonished the world, can hardly have been a matter of sur-
prise for any geologist. In truth it should have been ex-
pected, although nobody could have predicted the time when it
would occur, or the exact point that would be most affected, nor,
indeed, the extent of the disaster. Our knowledge of the earth's
crust is too incomplete for that.
Still the character of the chain of islands running southward
from Guadeloupe and forming the eastern border of the Caribbean
Sea was well enough understood to enable any geologist to affirm
the existence of danger there. That line is notoriously one of the
danger points of the earth. Within a distance of a very few
hundred miles are ranged three or four volcanic vents whose ap-
pearance and history show that they are fully the rivals of Vesu-
vius in destructive power. Being situated on islands, and conse-
quently surrounded on all sides by water, they have the proper
environment to induce an outbreak whenever other circumstances
are favorable to such an occurence.
Moreover, the Caribbean Sea bottom is subject to earthquake
disturbances, which are, perhaps, the direct result of the slow
rising of the neighboring coast of South America. Wherever
such an elevation is in progress a strain is necessarily brought to
bear upon the rocks composing the underlying strata of the earth's
30 THE VOLCANOES OF THE WEST INDIAN REGIONS
crust in the vicinity of the rising area, and every now and then a
sudden slip, or break, is certain to occur, resulting in the formation
of new fissures and the transmission of shocks which may act like
the pulling of a trigger in releasing pent-up forces of vast magni-
Leeward and Windward are the names given by mariners to
the islands comprising the Lesser Antilles, lying to the southeast
of San Domingo and Porto Rico, including Guadeloupe, Dominica
and Martinique to the north or Leeward, and Barbados, St. Lucia,
Saint Vincent, Grenadine, Grenada and others to the south, called
the Windward group. These islands are of volcanic origin, and
many of them possess occasionally active volcanoes. They are
looked upon as forming part of that great volcanic range which
extends along the Pacific slope of America from Alaska to Chili.
THE FRENCH WEST INDIES
Of the islands named, Martinique and Guadeloupe belong to
the French; the others are English possessions. Martinique, the
central scene of the catastrophe that is threatening all of the islands
of the Lesser Antilles, was a prosperous colony. It had, previous to
the late disaster, a population of about 175,000, including about
1o,ooo white persons. The natives have been called by Lafcadio
Hearn, the author, who spent two years among them, "the finest
mixed race in the West Indies." The women are beautiful and the
men tall, well formed and strong.
Of the 4,500 inhabitants of the island of St. Lucia not more
than 2,000 are white. The majority of the white residents are
French or of French origin. The natives are negroes and half-
breeds of all shades of color, from full black to the nearly white
octoroons. The original inhabitants were Caribs when Columbus
THE VOLCANOES OF THE WEST INDIAN REGIONS 31
discovered the island in 1502. It was settled by the English in
1639. There were many struggles between the French and the
English for its possession, first one power, then another, governing
the island until 1803, when it passed finally under British authority.
Two cone-shaped rocks rise out of the sea to a height of 3,000
feet, and near these are the craters of the long extinct volcanoes
that now have entered upon a dangerous activity. Near them are
the sulphur pits so often seen in mountains of the West Indies, that
often send forth steam, reminding the visitors that the subterranean
fires have never been entirely extinguished.
ST. VINCENT AND ITS CAPITAL
At the northwest corner of the island of St. Vincent, one of
the British West Indies, rises the volcano La Soufriere, that now
threatens its destruction. It has often belched forth death to the
inhabitants, but of late years has shown no signs of activity.
On the northeast corner, across the bay, and a few miles away
from La Soufriere, is Kingstown, the capital of the island, with a
population of about 6,ooo. The others of the 35,000 souls living
on the island, which is only seventeen miles long, inhabit the moun-
tains, and it is upon them that the present disaster will fall most
heavily. Nearly all of the inhabitants are negroes or half-breeds.
About 4,ooo whites live on the island.
The population of Dominica is about 35,000. The capital is
Roseau. The island is twenty-nine miles long and sixteen miles in
width. Its surface is covered by volcanic rocks, and hot -sulphur
Grenada is one of the most beautiful of the West Indian is.
lands. Its mountains of volcanic origin, rugged and higher than
those of the other islands, traverse it from north to south. It has
a population of about 65,ooo.
32 THE VOLCANOES OF THE WEST INDIAN REGIONS
Guadeloupe is really two islands-that to the north, or Guade-
loupe proper, being mountainous and wild. The southern island is
low and marshy. The population of the island is about 135,ooo.
It is one of the principal French colonies in the West Indies.
Trinidad, a partly volcanic island, which lies south of the An-
tilles, is famous for its lake of semi-liquid pitch or asphaltum--one
of the most remarkable of natural productions.
THE THEORY OF TIDAL STRAIN
There are some scientists who ascribe the catastrophe to the
tidal strain produced by the moon, which happened on the very
day of the blowing up of Mont Pelee to be in conjunction with
the sun and close to its perigee point, or point of nearest approach
to the earth.
It is well known that in such circumstances the combined tidal
power of the sun and moon has nearly its greatest value, this
producing the highest tides, those known as spring tides. While
the effect upon the crust of the earth must be relatively slight, yet
it might be conceived to act in the manner of the pressure that
causes a trigger to fall and thereby let loose the giant force stored
up in a cannon.
It should be said, however, with regard to the theory that
earthquakes and volcanic phenomena connected with them are
more liable to occur when the moon is in conjunction or opposition
to the sun than at other times, all efforts to find a satisfactory basis
for the theory in the history of seismic phenomena have been here-
tofore unsuccessful. The evidence, in other words, is self-contra-
dictory. Not long ago Mr. Egmetis, of the observatory at Athens,
Greece, made public a report bearing on this question, and show-
ing that it had been impossible to trace a connection between the
positions of the moon and the hundreds of earthquake tremors felt
THE VOLCANOES OF THE WEST INDIAN REGIONS 33
in Greece during the year 1900. But, on the other hand, the fact
that the Martinique explosion-occurred at new moon, and when the
moon was nearly in perigee, may be taken, as far as it goes, as an
instance in favor of the theory.
But whatever the remote causes of the outburst may have
been, it is difficult to believe that the immediate cause can have
been anything else than a gigantic explosion of steam in the
bowels of the volcano. It is known that water penetrates to con-
siderable depths in the earth, even in the middle of continents.
Wherever crevices and caverns in the rocks exist water is to be
found deep beneath the surface of the earth. Huge streams that may
almost be described as rivers flow deep under some of the dry and
barren lava fields and semi-deserts of the far West. Every farmer
who drives a well to procure water for his stock where no surface
streams exist has a practical acquaintance with the wonderful
veining of the earth's crust with hidden water channels.
This water penetrates as deep as the gradually increasing heat
of the planet will permit it to do while retaining the liquid form. If
it encounters no excessively heated area of rocks capable of sud-
denly turning a great quantity of it into steam it causes no damages,
and if slowly vaporized recondenses into water again before it
reaches the surface.
THE EFFECT OF STEAM IN VOLCANIC ACTION
But when, as occurs at many points near the edges of the
ocean basins--and, among other places, on the eastern side of the
Caribbean Sea-the water that has leaked down from above, either
from rivers or from the superincumbent seas, encounters deep
cracks and fissures which allow it to penetrate to a region where
the heat is sufficient to liquefy solid bodies,-it is changed into
superheated steam-a thing whose resistless power defies the
34 THE VOLCANOES OF THE WEST INDIAN REGIONS
mightiest bonds; and if the fissures are of considerable extent and
the quantity of water is also great, even the rocky crust of the
globe cannot withstand the explosive energy that is thus brought
to bear upon it. This action and influence of subterranean waters
will be found considered more at length in a later chapter.
But, it may be asked, why do not such explosions take place
anywhere, at random, instead of through the crater of an existing
volcano? The reply is that sometimes they do take place at ran-
dom, if such an expression can properly be applied to a natural
event, and when that happens we see the phenomenon of
the formation of a new volcano. But ordinarily the explosion
occurs through the vent, or throat, of an already existing volcano,
because the weakest points, or lines, in the earth's crust are the
places where new fissures are likely to be formed, and along these
lines of weakness the volcanoes stand like rows of safety valves.
Such a fissure is believed to exist along the curving course of
the Caribbean Islands, the fact being indicated by their general
volcanic origin and the line of volcanoes which follow this remark-
ably regular crescent-like curve. Each island of this chain, begin-
ning with Saba in the north and ending with Grenada in the south,
is volcanic in character, and the chord of the arc they describe is
about 360 miles in length.
THE REMAINS OF A LOST CONTINENT
Lying along the northern curve, oceanward, is a fragmentary
chain of isles and islets which are coralline in structure-at least
above the sea, though they may be erected upon volcanic bases
far beneath. Each island is practically a single mountain thrown
up from the ocean depths, the altitudes varying from 2,000 to 5,000
feet, and so evidently of volcanic origin that one may not err in
THE VOLCANOES OF THE WEST INDIAN REGIONS 35
ascribing them to Vulcan's mighty hand. Mountain-tops, spires,
pinnacles, thrust up through the sea, suggest the remains of a lost
continent, or perhaps the beginnings of a newer one. A-far-west
Atlantis may yet appear, out of the debris of wrecked isles, a resur-
rected continent, lifting its head above the sea, and verifying the
Should these islands be destroyed, and, in effect, disappear,
one cannot conceive of their places being taken by any more beau-
tiful ones. As every mountain shoots upward abruptly to an altitude
that gives it practically the range of two climatic zones, temperate
and tropical, every beautiful aspect of vegetation may be noted
here. The sides of each partially submerged volcano, from base to
peak, and even some of the crater-walls, are hung with richest tapes-
tries in varying shades of green.
INDUBITABLE EVIDENCE OF VOLCANIC ACTION
The northernmost of the volcanic islands is Saba, a mountain
rising above the ocean floor nobody knows how many thousand
feet, but extending about 2,800 feet above water. It has been for
many years a Dutch possession, and is the smallest property of
Holland in the West Indies, perhaps in the world, having an area
of about seven square miles only, and supporting not more than
1,800 inhabitants. The majority of the population is white, a rare
thing in these islands. There are Dutch residents in other West
Indian islands, but they are not the sturdy, clear-complexioned
Dutch of Saba Island. The secret of their sturdiness and their
healthfulness is found in the altitude at which they live; not one of
them less than 800 or 90o feet above sea level.
The town of Bottom, 960 feet above the sea, where most of
the people live, is so called because it lies at the bottom of an
36 THE VOLCANOES OF THE WEST INDIAN REGIONS
extinct crater; at least, it is supposed to be extinct, but this, as
recent events have shown, is not too sure a thing to trust to in the
Indubitable evidence of volcanic action is to be found in the
vast deposits of crude sulphur, which is mined out of the cliffs
hundreds of feet above the sea and sent down to vessels' holds by
means of a wire tramway. As there is no harbor in Saba, so there
is no roadway for vehicle or beast of burden, all the freight arriving
there and all the produce shipped thence being carried on the backs
of men and women.
Next neighbor to Saba is the Dutch island of Saint Eustatius,
better known in that region as Statia. It has seen better days, but
could not be more beautiful, at least so far as its mountain cone is
concerned, which is about 1,500 feet in height and perfectly sym-
metrical. Its crater is covered with gigantic forest trees. Statia
was once very wealthy, but is now poor and forgotten, though it is
celebrated as the first place in which a foreign Power saluted the
American flag. It has no harbor, only a roadstead.
SEVERAL VOLCANIC ISLANDS
Of these islands none is more attractive from the sea than
Saint Kitts, named by Columbus after his patron saint, Christopher.
He discovered it, as indeed all these islands of the northern Carib-
bees, in the year 1493. This island was the original home of the
buccaneers. Off its leeward coast a great naval battle was fought
between English and French. Across a narrow channel rises the
symmetrical peak of Nevis, which, like Mount Misery on St. Kitts, is
forest-clad and with a fertile, verdant belt around it. Nevis was the
birthplace of Alexander Hamilton, and here Lord Nelson was mar-
ied. Next south of Nevis lies Montserrat, smaller yet, and between
CATHEDRAL, ST. PIERRE
T2s wa oae of she Prominent Edifices of the Oty.
ST. PIERRE, MARTINIQUE
Showing Mount Pelee In the Background, and the Residence Portion of the City In the Foreground.
Copyright, J. Murray Jordan.
.1`J L .:".;T n"NL
THE VOLCANOES OF THE WEST INDIAN REGIONS 37
the two islands the great rock of Redonda, a pinnacle shooting up
out of the sea. Montserrat has a fine crater or "soufriere," and
before it was devastated by a hurricane a few years ago was covered
with groves of limes. Nevis has no well-defined crater, but has
numerous hot and mineral springs.
The island next southerly, Guadeloupe, is the largest of the
volcanic chain. It was discovered by Columbus on his second
voyage, in 1493, and he, like all voyagers who have come after him,
was enamored of its scenery, speaking enthusiastically of its mag-
nificent forests and waterfalls. The town of Basse Terre on the
coast line has an open roadstead, while Point-a-Pitre, the commer-
cial port, has a fairly good harbor. In I843 Guadeloupe had its
disaster, not in the form of a volcanic eruption, but of an earth-
quake of destructive force, 5,000 lives being lost in Point-a-Pitre
alone, while devastation extended widely over the island.
Dominica, about thirty miles south of Guadeloupe, is the most
picturesque of the chain, containing grand and gloomy mountains,
deep gorges, extensive forests, waterfalls, hot springs, a boiling
lake in its crater, and many wonders of the faunal and botanical
world. Dominica's only good harbor, that of Prince Ruperts, is
unused on account of the insalubrity of the adjacent country, while
Roseau, the commercial port, is an open roadstead. Mont Diab-
lotin in Dominica is the highest peak of the chain, exceeding 5,000
Martinique, the next in the chain, calls for no description here,
the following chapter being devoted to it. In Martinique and St.
Lucia, but not in Dominica, next north of Martinique, is found that
terribly venomous serpent, the fer de lance," which is evil enough
to have been the product of the particular Vulcan that forged the
thunderbolts cast by Pelee at the devoted city of St. Pierre. More
38 THE VOLCANOES OF THE WEST INDIAN REGIONS
than one of those who escaped from the flames may have met
death from the poison fangs of this serpent as they sought succor
after the eruption or groped their way blindly through the suffocat-
ing fumes and ashes to a place of safety.
THE ISLAND OF ST. LUCIA
Saint Lucia is but another Martinique on a smaller scale. It
has a "Soufriere," or sulphur mine, larger than that in the crater
of Mont Pelee, but situated at, or near, the southern end of the
island, distant from the town of Castries, above which latter frown
the fortifications erected by the British at an expense of many mil-
lions. Lying about midway between Martinique and Saint Vincent,
it seems wonderful to the lay mind that Saint Lucia should thus far
have escaped disaster. It is about one hundred miles as the crow
flies, from Mont Pelee, at the north end of Martinique, to
the Soufriere, at the north end of Saint Vincent, the erup-
tion from which was almost synchronous with that from the
former. There is no town nearer the volcano than a little set-
tlement called Chateau Belaire, on the leeward coast, which lies
about opposite the port of Georgetown at the windward-as the
east coast is called. From one town to the other, all the way round
the north end of the island, the plantations and provision grounds
have been absolutely wiped out. Not many of the lives lost were
those of white people in either island, the majority being colored.
Space remains only for a mere allusion to the southernmost
island of the Caribbean chain, little Grenada, which, with a crater
in its central hills, and its chief harbor in a crater, is in a good sit-
uation for some interesting developments, if volcanic activity should
in the future spread from the two islands midway the chain to its
The Island of Martinique and the City of St.
SAINT PIERRE is the principal city of the French island of
Martinique, having a population of over 25,000, and is one
of the most important cities in the Lesser Antilles. Situated
on the west coast of the island of Martinique, the town faces an
open roadstead sheltered by high mountains from the easterly
trade winds, and affording anchorage for hundreds of vessels. The
town proper is built on the slope of a high range of hills separated
by a valley and a small stream, which have been made into a park,
with stately avenues extending up the valley to the rear of the
town, where it joins what is conceded to be the handsomest botani-
cal garden in the West Indies.-.
Originally it was built entirely of stone. After several earth-
quakes, which resulted in terrible loss of life, the inhabitants built
their houses of wood. Then the town was fire swept and stone was
again used as the general building material. After several earth-
quakes wood once more was used, but the place was destroyed by
fire again about eight years ago.
The streets of the town, while narrow, are paved, with broad
gutters in the centre, down which flows a steady stream of water
from springs in the hills, keeping the streets in a condition of
nearly absolute cleanliness. Adjoining the city on the north are
several large sugar factories, including the Guerin Works, one of
MARTINIQUE AND ST. PIERRE
the largest in the West Indies. A tramway connects the southern
portion of the city with the northern, a peculiar feature of the line
being the women conductors. The motive power is mules. In
addition to the many factories producing sugar, rum and Florida
water, Saint Pierre is the distributing point of the French West
Indies and for French Guiana. Two handsome cathedrals,
the new and the old, several attractive public buildings, and a.
municipal opera house, which maintains a permanent opera com-
pany, are among the noteworthy features of the city.
THE NATIVES OF MARTINIQUE
The natives are for the most part negroes. The other natives
are of French extraction, and the language of the latter nation is
universally spoken. The picturesque situation of the city, with the
gay costumes of the natives, gives the place a decidedly operatic
appearance. The climate is almost perfect.
The population of St. Pierre is like the people of the Arabian
Nights. European, negro and Indian combined to make this
strange race, but the Indian seemed to predominate. It is many
colored, but the general, dominant tint is yellow, like that of the
town of St. Pierre itself. It is a race of half-breeds, the finest mixed
race in the West Indies. Lafcadio Hearn says of these people:
"Straight as palms and supple and tall, these colored women and
men impress one wonderfully by their dignified carriage and easy
elegance of movement. They walk without swinging of the shoul-
ders-the perfectly set torso seems to remain rigid; yet the step is
a long, full stride, and the whole weight is springingly poised on
the very tip of the bare foot. All, or nearly all, are without shoes;
the treading of many feet over the heated pavement makes a con-
tinuous, whispering sound.
*0 i&*desd kimpauuion of aB is that pdrouesd by
1 #,> l I ..of certain of the womens costumes,
t. t A .Itia erey i a im aee ads humisad-
AastoA rdMi*tc tbesbith adirable art, like a
seql'^ i-'bidjia lsn>t-rh ap h f r r spat theing
ih ei fS Ii|rt TUhrhed otrbanalBSeto bright
ikb-nt ieof ithe *dresit is aiple enough;
i1C& Saleemves; a skirt or jap very
n ml*iBhanCnec i*b r*ot below the -vba
Qac~ito Ani drijthr the aed of ide
|||j^Jr|Bltmm sksPChie tfheewn-'Te
a *. .. ... .
S.j; 1 -f il
MARTINIQUE AND ST. PIERRE
pattern and color; bright crimson, bright yellow, bright blue, bright
green-lilac, violet, rose-sometimes mingled in plaidings or check-
erings or stripings, black with orange, sky-blue with purple.
But few are thus attired. The greater number of the women
carrying burdens on their heads-peddling vegetables, cakes, fruit,
ready-cooked food from door to door-are very simply dressed in a
single plain robe of vivid colors reaching from neck to feet, and
made with a train, but generally girded well up so as to sit close to
the figure and leave the lower limbs partly bare and perfectly free.
These women can walk all day long up and down hill in the hot
sun, without shoes, carrying loads of from one hundred to one hun-
dred and fifty pounds on their heads, and if their little stock some-
times fails to come up to the accustomed weight stones are added
to make it heavy enough. And the creole street cries, uttered in a
sonorous, far-reaching high key, interblend and produce random
harmonies very pleasing to hear."
The people of Martinique are very poor, although outwardly
their houses and shops give an impression of wealth. The build-
ings are very pretty, are in colors red, white and blue, and are kept
up very well. Inside the shops the displays appear to be quite lav-
ish, but there are few moneyed purchasers. The credit system pre-
vails almost exclusively. The majority of the people-who are black,
of course-live on next to nothing. Four pence (eight cents) a day
is the usual wage for labor, and is about as much as the employers
can afford to pay. The laborers work very hard for the small wage.
As in most of the West Indian Islands, the women greatly outnum-
ber the men, and do the brunt of the manual labor.
We have spoken, as the reader will perceive, in the present
tense, as though St. Pierre were a thing of the present, and its in-
habitants living and breathing men and women. But in truth these
ofon04 L)~ t
YO' Y -Le Gnd ond. Y ~yr~F~L1~ara .5
c~le~y Arlet 0 LaceC~
c le o/ Iles X~fgi -
MAP OF THE ISLAND OF MARTINIQUE, SHOWING ST. PIERRE. MT. PELEE, AND OTHER
POINTS OF INTERT 43
MARTINIQUE AND ST. PIERRE
people, with few exceptions, have ceased to live, and their former
place of habitation is a city of the past, a Pompeii of the West Indies.
LIFE AND MANNERS IN ST. PIERRE.
Merchants and ship captains who know the Windward Islands
cannot conceive of the gay little port of St. Pierre de Martinique
being covered with ashes and lava. As do all the colonial capitals of
the French, St. Pierre followed as closely as the steamers and mails
would permit the customs and fashions of Paris. At the Hotel
des Bains, at the "absinthe hour," one might always find a gather-
ing of young men of the town, who sat sipping their liqueurs and
The Rue de Victor Hugo was the principal thoroughfare. All
of the best shops were located on it, and it served as a parade for
the fashionables when they made their appearance in the cool of the
evening, arrayed in their white ducks, Panama hats, and low-cut
patent leather shoes, and the women either in the year-old fashions
of Paris or in the striking, gaily colored native garb.
The Cathedral, the Opera House (where traveling companies
played before enthusiastic audiences), the Hotel des Bains and the
banks were probably the largest and best built buildings in the
town. French was the common language, and nearly all of the
white people were of French extraction. It was a lively little
place, and its people had some of the light spirit and gaiety of their
Gallic kinsmen. Always on coming into the harbor passengers
noted the apparent freshness and cleanliness of the place. The
white houses, with their green blinds and tiled or thatched roofs,
the gay striped awnings and vivid green of the background, made
a cool, pleasant picture. Ashore, the bright costumes of the native
girls, the movement of the street life and the strangeness of the new
scenes were a source of constant interest to tourists.
A FAMOUS VOLCANO. ORIZABA. MEXICO
Copyight, J. Marry Jurda. A LIGHTER ON THE BACH, ST. PIBRRB, MARTINIQUE
MARTINIQUE AND ST. PIERRE
The upper or new town was the most attractive part of the
place. The streets were broader and cleaner, and the buildings of
a better quality. All of the 'streets were narrow, even the Rue de
Victor Hugo being scarcely wide enough to permit two carriages
to pass abreast.
Through every street, as above said, ran an open gutter of
water, and early in the morning, just when the cool dawn wind was
coming down from the mountains, these gutters would be alive with
people. The native women would bring out their tall earthen jars,
called "Welsh hats" by the resident Englishmen, to be filled with
the cool, flowing water. Babies were brought out and allowed to
disport themselves, while their mothers cleansed the household
utensils. The streams being fed from mountain lakes, cleanliness
in dress and habitation was common, even among the lowest classes.
Back from St. Pierre about eight miles, on a winding mountain
road, was the fashionable native resort, Morne Rouge. Here the
rich residents had their country homes. In the season, which began
about June I, there were usually 4,000 or 5,ooo persons at Morne
Rouge. Probably half that number had gone out this year to open
SITUATION OF THE CITY
There were no wharves or quays at St. Pierre, and really no
harbor-simply an open roadstead with deep water inshore. The
island rises sheerly from the sea, and there was no anchorage until
the ships got within 300 feet of the buildings on shore. Skip-
pers of sailing vessels would take their ships close in and anchor
with bows pointed seaward and with a stern line out to steady the
craft. They had to be alert during the rainy or stormy season, be-
cause of their exposed condition, and be ready to slip anchors and
run out to sea.
MARTINIQUE AND ST. PIERRE
Where St. Pierre was, the coast line curves inland like a slightly
bent bow. Describing it, one of the shopkeepers on the Rue de
Victor Hugo used to say that the town was situated on a bay
shaped like a dilemma, with a volcano on one horn and a tropical
jungle on the other." He had got the phrase from an English corres-
pondent, who had wondered what the inhabitants would do if such
a calamity as the present one ever occurred. The Englishman had
noted the lack of roads leading from the town and the futility of
any hope of escape.
The town was built on the flat, narrow foreshore that lay be-
tween the foot of the steep wooded mountains and the sea. The
houses and shops were built down to the water's edge and clustered
in irregular groups about the Cathedral, which was situated directly
opposite where the ships lay in the roadstead, and was the promi-
nent architectural feature of the town. It was built of. a whitish
stone, and with its two towers, in which bells were hung, was
sharply accentuated against the green background of the moun
tains. The water front of the town extended for nearly two miles
along the gently curving coast. All the space back to the hills that
shut in the town was filled with the low white houses of the people.
Some twenty or twenty-five streets ran down from the hills to the
water front. These were cut by irregular cross-streets.
There were a great many Americans in business in St. Pierre.
The business of the island seemed to be about equally divided be-
tween French and American merchants. There were very few
Englishmen on the island. The whites were practically all Ameri-
cans and French. During the Winter there have been thousands of
American tourists on the island. It was a delightful place to spend
a few weeks; the climate always was superb, and everything about
the place was sure to charm the visitor.
MARTINIQUE AND ST. PIERRE
Martinique, the island of which St. Pierre was the commercial
city, is the longest and most northerly of the Windward Islands,
which form a portion of the chain of the Lesser Antilles. It is
placed about the middle of the series which stretches in a curved
line from Porto Rico almost to the coast of Venezuela. It is situ-
ated almost midway between Dominica and St. Lucia, twenty miles
north of the latter place, and is about forty-five miles long and from
ten to fifteen miles wide. Extensive masses of volcanic rocks cover
the interior of the island, in which there are six extinct volcanoes,
in addition to the active Mont Pelee, which has just shown itself
the reverse of extinct. Only about two-fifths of the island is under
cultivation, but the land is of extraordinary fertility, producing
great quantities of sugar, coffee and cocoa.
HISTORY OF THE ISLAND
The island, which was discovered by the Spaniards in 1493,
was settled by the French in 1635, captured by the British in 1794
and again in 1809, but restored to France for the second time in
1814. The population is i6o,ooo, mostly colored.
Due in part to the bounty system of the French Government,
Martinique and Guadeloupe are prosperous and contented, in strong
contrast to the now poor and needy British islands adjoining. This
condition is so apparent that even the casual visitor cannot fail to
notice the difference. The native population is also more sprightly
and more gaudily dressed than the negroes of the adjoining islands
of St. Lucia, Dominica and particularly Antigua, yet the sugar trade,
which is practically the only commercial industry of the Island of
Martinique, has not been profitable of late years, and the future of
both Martinique and Guadaloupe, even before the eruption of
Mont Pelee, was very gloomy. The French Government, it is
MARTINIQUE AND ST. PIERRE
said, intends to remove the bounty from sugar, and without thi3
bounty the industry cannot live, and without the industry the people
of the island cannot very well subsist.
Martinique is probably best known as having been the birth-
place of the unfortunate Empress Josephine, in whose honor a
handsome statue has been erected at Fort de France, a seaport on
the east coast, the centre of an important coal trade, numerous and
regular shipments of coal being made from this port.
Fort de France was originally known as Port Royal, this being
changed on the advent of Republican rule. Two rivers border it,
while the hills recede farther from the shore than at St. Pierre.
Trees are scarce save in the park, where are long and thickly
planted rows of tamarinds and mangoes, a double line of them
enclosing a large open space, covered with luxuriant grass. In the
centre of this space stands the statue of which we have spoken, the
queenly Josephine, a figure of majestic poise and graceful outline,
its material the purest white marble. Surrounding it is a circle of
magnificent palms, whose glorious crowns rival that which adorns
the head of the Empress, whose left hand rests on a medallion of
Napoleon. On the pedestal a bas relief in bronze represents
Napoleon before Josephine and in the act of placing a crown
upon her head.
Near the southern end of Martinique the island is nearly
divided in two by a deep bay. On the northern side of this stands
Fort de France, and directly south of it lies the little town of
Trois-Ilets, hidden from view by a deep cape. In the vicinity of
this small place is the plantation of La Pagerie, the birthplace of
the child who was to become the Empress of France. It is a place
which all tourists to the island visit. In its present state the dwell-
ing is not of attractive aspect, it being a low wooden-house, with
MARTINIQUE AND ST. PIERRE
a roof of tiles, the whole old and dilapidated, while over the door
is the common shop sign Debit de la Ferme, showing that rum and
salt-fish are here on sale. This, however, the visitor soon learns, is
not the house in which was born the future Empress, but its suc-
cessor, the original house having been destroyed by a hurricane
shortly after her birth. But the materials of which it is constructed
came from the birth-place of Josephine. Of the buildings of her
period there remain only the old kitchen and the sugar house of
Another native of Martinique to whom some degree of nota-
bility attaches, was Alexandre de Beauharnais, the first husband of
the future bride of Napoleon and Empress of France. He was one
of the victims of the Revolution, but his son, Eugene de Beau-
harnais, rose high in the favor of Napoleon, was made a prince
and viceroy of Italy, and in I812 commanded a corps of the grand
Mont Pelee and its Harvest of Death.
THE city of St. Pierre, Martinique, lies along the coast of its
bay, for a length of about a mile, with high cliffs hemming
it in, the houses of stone and brick, covered with brown
earthen tiles, climb up to the hills, tier upon tier. At one place,
where a river breaks through the cliffs, the city creeps further up
towards the mountains. As seen from the bay, its appearance is
picturesque and charming, with the soft tints of its tiles, the grey of
its walls, the clumps of verdure in its midst, and the wall of green
in the rear. Seen from its streets this beauty disappears, and the
chief attraction of the town is gone.
Back from the three miles of hills which sweep in an arc
round the town, is the noble Montagne Pelee lying several miles to
the north of the city, a mass of dark rock some four thousand feet
high, with jagged outline, and cleft with gorges and ravines, down
which flow numerous streams, gushing from the crater lake of the
Though known to be a volcano, it was looked upon as practi-
cally extinct, though as late as August, 1856, it had been in eruption.
No lava at that time came from its crater, but it hurled out great
quantities of ashes and mud, with strong sulphurous odor. Then it
went to rest again, and slept till 1902.
The people had long ceased to fear it. No one expected that
grand old Mont Pelee, the slumbering (so it was thought),
MONT PELEE AND ITS HARVEST OF DEATH 51
tranquil old hill, would ever spurt forth fire and death. This was
entirely unlocked for. Mont Pelee was regarded by the natives as
a sort of protector; they had an almost superstitious affection for it.
From the outskirts of the city it rose gradually, its sides grown
thick with rich grass, and dotted here and there with spreading
shrubbery and drooping trees. There was no pleasanter outing for
an afternoon than a journey up the green, velvet-like sides of the
towering mountain and a view of the quaint, picturesque city slum-
bering at its base.
A PEACEFUL SCENE
There were no rocky cliffs, no crags, no protruding boulders.
The mountain was peace itself, It seemed to promise perpetual
protection. The poetic natives relied upon it to keep back storms
from the land and frighten, with its stern brow, the tempests from
the sea. They pointed to it with profoundest pride as one of the
most beautiful mountains in the world.
Children played in its bowers and arbors; families picnicked
there day after day during the balmy weather; hundreds of tour-
ists ascended to the summit and looked with pleasure at the beauti-
ful crystal lake which sparkled and glinted in the sunshine. Mont
Pelee was the place of enjoyment of the people of St. Pierre. I
can hear the placid natives say: "Old Father Pelee is our protec-
tor-not our destroyer."
Not until two weeks before the eruption; did the slumbering
mountain show signs of waking to death and disaster. On the 23d
of April it first displayed symptoms of internal disquiet, A
great column of smoke began to rise from it, and was accompanied
from time to time by showers of ashes and cinders.
Despite these signals, there was nothing until Monday, May
5th, to indicate actual danger. On that day a stream of smoking
52 MONT PELEE AND ITS HARVEST OF DEATH
mud and lava burst through the top of the crater and plunged into
the valley of the River Blanche, overwhelming the Guerin sugar
works and killing twenty-three workmen and the son of the proprie-
tor. Mr. Guerin's was one of the largest sugar works on the island ;
its destruction entailed a heavy loss. The mud which overwhelmed it
followed the beds of streams towards the north of the island.
The alarm in the city was great, but it was somewhat allayed
by the report of an expert commission appointed by the Governor,
which decided that the eruption was normal and that the city was
in no peril. To further allay the excitement, the Governor, with
several scientists, took up his residence in St. Pierre. He could
not restrain the people by force, but the moral effect of his pre-
sence and the decision of the scientists had a similar disastrous
A GRAPHIC DESCRIPTION BY A SUFFERER.
The existing state of affairs during these few waiting days is
so graphically given in a letter from Mrs. Thomas T. Prentis, wife
of the United States Consul at St. Pierre, to her sister in Melrose,
a suburban city of Boston, that we quote it here:
"My Dear Sister.- This morning the whole population of the
city is on the alert and every eye is directed toward Mont Pelee,
an extinct volcano. Everybody is afraid that the volcano has taken
into its heart to burst forth and destroy the whole island.
Fifty years ago Mont Pelee burst forth with terrific force and
destroyed everything within a radius of several miles. For several
days the mountain has been bursting forth in flame and immense
quantities of lava are flowing down its sides.
"All the inhabitants are going up to see it. There is not a
horse to be had on the island, those belonging to the natives being
kept in readiness to leave at a moment's notice.
MWMlAP5tLE AND RS HARVEST OF DrATH 53
Last Wednesday, which was April 234rd, I was in my room
wi~h -lite Christine, and we. heard three distinct shocks They
were so great that we supposed at first that there was some one at
the door, and Christine went and found no one there. The first
report was very lood, and the second and third were so great that
dishes were thrown from the shelves and the house was rocked.
!M a M -lSA IN ST. PBr1nB
We caw seetmemt4Piee from the rear windows of our house,
and although it is -fy four miles away, we can hear the roar of
the fire and lva o" from it.
"The city is movedd with ashes and clouds of smoke have
been over our heads for the last five days. The snmel of sulphur is
so strong that horses on the sheets stop. and snort, and some of
them are olbiged to give Up, drop in their harness and die from
suffocation. Many of the people are obliged to wear wet handker-
chiefs over hemir fams to protect thea fea -the fumes of salphur.
54 MONT PELEE AND ITS HARVEST OF DEATH
"My husband assures me that there is no immediate danger,
and when there is the least particle of danger we will leave the
place. There is an American schooner, the R. J. Morse, in the
harbor, and she will remain here for at least two weeks. If the
volcano becomes very bad we shall embark at once and go out to
sea. The papers in this city are asking if we are going to experi-
ence another earthquake similar to that which struck here some fifty
THE FATEFUL EIGHTH OF MAY
The writer of this letter and her husband, Consul Prentis,
trusted Mont Pelee too long. They perished, with all the inhabi-
tants of the city, in a deadly flood of fire and ashes that descended
on the devoted place on the fateful morning of Thursday, May
8th. Only for the few who were rescued from the ships in the
harbor there would be scarcely a living soul to tell that dread story
of ruin and death. The most graphic accounts are those given by
rescued officers of the Roraima, one of the fleet of the Quebec
Steamship Co., trading with the West Indies. This vessel had left
the Island of Dominica for Martinique at midnight of Wednesday,
and reached St. Pierre about 7 o'clock Thursday morning. The
greatest difficulty was experienced in getting into port, the air
being thick with falling ashes and the darkness intense. The ship
had to grope its way to the anchorage. Appalling sounds were
issuing from the mountain behind the town, which was shrouded
in darkness. The ashes were falling thickly on the steamer's deck,
where the passengers and others were gazing at the town, some
being engaged in photographing the scene.
The best way in which we can describe a scene of which few
lived to tell the story, is to give the narratives of a number of the
survivors. From their several stories a coherent idea of the terrible
MONT PELEE AND ITS HARVEST OF DEATH 55
scene can be formed. From the various accounts given of the ter-
rible explosion by officers of the Roraima, we select as a first
example the following description by Assistant Purser Thompson :
A. TALE OF SUDDEN RUIN
I saw St. Pierre destroyed. It was blotted out by one great
flash of fire. Nearly 40,000 persons were all killed at once. O r
of eighteen vessels lying in the roads only one, the British st -
ship Roddam, escaped, and she, I hear, lost more than half on
board. It was a dying crew that took her out. J
Our boat, the Roraima, of the Quebec Line, arrived at St.
Pierre early Thursday morning. For hours before we entered the
roadstead we could see flames and smoke rising from Mont Pelee.
No one on board had any idea of danger. Captain G. T. Muggah
was on the bridge, and all hands got on deck to see the show.
"The spectacle was magnificent. As we approached St.
Pierre we could distinguish the rolling and leaping of the red
flames that belched from the mountain in huge volumes and gushed
high into the sky. Enormous clouds of black smoke hung over the
"When we anchored at St. Pierre I noticed the cable steam-
ship Grappler, the Roddam, three or four American schooners and
a number of Italian and Norwegian barks. The flames were then
spurting straight up in the air, now and then waving to one side or
the other for a moment and again leaping suddenly higher up.
"There was a constant muffled roar. It was like the biggest
oil refinery in the world burning up on the mountain top. There
was a tremendous explosion about 7.45 o'clock, soon after we got
in. The mountain was blown to pieces. There was no warn-
ing. The side of the volcano was ripped out, and there was hurled
56 MONT PELEE AND ITS HAR VEST OF DEATH
straight toward us a solid wall of flame. It sounded like thousands
"The wave of fire was on us and over us like a lightning
flash. It was like a hurricane of fire. I saw it strike the cable
steamship Grappler broadside on and capsize her. From end to
end she burst into flames and then sank. The fire rolled in mass
straight down upon St. Pierre and the shipping. The town van-
ished before our eyes and the air grew stifling hot, and we were in
the thick of it.
"Wherever the mass of fire struck the sea the water boiled
and sent up vast clouds of steam. The sea was torn into huge
whirlpools that careened toward the open sea.
One of these horrible hot whirlpools swung under the Ror-
aima and pulled her down on her beam ends with the suction. She
careened way over to port, and then the fire hurricane from the
volcano smashed her, and over she went on the opposite side. The
fire wave swept off the masts and smokestack as if they were cut
with a knife.
HEAT CAUSED EXPLOSIONS
"Captain Muggah was the only one on deck not killed out-
right. He was caught by the fire wave and terribly burned. He
yelled to get up the anchor, but, before two fathoms were heaved in
the Roraima was almost upset by the boiling whirlpool, and the fire
wave had thrown her down or her beam ends to starboard. Cap-
tain Muggah was overcome by the flames. He fell unconscious
from the bridge and toppled overboard.
The blast of fire from the volcano lasted only a few minutes.
It shriveled and set fire to everything it touched. Thousands of
casks of rum were stored in St. Pierre, and these were exploded by
the terrific heat. The burning rum ran in streams down every street
-T~ `' ~ i\n r
"ige, by Win. I. Sgell.
MOUNT PBLEE AND THE DESTRUCTION OF THE VF8EBL8 IN THE HARBOR OF ST. PIERRt
Copyrtgl t spos by Wm. L. koll.
FWOTINO FOR FOOD AT FORT D0 FRANCS
Bdore dIthRdlt pmedImou Arrved.
GROUP OF CHARACTERISTIC PICTURES
x. A& Interior View of a Modern House. A Farmer's Plantation. The Home of a Government Official
4. A Beautiful Garden Vista.
YOUR TIPWcAL LADhS= OW TKE WIUDWAIM =AMRD
-- --~am: Irx~ili+muR~E~*i~c~i~~p~F-~~~Dl~a~t~u
'I'' ~c"~Y~~a;~-r;-b~ "'?IK' iC1'
A GROUP OF CHARACTERISTIC PICTURES
(L) An Ancient Volcanic Peak. (2) A Street Corner in Trinidad. (3) A Viewd ofHamdlt
Bermuda. where Ashes Fell. (4) Landing of Relief Ship
THE QRBAT VOLCANO OF HAWAII
The Flow of Lava i se in the picture
": ""I"`': r:~n~~`ig~ r~r-l--
';'~'~"~~ a.~i~~?; P: ~' :;"iJi;'~ i
JAPANESE REGIONS DEVASTATE
D YA RAy A-TWK
A ROUGH MOUNTAIN STREAM IN MARTINIQUr a
.. -'~ --* 'r' --V- '-..-. .^ '"'t ..i. \ .-ir, d H^
MONT PELEE AND ITS HARVEST OF DEATH
and out to the sea. This blazing rum set fire to the Roraimaseveral
times. Before the volcano burst the landings of St. Pierre were
crowded with people. After the explosion not one living being was
seen on land. Only twenty-five of those on the Roraima out of
sixty-eight were left after the first flash.
"The French cruiser Suchet came in and took us off at 2
P. M. She remained nearby, helping all she could, until 5 o'clock,
then went to Fort de France with all the people she had rescued.
At that time it looked as if the entire north end of the island was
C. C. Evans, of Montreal, and John G. Morris, of New York,
who were among those rescued, say the vessel arrived at 6 o'clock.
As eight bells were struck a frightful explosion was heard up the
mountain. A cloud of fire, toppling and roaring, swept with light-
ning speed down the mountain side and over the town and bay.
The Roraima was nearly sunk, and caught fire at once.
I can never forget the horrid, fiery, choking whirlwind which
enveloped me," said Mr. Evans. Mr. Morris and I rushed below.
We are not very badly burned, not so bad as most of them.
When the fire came we were going to our posts (we are engineers)
to weigh anchor and get out. When we came up we found the
ship afire aft, and fought it forward until 3 o'clock, when the
Suchet came to our rescue. We were then building a raft."
"Ben" Benson, the carpenter of the Roraima, said: "I was
on deck, amidships, when I heard an explosion. The captain or-
dered me to up anchor. I got to the windlass, but when the fire
came I went into the forecastle and got my 'duds.' When I came
out I talked with Captain Muggah, Mr. Scott, the first officer and
others. They had been on the bridge. The captain was horribly
burned. He had inhaled flames and wanted to jump into the sea.
58 MONT PELEE AND ITS HARVEST OF DEATH
I tried to make him take a life-preserver. The captain, who was
undressed, jumped overboard and hung on to a line for a while.
Then he disappeared."
THE COOPER'S STORY.
James Taylor, a cooper employed on the Roraima, gives the
following account of his experience of the disaster:
"Hearing a tremendous report and seeing the ashes falling
thicker, I dived into a room, dragging with me Samuel Thomas, a
gangway man and fellow countryman, shutting the door tightly.
Shortly after I heard a voice, which I recognized as that of the
chief mate, Mr. Scott. Opening the door with great caution,
I drew him in. The nose of Thomas was burned by the intense heat.
"We three and Thompson, the assistant purser, out of sixty-
eight souls on board, were the only persons who escaped practically
uninjured. The heat being unbearable, I emerged in a few
moments, and the scene that presented itself to my eyes baffles de-
scription. All around on the deck were the dead and dying cov-
ered with boiling mud. There they lay, men, women and little
children, and the appeals of the latter for water were heart-rending.
When water was given them they could not swallow it, owing
to their throats being filled with ashes or burnt with the heated air.
The ship was burning aft, and I jumped overboard, the
sea being intensely hot. I was at once swept seaward by a tidal
wave, but, the sea receding a considerable distance, the. return
wave washed me against an upturned sloop to which I clung. I
was joined by a man so dreadfully burned and disfigured as to
be unrecognizable. Afterwards I found he was the captain of the
Roraima, Captain Muggah. He was in dreadful agony, begging
piteously to be put on board his ship.
MONT PELEE AND ITS HARVEST OF DEATH
Picking up some wreckage which contained bedding and
a tool chest, I, with the help of five others who had joined me
on the wreck, constructed a rude raft, on which we placed the cap-
tain. Then, seeing an upturned boat, I asked one of the five, a
native of Martinique, to swim and fetch it. Instead of returning to
us, he picked up two of his countrymen and went away in the di-
rection of Fort de France. Seeing the Roddam, which arrived in
port shortly after we anchored, making for the Roraima, I said
good-bye to the captain and swam back to the Roraima.
"The Roddam, however, burst into flames and put to sea. I
reached the Roraima at about half-past 2, and was afterwards taken
off by a boat from the French warship Suchet. Twenty-four others
with myself were taken on to Fort de France. Three of these
died before reaching port. A number of others have since died."
Samuel Thomas, the gangway man, whose life was saved by
the forethought of Taylor, says that the scene on the burning ship
was awful. The groans and cries of the dying, for whom nothing
could be done, were horrible. He describes a woman as.being
burned to death with a living babe in her arms. He says that it
seemed as if the whole world was afire.
CONSUL AYME'S STATEMENT
The inflammable material in the forepart of the ship that
would have ignited that part of the vessel was thrown overboard
by him and the other two uninjured men. The Grappler, the
telegraph company's ship, was seen opposite the Usine Guerin,
and disappeared as if blown up by a submarine explosion. The
captain's body was subsequently found by a boat from the Sucket.
Consul Ayme, of Guadeloupe, who, as already stated, had
hastened to Fort de France on hearing of the terrible event, tells
the story of the disaster in the following words:
60 MONT PELEE AND ITS HARVEST. OF DEATH
Thursday morning the inhabitants of the city awoke to find
heavy clouds shrouding Mont Pelee crater. All day Wednesday
horrid detonations had been heard. These were echoed from St.
Thomas on the north to Barbados on the south. The cannonad-
ing ceased on Wednesday night, and fine ashes fell like rain on
St. Pierre. The inhabitants were alarmed, but Governor Mouttet,
who had arrived at St. Pierre the evening before, did everything
possible to allay the panic.
The British steamer Roraima reached St. Pierre on Thursday
with ten passengers, among whom were Mrs. Stokes and her three
children, and Mrs. H. J. Ince. They were watching the rain of
ashes, when, with a frightful roar and terrific electric discharges,
a cyclone of fire, mud and steam swept down from the crater over
the town and bay, sweeping all before it and destroying the fleet
of vessels at anchor off the shore. There the accounts of the
catastrophe so far obtainable cease. Thirty thousand corpses are
strewn about, buried in the ruins of St. Pierre, or else floating,
gnawed by sharks, in the surrounding seas. Twenty-eight charred,
half-dead human beings were brought here. Sixteen of them are
already dead, and only four of the whole number are expected to
A WOMAN'S EXPERIENCE ON THE "RORAIMA"
Margaret Stokes, the 9 year old daughter of the late Clement
Stokes, of New York, who, with her mother, a brother aged 4 and
a sister aged 3 years, was on the ill-fated steamer Roraima, was
saved from that vessel, but is not expected to live. Her nurse,
Clara King, tells the following story of her experience:
She says she was in her stateroom, when the steward of the
Roraima called out to her:
Look at Mont Pelee."
MONT PELEE AND ITS HARVEST OF DEATH
She went on deck and saw a vast mass of black cloud coming
down from the volcano. The steward ordered her to return to the
saloon, saying, It is coming."
Miss King then rushed to the saloon. She says she experi-
enced a feeling of suffocation, which was followed by intense heat.
The afterpart of the Roraima broke out in flames. Ben Benson,
the carpenter of the Roraima, severely burned, assisted Miss King
and Margaret Stokes to escape. With the help of Mr. Scott, the
first mate of the Roraima, he constructed a raft, with life preservers.
Upon this Miss King and Margaret were placed.
While this was being done Margaret's little brother died.
Mate Scott brought the child water at great personal danger, but
it was unavailing. Shortly after the death of the little boy Mrs.
Stokes succumbed. Margaret and Miss King eventually got away
on the raft, and were picked up by the steamer Korona. Mate
Scott also escaped. Miss King did not sustain serious injuries.
She covered the face of Margaret with her dress, but still the child
was probably fatally burned.
The only woman known at that time to have survived the dis-
aster at St. Pierre was a negress named Fillotte. She was found
in a cellar Saturday afternoon, where she had been for three days.
She was still alive, but fearfully burned from head to toes. She died
afterward in the hospital.
CAPTAIN FREEMAN'S THRILLING ACCOUNT
Of the vessels in the harbor of St. Pierre on the fateful morn-
ing, only one, the British steamer Roddam, escaped, and that with
a crew of whom few reached the open sea alive. Those who did
escape were terribly injured. Captain Freeman, of this vessel, tells
vhat he experienced in the following thrilling language:
62 MOUNT PELEE AND ITS HARVEST OF DEATH
"St. Lucia, British West Indies, May I I.-The steamerRoddam,
of which I am captain, left St. Lucia at midnight of May 7, and
was off St. Pierre, Martinique, at 6 o'clock on the morning of the
8th. I noticed that the volcano, Mont Pelee, was smoking, and
crept slowly in toward the bay, finding there among others the
steamer Roraima, the telegraph repairing steamer Grappler and
four sailing vessels. I went to anchorage between 7 and 8 and had
hardly moored when the side of the volcano opened out with a
terrible explosion. A wall of fire swept over the town and the bay.
The Roddam was struck broadside by the burning mass. The
shock to the ship was terrible, nearly capsizing her.
'Hearing the awful report of the explosion and seeing the
great wall of flames approaching the steamer, those on deck sought
shelter wherever it was possible, jumping into the cabin, the fore-
castle and even into the hold. I was in the chart room, but the
burning embers were borne by so swift a movement of the air that
they were swept in through the door and port holes, suffocating and
scorching me badly. I was terribly burned by these embers about
the face and hands, but managed to reach the deck. Then, as soon
as it was possible, I mustered the few survivors who seemed
able to move, ordered them to slip the anchor, leaped for the bridge
and ran the engine for full speed astern. The second and the third
engineer and a fireman were on watch below and so escaped injury.
They did their part in the attempt to escape, but the men on deck
could not work the steering gear because it was jammed by the
debris from the volcano. We accordingly went ahead and astern
until the gear was free, but in this running backward and forward
it was two hours after the first shock before we were clear of the bay.
Abm r'P- I
CHART OF THE WINDWARD ISLANDS
Showing the Islands affected by the great volcanic disturbances of May 8, 902, and the relative violence noticed in epch.
64 MOUNT PELEE AND ITS HARVEST OF DEATH
"One of the most terrifying conditions was that, the atmosphere
being charged with ashes, it was totally dark. The sun was com-
pletely obscured, and the air was only illuminated by the flames from
the volcano and those of the burning town and shipping. It seems
small to say that the scene was terrifying in the extreme. As we
backed out we passed close to the Roraima, which was one mass of
blaze. The steam was rushing from the engine room, and the
screams of those on board were terrible to hear. The cries for help
were all in vain, for I could do nothing but save my own ship.
When I last saw the Roraima she was settling down by the stern.
That was about io o'clock in the morning.
When the Roddam was safely out of the harbor of St. Pierre,
with its desolations and horrors, I made for St. Lucia. Arriving
there, and when the ship was safe, I mustered the survivors as well
as I was able and searched for the dead and injured. Some I found
in the saloon where they had vainly sought for safety, but the cabins
were full of burning embers that had blown in through the port
holes. Through these the fire swept as through funnels and burned
the victims where they lay or stood, leaving a circular imprint of
scorched and burned flesh. I brought ten on deck who were thus
burned; two of them were dead, the others survived, although in a
dreadful state of torture from their burns. Their screams of agony
were heartrending. Out of a total of twenty-three on board the
Roddam, which includes the captain and the crew, ten are dead and
several are in the hospital. My first and second mates, my chief
engineer and my supercargo, Campbell by name, were killed. The
ship was covered from stem to stern with tons of powdered lava,
which retained its heat for hours after it had fallen. In many cases
it was practically incandescent, and to move about the deck in this
burning mass was not only difficult but absolutely perilous. I am
MONT PELEE AND ITS HARVEST OF DEATH
only now able to begin thoroughly to clear and search the ship for
any damage done by this volcanic rain, and to see if there are any
corpses in out-of-the-way places. For instance, this morning, I found
one body in the peak of the forecastle. The body was horribly burned
and the sailor had evidently crept in there in his agony to die.
On the arrival of the Roddam at St. Lucia the ship presented
an appalling appearance. Dead and calcined bodies lay about the
deck, which was also crowded with injured, helpless and suffering
people. Prompt assistance was rendered to the injured by the
authorities here and my poor, tortured men were taken to the hos-
pital. The dead were buried. I have omitted to mention that
out of twenty-one black laborers that I brought from Grenada to
help in stevedoring, only six survived. Most of the others threw
themselves overboard to escape a dreadful fate, but they met a
worse one, for it is an actual fact that the water around the ship
was literally at a boiling heat. The escape of my vessel was miracu-
lous. The woodwork of the cabins and bridge and everything in-
flammable on deck were constantly igniting, and it was with great
difficulty that we few survivors managed to keep the flames down.
My ropes, awnings, tarpaulins were completely burned up.
I witnessed the entire destruction of St. Pierre. The flames
enveloped the town in every quarter with such rapidity that it was
impossible that any person could be saved. As I have said, the
day was suddenly turned to night, but I could distinguish by the
light of the burning town people distractedly running about on the
beach. The burning buildings stood out from the surrounding
darkness like black shadows. All this time the mountain was roar-
ing and shaking, and in the intervals between these terrifying sounds
I could hear the cries of despair and agony from the thousands who
were perishing. These cries added to the terror of the scene, but
66 MONT PELEE AND ITS HAR VEST OF DEATH
it is impossible to describe its horror or the dreadful sensations it
produced. It was like witnessing the end of the world.
Let me add that, after the first shock was over, the survivors
of the crew rendered willing help to navigate the ship to this port.
Mr. Plissoneau, our agent in Martinique, happening to be on board,
was saved, and I really believe that he is the only survivor of St.
Pierre. As it is, he is seriously burned on the hands and face.
"Master British Steamship Roddam."
THE ETONA" PASSES ST. PIERRE
The British steamer Etona, of the Norton Line, stopped at
St. Lucia to coal on May ioth. Captain Cantell there visited the
Roddam and had an interview with Captain Freeman. On the I Ith
the Etona put to sea again, passing St. Pierre in the afternoon.
We subjoin her captain's story:
The weather was clear and we had a fine view, but the old
outlines of St. Pierre were not recognizable. Everything was a
mass of blue lava, and the formation of the land itself seemed to
have changed. When we were about eight miles off the northern
end of the island Mount Pelee began to belch a second time.
Clouds of smoke and lava shot into the air and spread over all the
sea, darkening the sun. Our decks in a few minutes were covered
with a substance that looked like sand dyed a bluish tint, and which
smelled like phosphorus. For all that the day was clear, there was
little to be seen satisfactorily. Over the island there hung a blue
haze. It seemed to me that the formation, the topography, of the
island was altered.
Everything seemed to be covered with a blue dust, such as
had fallen aboard us every day since we had been within the affected
MONT PELEE AND ITS HARVEST OF DEATH
region. It was blue lava dust. For more than an hour we scanned
the coast with our glasses, now and then discovering something
that looked like a ruined hamlet or collection of buildings. There
was no life visible. Suddenly we realized that we might have to
fight for our lives as the Roddam's people had done.
"We were about four miles off the northern end of the island
when suddenly there shot up in the air to a tremendous height a
column of smoke. The sky darkened and the smoke seemed to
swirl down upon us. In fact, it spread all around, darkening the
atmosphere as far as we could see. I called Chief Engineer Far-
rish to the deck.
"' Do you see that over there 7 I asked, pointing to the
eruption, for it was the second eruption of Mont Pelee. He saw
it all right. Captain Freeman's story was fresh in my mind.
'Well, Farrish, rush your engines as they have never been
rushed before,' I said to him. He went below, and soon we began
to bur coal and pile up the feathers in our forefoot.
I was on watch with Second Officer Gibbs. At once we
began to furl awnings and make secure against fire. The crew
were all showing an anxious spirit, and everybody on board, includ-
ing the four passengers, were serious and apprehensive.
"We began to cut through the water at almost twelve knots.
Ordinarily we make ten knots. We could see no more of the land
contour, but everything seemed to be enveloped in a great cloud.
There was no fire visible, but the lava dust rained down upon us
steadily. In less than an hour there were two inches of it upon
"The air smelled like phosphorous. No one dared to look
up to try to locate the sun, because one's eyes would fill with lava
dust. Some of the blue lava dust is sticking to our mast yet,
68 MONT PELEE AND ITS HARVEST OF DEATH
although we have swabbed'decks and rigging again and again to be
clear of it.
"After a little more than an hour's fast running we saw day-
light ahead and began to breathe easier. If I had not talked
with Captain Freeman and heard from him just how the black
swirl of wind and fire rolled down upon him, I would not have
been so apprehensive, but would have thought that the darkness
and cloud that came down upon us meant just an unusually heavy
CHIEF ENGINEER FARRISH'S STORY
The Etona's run from Montevideo was a fast one-I think
a record breaker. We were 22 days and 21 hours from port to port.
Off Martinique I stared at the coast for about an hour, and
then went below. The blue lava that covered everything faded
into the haze that hung over the island so that nothing was dis-
tinctly visible. Through my glass I discovered a stream of lava,
though. It stretched down the mountain side, and seemed to be
flowing into the sea. It was not clearly and distinctly visible,
About 3 o'clock I went below to take forty winks. I had
been in my berth only a few minutes when the steward told me the
captain wanted me on the bridge.
'Do you see that, Farrish ?' he asked, pointing at the land.
An outburst of smoke seemed to be sweeping down upon us. It
made me think of the Roddam's experience. Smoke and dust
closed in about us, shutting out the sunlight, and precipitating a fall
of lava on our decks.
Go below and drive her,' said the captain, and I didn't lose
any time, I can tell you. We burned coal as though it didn't cost
MONT PELEE AND ITS HARVEST OF DEATH
a cent. The safety valve was jumping every second, even though
we were making twelve knots an hour. For two hours we kept up
the pace, and then, running into clear daylight, let the engines slow
down and we all cheered up a bit."
CAPTAIN CANTELL VISITS THE RODDAM
Captain Cantell went on board the Roddam, whose frightful
condition he thus describes:
"At St. Lucia, on May IIth, I went on board the British
steamship Roddam, which had escaped from the terrible volcanic
eruption at Martinique two days before. The state of the ship
was enough to show that those on board must have undergone an
"The R oddam was covered with a mass of fine bluish gray
dust or ashes of cement-like appearance. In some parts it lay two
feet deep on the decks. This matter had fallen in a red-hot state
all over the steamer, setting fire to everything it struck that was
burnable, and, when it fell on the men on board, burning off limbs
and large pieces of flesh. This was shown by finding portions of
human flesh when the decks were cleared of the debris. The rig-
ging, ropes, tarpaulins, sails, awnings, etc., were charred or burned,
and most of the upper stanchions and spars were swept over-
board or destroyed by fire. Skylights were smashed and cabins
were filled with volcanic dust. The scene of ruin was deplorable.
"The captain, though suffering the greatest agony, succeeded in
navigating his vessel safely to the port of Castries, St. Lucia, with
eighteen dead bodies on the deck and human limbs scattered about.
A sailor stood by constantly wiping the captain's injured eyes.
I think the performance of the Roddam's captain was most
wonderful, and the more so when I saw his pitiful condition. I do
70 MONT PELEE AND ITS HARVEST OF DEATH
not understand how he kept up, yet when the steamer arrived at
St. Lucia and medical assistance was procured, this brave man
asked the doctors to attend to the others first and refused to be
treated until this was done.
My interview with the captain brought out this account. I
left him in good spirits and receiving every comfort. The sight of
his face would frighten anyone not prepared to see it."
THE VIVID ACCOUNT OF M. ALBERT
To the accounts given by the survivors of the Roraima and the
officers of the Etona, it will be well to add the following graphic
story told by M. Albert, a planter of the island, the owner of an
estate situated only a mile to the northeast of the burning crater of
Mont Pelee. His escape from death had in it something of the
marvellous. He says:
Mont Pelee had given warning of the destruction.that was to
come, but we, who had looked upon the volcano as harmless, did
not believe that it would do more than spout fire and steam, as it
had done on other occasions. It was a little before eight o'clock on
the morning of May 8 that the end came. I was in one of the fields
of my estate when the ground trembled under my feet, not as it
does when the earth quakes, but as though a terrible struggle was
going on within the mountain. A terror came upon me, but I could
not explain my fear.
As I stood still Mont Pelee seemed to shudder, and a moaning
sound issued from its crater. It was quite dark, the sun being ob-
scured by ashes and fine volcanic dust. The air was dead about
me, so dead that the floating dust seemingly was not disturbed.
Then there was a rending, crashing, grinding noise, which I can
only describe as sounding as though every bit of machinery in the
MONT PELEE AND ITS HARVEST OF DEATH
world had suddenly broken down. It was deafening, and the flash
of light that accompanied it was blinding, more so than any light-
ning I have ever seen.
It was like a terrible hurricane, and where a fraction of a
second before there had been a perfect calm, I felt myself drawn
into a vortex and I had to brace myself firmly. It was like a great
express train rushing by, and I was drawn by its force. The mys-
terious force levelled a row of strong trees, tearing them up by the
roots and leaving bare a space of ground fifteen yards wide and
more than one hundred yards long. Transfixed I stood, not know-
ing in what direction to flee. I looked toward Mont Pelee, and
above its apex there appeared a great black cloud which reached high
in the air. It literally fell upon the city of St. Pierre. It moved with
a rapidity that made it impossible for anything to escape it. From
the cloud came explosions that sounded as though all of the navies
of the world were in titanic combat. Lightning played in and out
in broad forks, the result being that intense darkness was followed
by light that seemed to be of magnifying power.
"That St. Pierre was doomed I knew, but I was prevented
from seeing the destruction by a spur of the hill that shut off the
view of the city. It is impossible for me to tell how long I stood
there inert. Probably it was only a few seconds, but so vivid were
my impressions that it now seems as though I stood as a spectator
for many minutes. When I recovered possession of my senses I
ran to my house and collected the members of the family, all of
whom were panic stricken. I hurried them to the seashore, where
we boarded a small steamship, in which we made the trip in safety
to Fort de France.
I know that there was no flame in the first wave that was
sent down upon St. Pierre. It was a heavy gas, like firedamp, and
72 MONT PELEE AND ITS HARVEST OF DEATH
it must have asphyxiated the inhabitants before they were touched
by the fire, which quickly followed. As we drew out to sea in the
small steamship, Mont Pelee was in the throes of a terrible convul-
sion. New craters seemed to be opening all about the summit and
lava was flowing in broad streams in every direction. My estate
was ruined while we were still in sight of it. Many women who
lived in St. Pierre escaped only to know that they were left
widowed and childless. This is because many of the wealthier men
sent their wives away, while they remained in St. Pierre to attend
to their business affairs."
WHAT HAPPENED ON THE "HORACE"
The British steamer Horace experienced the effect of the explo-
sion when farther from land. After touching at Barbados, she
reached the vicinity of Martinique on May 9th, her decks being
covered with several inches of dust when she was a hundred and
twenty-five miles distant. We quote engineer Anderson's story:
"On the afternoon of May 8 (Thursday) we noticed a peculiar
haze in the direction of Martinique. The air seemed heavy and
oppressive. The weather conditions were not at all unlike those
which precede the great West Indian hurricanes, but, knowing it
was not the season of the year for them, we all remarked in the
engine room that there must be a heavy storm approaching.
Several of the sailors, experienced deep water seamen, laughed
at our prognostications, and informed us there would be no storm
within the next sixty hours, and insisted that, according to all
fo'cas'le indications, a dead calm was in sight.
So unusually peculiar were the weather conditions that we
talked of nothing else during the evening. That night, in the direc-
tion of Martinique, there was a very black sky, an unusual thing at
MONT PELEE AND ITS HARVEST OF DEATH
this season of the year, and a storm was apparently brewing in a
direction from which storms do not come at this season.
GREAT FLASHES OF LIGHT
"As the night wore on those on watch noticed what appeared
to be great flashes of lightning in the direction of Martinique. It
seemed as though the ordinary conditions were reversed, and even
the fo'cas'le prophets were unable to offer explanations.
Occasionally, over the pounding of the engines and the rush of
water, we thought we could hear long, deep roars, not unlike the
ending of a deep peal of thunder; Several times we heard the
rumble or roar, but at the time we were not certain as to exactly
what it was, or even whether we really heard it.
"There would suddenly come great flashes of light from the
dark bank toward Martinique. Some of them seemed to spread
over a great area, while others appeared to spout skyward, funnel
shaped. All night this continued, and it was not until day came
that the flashes disappeared. The dark bank that covered the hori-
zon toward Martinique, however, did not fade away with the break-
ing of day, and at eight in the morning of the 9th (Friday) the
whole section of the sky in that direction seemed dark and troubled.
"About nine o'clock Friday morning I was sitting on one of
the hatches aft with some of the other engineers and officers of the
ship, discussing the peculiar weather phenomena. I noticed a sort
of grit that got into my mouth from the end of the cigar I was
I attributed it to some rather bad coal which we had shipped
aboard, and, turning to Chief Engineer Evans, I remarked that
'that coal was mighty dirty,' and he said that it was covering the
ship with a sort of grit. Then I noticed that grit was getting on
74 MONT PELEE AND ITS HAR VEST OF DEATH
my clothes, and finally some one suggested that we go forward of
the funnels, so we would not get dirt on us. As we went forward
we met one or two of the sailors from the forecastle, who wanted to
know about the dust that was falling on the ship. Then we found
that the grayish-looking ash was sifting all over the ship, both for-
ward and aft.
ASHES RAINED ON THE SHIP
"Every moment the ashes rained down all over the ship, and
at the same time grew thicker. A few moments later, the lookout
called down that we were running into a fog-bank dead ahead. Fog
banks in that section are unheard of at nine o'clock in the morning
at this season, and we were more than a hundred miles from land,
and what could fog and sand be doing there.
Before we knew it, we went into the fog, which proved to be
a big dense bank of this same sand, and it rained down on us from
every side. Ventilators were quickly brought to their places, and
later even the hatches were battened down. The dust became suffo-
cating, and the men at times had all they could do to keep from
choking. What the stuff was we could not at first conjecture, or
rather, we didn't have much time to speculate on it, for we had to
get our ship in shape to withstand we hardly knew what.
At first we thought that the sand must have been blown from
shore. Then we decided that if the Captain's figures were right we
wouldn't be near enough to shore to have sand blow on us, and as
we had just cleared Barbados, we knew that the Captain's figures
had to be right.
"Just as the storm of sand was at its height, Fourth Engineer
Wild was nearly suffocated by it, but was easily revived. About
this time it became so dark that we found it necessary to start up
the electric lights, and it was not until after we got clear from the
MONT PELEE AND ITS HARVEST OF DEATH
fog that we turned the current off. In the meantime they had
burned from nine o'clock in the morning until after two in the after-
THE ENGINE BECAME CHOKED
"Then there was another anxious moment shortly after nine
o'clock. Third Engineer Rennie had been running the donkey
engine, when suddenly it choked, and when he finally got it clear
from the sand or ashes, he found the valves were all cut out, and
then it was we discovered that it was not sand, but some sort of a
composition that seemed to cut steel like emery. Then came the
danger that it would get into the valves of the engine and cut them
out, and for several moments all hands scurried about and helped
make the engine room tight, and even then the ash drifted in and
kept all the engine room force wiping the engines clear of it.
"Toward three o'clock in the afternoon of Friday we were
practically clear of the sand, but at eleven o'clock that night we ran
into a second bank of it, though not as bad as the first. We made
some experiments, and found the stuff was superior to emery dust.
It cut deeper and quicker, and only about half as much was required
to do the work. We made up our minds we would keep what came
on board, as it was better than the emery dust and much cheaper,
so we gathered it up.
That night there were more of the same electric phenomena
toward Martinique, but it was not until we got into St. Lucia, where
we saw the Roddam, that we learned of the terrible disaster at St.
Pierre, and then we knew that our sand was lava dust."
The volcanic ash which fell on the decks of the Horace was
ground as fine as rifle powder, and was much finer than that which
covered the decks of ihe Etona.
76 MONT PELEE AND ITS HARVEST OF DEATH
Returning to the stories told by officers of the Roraima, of
which a number have been given, it seems desirable to add here
the narrative of Ellery S. Scott, the mate of the ruined ship, since
it gives a vivid and striking account of" his personal experience of
the frightful disaster, with many details of interest not related by
MATE SCOTT'S GRAPHIC STORY
"We got to St. Pierre in the Roraima," began Mr. Scott, "at
6.30 o'clock on Thursday morning. That's the morning the moun-
tain and the town and the ships were all sent to hell in a minute.
All hands had had breakfast. I was standing on the fo'c's'l
head trying to make out the marks on the pipes of a ship 'way out
and heading for St. Lucia. I wasn't looking at the mountain at
all. But I guess the captain was, for he was on the bridge, and the
last time I heard him speak was when he shouted, Heave up, Mr.
Scott; heave up.' I gave the order to the men, and I think some
of them did jump to get the anchor up, but nobody knows what
really happened for the next fifteen minutes. I turned around to-
ward the captain and then I saw the mountain.
Did you ever see the tide come into the Bay of Fundy. It
doesn't sneak in a little at a time as it does 'round here. It rolls
in in waves. That's the way the cloud of fire and mud and white-
hot stones rolled down from that volcano over the town and over
the ships. It was on us in almost no time, but I saw it and in the
same glance I saw our captain bracing himself to meet it on the
bridge. He was facing the fire cloud with both hands gripped hard
to the bridge rail, his legs apart and his knees braced back stiff.
I've seen him brace himself that same way many a time in a tough
sea with the spray going mast-head high and green water pouring
along the decks.
MONT PELEE AND ITS HARVEST OF DEATH
I saw the captain, I say, at the same instant I saw that ruin
coming down on us. I don't know why, but that last glimpse of
poor Muggah on his bridge will stay with me just as long as I
remember St. Pierre and that will be long enough.
In another instant it was all over for him. As I was looking
at him he was all ablaze. He reeled and fell on the bridge with his
face toward me. His mustache and eyebrows were gone in a jiffy.
His hat had gone, and his hair was aflame, and so were his clothes
from head to foot. I knew he was conscious when he fell, by
the look in his eyes, but he didn't make a sound.
"That all happened a long way inside of half a minute; then
something new happened. When the wave of fire was going over
us, a tidal wave of the sea came out from the shore and did the rest.
That wall of rushing water was so high and so solid that it seemed to
rise up and join the smoke and flame above. For an instant we
could see nothing but the water and the flame.
"That tidal wave picked the ship up like a canoe and then
smashed her. After one list to starboard the ship righted, but the
masts, the bridge, the funnel and all the upper works had gone
I had saved myself from fire by jamming a metal ventilator
cover over my head and jumping from the fo'c's'l head. Two St.
Kitts negroes saved me from the water by grabbing me by the legs
and pulling me down into the fo'c's'l after them. Before I could
get up three men tumbled in on top of me. Two of them were dead.
Captain Muggah went overboard, still clinging to the frag-
ments of his wrecked bridge. Daniel Taylor, the ship's cooper, and
a Kitts native jumped overboard to save him. Taylor managed to
push the captain on to a hatch that had floated off from us and then
they swam back to the ship for more assistance, but nothing could be
78 MONT PELEE AND ITS HARVEST OF DEATH
done for the captain, Taylor wasn't sure he was alive. The last
we saw of him or his dead body it was drifting shoreward on
Well, after staying in the fo'c's'l about twenty minutes, I
went out on deck. There were just four of us left aboard who
could do anything. The four were Thompson, Dan Taylor,
Quashee, and myself. It was still raining fire and hot rocks and you
could hardly see a ship's length for dust and ashes, but we could
stand that. There were burning men and some women and
two or three children lying around the deck. Not just burned, but
burning, then, when we got to them. More than half the ship's
company had been killed in that first rush of flame. Some had
rolled overboard when the tidal wave came and we never saw so
much as their bodies. The cook was burned to death in his galley.
He had been paring potatoes for dinner and what was left of his
right hand held the shank of his potato knife. The wooden handle
was in ashes. All that happened to a man in less than a minute.
The donkey engineman was killed on deck sitting in front of his
boiler. We found parts of some bodies-a hand, or an arm or a
leg. Below decks there were some twenty alive.
"The ship was on fire, of course, what was left of it. The
stumps of both masts were blazing. Aft she was like a furnace, but
forward the flames had not got below deck, so we four carried those
who were still alive on deck into the fo'c's'l. All of them were
burned and most of them were half strangled.
One boy, a passenger and just a little shaver [the four-year-
old son of the late Clement Stokes, above spoken of] was picked
up naked. His hair and all his clothing had been burned off, but
he was alive. We rolled him in a blanket and put him in a sailor's
bunk. A few minutes later we looked at him and he was dead.
MONTH PELEE AND ITS HARVEST OF DEATH
My own son's gone, too. It had been his trick at lookout
ahead during the dog watch that morning, when we were making
for St. Pierre, so I supposed at first when the fire struck us that he
was asleep in his bunk and safe. But he wasn't. Nobody could
tell me where he was. I don't know whether he was burned to
death or rolled overboard and drowned. He was a likely boy. He
had been several voyages with me and would have been a master
some day. He used to say he'd make me mate.
"After getting all hands that had any life left in them below
and 'tended to the best we could, the four of us that were left half
way ship-shape started in to fight the fire. We had case oil stowed
forward. Thanks to that tidal wave that cleared our decks there
wasn't much left to burn, so we got the fire down so's we could live
on board with it for several hours more and then the four turned
to to knock a raft together out of what timber and truck we could
find below. Our boats had gone overboard with the masts and
PREPARED TO TRUST TO LUCK
"6We made that raft for something over thirty that were alive.
We put provisions on for two days and rigged up a make-shift mast
and sail, for we intended to go to sea. We were only three boats'
length from the shore, but the shore was hell itself. We intended
to put straight out and trust to luck that the Korona, that was about
due at St. Pierre, would pick us up. But we did not have to risk
the raft, for about 3 o'clock in the afternoon, when we were almost
ready to put the raft overboard, the Sucket came along and took
us all off. We thought for a minute just after we were wrecked
that we were to get help from a ship that passed us. We burned
blue lights, bat she kept on. We learned afterward that she was
8o MONT PELEE AND ITS HARVEST OF DEATH
Soundings made off Martinique after the explosion showed
that earthquake effects of much importance had taken place under
the sea bottom, which had been lifted in some places and had sunk
in others. While deep crevices had been formed on the land, a
still greater effect had seemingly been produced beneath the water.
During the explosion the sea withdrew several hundred feet from
its shore line, and then came back steaming with fury; this indi-
cating a lift and fall of the ocean bed off the isle. Soundings
made subsequently near the island found in one place a depth of
4,000 feet where before it had been only 600 feet deep. The
French Cable Company, which was at work trying to repair the
cables broken by the eruption, found the bottom of the Caribbean
Sea so changed as to render the old charts useless.
New charts will need to be made for future navigation. The
changes in sea levels were not confined to the immediate centre of
volcanic activity, but extended as far north as Porto Rico, and it
was believed that the seismic wave would be found to have altered
the ocean bed round Jamaica. Vessels plying between St. Thomas,
Martinique, St. Lucia and other islands found it necessary to heave
the lead while many miles at sea.
It is estimated that the sea had encroached from ten feet to
two miles along the coast of St. Vincent near Georgetown, and that
a section on the north of the island had dropped into the sea. Sound-
ings showed seven fathoms where before the eruption, there were
thirty-six fathoms of water. Vessels that endeavored to approach
St. Vincent toward the north reported that it was impossible to get
nearer than eight miles to the scene of the catastrophe, and that
at that distance the ocean was seriously perturbed as from a sub-
marine volcano, boiling and hissing continually.
MONT PELEE AND ITS HARVEST OF DEATH
In this connection the remarkable experience reported by the
officers of the Danish steamship Nordby, on the day preceding the
eruption, is of much interest, as seeming to show great convulsions
of the sea bottom at a point several hundred miles from Mar-
tinique. The following is the story told by Captain Eric Lillien
THE STRANGE EXPERIENCE OF THE "NORDBY"
"On May 5th," the captain said, "we touched at St. Michael's
for water. We had had an easy voyage from Girgenti, in Sicily, and
we wanted to finish an easy run here. We left St. Michael's on the
same day. Nothing worth while talking about occurred until two
days afterward-Wednesday, May 7th.
"We were plodding along slowly that day. About noon I
took the bridge to make an observation. It seemed to be hotter
than ordinary. I shed my coat and vest and got into what little
shade there was. As I worked it grew hotter and hotter. I didn't
know what to make of it. Along about 2 o'clock in the afternoon
it was so hot that all hands got to talking about it. We reckoned
that something queer was coming off, but none of us could explain
what it was. You could almost see the pitch softening in the
Then, as quick as you could toss a biscuit over its rail, the
Nordby dropped-regularly dropped-three or four feet down into
the sea. No sooner did it do this than big waves, that looked like
they were coming from all directions at once, began to smash
against our sides. This was queerer yet, because the water a min-
ute before was as smooth as I ever saw it. I had all hands piped
on deck, and we battened down everything loose to make ready for
a storm. And we got it all right-the strangest storm you ever
heard tell of.
82 MONT PELEE AND ITS HARVEST OF DEATH
"There was something wrong with the sun that afternoon. It
grew red and then dark red and then, about a quarter after 2, it
went out of sight altogether. The day got so dark that you
couldn't see half a ship's length ahead of you. We got our lamps
going, and put on our oilskins, ready for a hurricane. All of a
sudden there came a sheet of lightning that showed up the whole
tumbling sea for miles and miles. We sort of ducked, expecting
an awful crash of thunder, but it didn't come. There was no sound
except the big waves pounding against our sides. There wasn't a
breath of wind.
"Well, sir, at that minute there began the most exciting time
I've ever been through, and I've been on every sea on the map for
twenty-five years. Every second there'd be waves 15 or 20 feet
high, belting us head-on, stern-on and broadside, all at once. We
could see them coming, for without any stop at all flash after flash
of lightning was blazing all about us.
Something else we could see, too. Sharks! There were
hundreds of them on all sides, jumping up and down in the water.
Some of them jumped clear out of it. And sea birds! A flock of
them, squawking and crying, made for our rigging and perched
there. They seemed like they were scared to death. But the
queerest part of it all was the water itself. It was hot-not so hot
that our feet could not stand it when it washed over the deck, but
hot enough to make us think that it had been heated by some kind
of a fire.
Well that sort of thing went on hour after hour. The waves,
the lightning, the hot water and the sharks, and all the rest of the
odd things happening, frightened the crew out of their wits. Some
of them prayed out loud-I guess the first time they ever did in
their lives. Some Frenchmen aboard kept running around and
M6NT PELEE AND ITS HARVEST OF DEATH
yelling, 'C'est le dernier jour!' (This is the last day.) We were
all worried. Even the officers began to think that the world was
coming to an end. Mighty strange things happen on the sea, but
this topped them all.
"I kept to the bridge all night. When the first hour of morn-
ing came the storm was still going on. We were all pretty much
tired out by that time, but there was no such thing as trying to
sleep. The waves still were batting us around and we didn't know
whether we were one mile or a thousand miles from shore. At 2
o'clock in the morning all the queer goings on stopped just the way
they began-all of a sudden. We lay to until daylight; then we
took our reckonings and started off again. We were about 700
miles off Cape Henlopen.
No, sir ; you couldn't get me through a thing like that again
for $io,ooo. None of us was hurt, and the old Nordby herself
pulled through all right, but I'd sooner stay ashore than see waves
without wind and lightning without thunder."
FIERY STREAM CONTAINED POISONOUS GASES
Careful inspection showed that the fiery stream which so com-
pletely destroyed St. Pierre must have been composed of poisonous
gases, which instantly suffocated every one who inhaled them, and
of other gases burning furiously, for nearly all the victims had their
hands covering their mouths, or were in some other attitude show-
ing that they had perished from suffocation.
It is believed that Mont Pelee threw off a great gasp of some
exceedingly heavy and noxious gas, something akin to firedamp,
which settled upon the city and rendered the inhabitants insensible.
This was followed by the sheet of flame that swept down the side
of the mountain. This theory is sustained by the experience of the
84 MONT PELEE AND ITS HARVEST OF DEATH
survivors who were taken from the ships in the harbor, as they say
that their first experience was one of faintness.
The dumb animals were wiser than man, and early took warn-
ing of the storm of fire which Mont Pelee was storing up to hurl
upon the island. Even before the mountain began to rumble, late
in April, live stock became uneasy, and at times were almost uncon-
trollable. Cattle lowed in the night. Dogs howled and sought the
company of their masters, and when driven forth they gave every
evidence of fear.
Wild animals disappeared from the vicinity of Mont Pelee.
Even the snakes, which at ordinary times are found in great num-
bers near the volcano, crawled away. Birds ceased singing and
left the trees that shaded the sides of Pelee. A great fear seemed
to be upon the island, and though it was shared by the human
inhabitants, they alone neglected to protect themselves.
Of the villages in the vicinity of St. Pierre only one escaped,
the others suffering the fate of the city. The fortunate one was
Le Carbet, on the south, which escaped uninjured, the flood of lava
stopping when within two hundred feet of the town. Morne Rouge,
a beautiful summer resort, frequented by the people of the island
during the hot season as a place of recreation, also escaped. In
the height of the season several thousand people gathered there,
though at the time of the explosion there were but a few hundred.
Though located on an elevation between the city and the crater, it
was by great good fortune saved.
The Governor of Martinique, Mr. Mouttet,whose precautions
to prevent the people fleeing from the city aided to make the
work of death complete, was himself among the victims of the
burning mountain. With him in this fate was Colonel Dain, com-
mander of the troops who formed a cordon round the doomed city.
An Island in Ruins and the Work of Research.
QUICKLY as possible after the terrible disaster of May 8th,
which left the formerly thriving and active city of St.
Pierre a heap of smoking and blazing ruins, peopled only
by the dead, the work of rescue and research began. The French
cable-repair ship Pouyer Quertier, Captain Thuron, lost no time in
starting on a mission of rescue, in which it had to pass through
clouds of burning cinders, at the risk of catching fire, in order to
reach the terror-stricken people ashore. But the captain succeeded
in bringing to Fort de France 456 people, mainly former residents
of the village of Le Precheur
This was on Saturday, the 9th. Later this steamer, as the
result of other daring trips, succeeded in bringing many more per-
sons to Fort de France. On Sunday she rescued 923 persons and
piloted the French cruiser Suchet and the Danish cruiser Valkyrien,
which took on board 1,500 persons. She distributed to the sufferers
large quantities of biscuits, milk, wine and cheese.
THE SUCHET" AT ST. PIERRE
The French cruiser Suchet was the first to approach the ruined
port. This was on the evening of Thursday, the day of the disas-
ter. During the earlier part of that day the heat was so intense
and the volcano so active, that it was impossible to venture near
the town. As evening came on the Suchet, after a heroic battle
AN ISLAND IN RUINS
with the heat, suffocation and sulphur fumes, made a dash toward
the shore, nearing the land close enough to enable her to take off
thirty survivors from the burning ships, most of them being horri-
bly burned and mutilated. Nine of them died while on their way
to the hospital. St. Pierre at that time was an absolute, smoking
waste, concealing 30,000 corpses, whose rapid decomposition would
necessitate a quick completion of their cremation, which was only
partially accomplished by the lava.
On the ioth, the Suchet succeeding in getting a landing party
ashore, the work of research began. The captain reported the
town to be a mere heap of ruins, under which the great multitude
of the victims of the catastrophe were buried. On Sunday several
steamers, including the government vessel Rubis, started from Fort
de France for St. Pierre, ten miles distant. The steamers had on
board a government delegate, a number of gendarmes, a detach-
ment of regular infantry and several priests. The vessel also car-
ried a quantity of firewood, petroleum and quicklime, for use in the
cremation of the bodies of the victims of the terrible volcanic out-
break of Thursday.
IN THE RUINED CITY
As the ships came near, the sea seemed covered with the
wreckage of the vessels sunk in the harbor, while on shore only a
few trees, all bent seaward by the force of the volcanic shower,
were left standing. When nearing St. Pierre the Rubis met a num-
ber of tugs towing lighters filled with refugees. The heat from the
smoking lava-covered ruins at St. Pierre was suffocating, and the
stench from the corpse-strewn streets was awful. Only a few walls
were erect. The hospital clock was found intact, with its hands
stopped at 7.50. On all sides were found portions of corpses, which
AN ISLAND IN RUINS
were gathered up by the soldiers and gendarmes and burned on one
of the public squares. Not a drop of water was procurable ashore.
The darkness caused by the clouds of volcanic dust shrouded the
town, and continuous subterranean rumblings added to the horror
of the scene.
The fort and central quarters of the town were razed to the
ground, and were replaced by beds of hot cinders. The iron-grill-
work gate of the government offices was alone standing. There
was no trace of the streets. Huge heaps of smoking ashes were to
be seen on all sides. At the landing place some burned and ruined
walls indicated the spot where the custom-house formerly stood,
and ruins of larger shops could be seen. In that neighborhood
hundreds of dead bodies were found lying in all kinds of attitudes,
showing that the victims had met death as if by a lightning stroke.
Every vestige of clothing was absent from the charred bodies, and
in many cases the abdomens had been burst open by the intense
heat. Curiously enough, the features of the dead were generally
calm and reposeful, although in some cases terrible fright and agony
were depicted. Grim piles of bodies were stacked everywhere,
showing that death had stricken them while the crowds were vainly
seeking escape from the fiery deluge. On one spot a group of
children were found locked in each others' arms.
CREMATING THE DEAD LN HEAPS
Almost the first thing done was to make preparations for the
cremation of the dead. Fatigue parties of soldiers built enormous
pyres of wood and branches of trees, upon which they heaped the
dead bodies by scores and burned them as rapidly as possible.
To facilitate the combustion and to destroy as far as possible
the awful odor of burning flesh which came from them, the
AN ISLAND IN RUINS
impromptu crematories were heavily soaked with coal tar and petro-
leum. So repulsive was the work, owing to the almost insupport-
able stench from the already fast decomposing bodies, that the sol-
diers had to be forced to act. Great fires were kept going day and
night, the glow of the funeral pyres being so great that it could be
seen from the island of St. Lucia.
As the fires which consumed the city gradually burnt them-
selves out, it became possible to dig down into the ruins, thus
revealing new horrors which had hitherto been buried beneath the
volcanic ash and the fallen walls. Ashes and cinders, in places six
feet deep, hid the lines of the streets, and covered thousands of de-
The path of the volcanic torrent which swept over St. Pierre
was marked out in a strange manner. The vicinity of the shore,
where vessels anchored, had been swept by a whirlwind of volcanic
gas, which ripped, tore and shattered everything in its passage,
but left few traces of cinders behind. The tremendous force of the
volcanic avalanche was shown by the fact that walls which had
stood half a century were leveled like pasteboard. The place was
as a city swept by a cyclone of fire. The deluge must have rushed
upon the town with resistless force. On the other hand, the fort,
centre and adjoining ports of St. Pierre were buried under a thick
bed of cinders, which had consumed everything beneath it. The
vaults of the bank of Martinique, at the head of what had been the
Rue de L'Hospital, were found intact. They contained $500,000 in
specie and other securities, which was sent to Fort de France for
safe keeping. An effort was made also to reach the vaults of the
government treasury, in the hope that a large amount of money
and other valuables, deposited by the principal merchants of the
city, might be saved, but this treasure lay under a heap of volcanic
debris six to eight yards deep, and had to be left for later research.
AN ISLAND IN RUINS
Only three persons were taken alive from the ruined city, and
of these two quickly died. One of these was the negress Fillotte,
of whose rescue and subsequent death we have spoken. A second
was a woman named Laurent, who was employed as a servant at
St. Pierre in the household of M. Gabriel, and who was among
those taken to the hospital in Fort de France. In describing her
experiences she said that on the day of the terrible disaster she
heard a loud report, and thereupon fainted. When she regained
her senses a few hours later she was horribly burned. Glancing
around, she saw two members of the Gabriel family still alive, but
they died before assistance could reach them.
She lived for some time after being taken to the hospital, and
was conscious while under the care of the physicians, but died with-
out being able to impart any additional information.
In truth, only a single human being escaped from the city
after the explosion in condition to survive, and he did so only after
passing through a living death. This man, Joseph Surtout by
name, was a negro murderer, who was locked in a cell so far under
ground that the gases, as well as the flames, failed to reach him.
There he remained for four days before his cries were heard.
During these terrible days he was without food and water,
almost without air. He saw nothing, his cell being without a
window, but he knew from the noise and heat that something ex-
traordinary had happened. He shouted for aid, and as the days
passed he commended his soul to God, expecting death.
On the fourth day, though he had lost track of time, he heard
voices and shouted and prayed until he had attracted the people. The
cell door was broken open and his tomb gave up its dead. As
soon as the cell door was open he dashed away like one crazed by
his sufferings. Though sadly shaken, he was physically strong.