The San Francisco Calamity
Part 7 out of 7
saying, "It is coming."
Miss King then rushed to the saloon. She says she experienced 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
The only woman known at that time to have survived the disaster 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 morning,
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 what he
experienced in the following thrilling language:
"St. Lucia, British West Indies, May 11.--The steamer Roddam, 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
forecastle 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.
"One of the most terrifying conditions was that, the atmosphere
being charged with ashes, it was totally dark. The sun was
completely 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 10 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 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 hospital. 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 miraculous. The
woodwork of the cabins and bridge and everything inflammable 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 roaring 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 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 10th. Captain Cantell there visited the Roddam and
had an interview with Captain Freeman. On the 11th the Elona put
to sea again, passing St. Pierre in the afternoon. We subjoin her
"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
"Everything seemed to be covered with a blue dust, such as had
fallen aboard us every day since we had been within the affected
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 Farrish to the deck.
"'Do you see that over there?' 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 burn
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, including 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 phosphorus. 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, 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 daylight
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 squall."
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 distinctly 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, however.
"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
"'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 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 11th, 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 awful experience.
"The Roddam 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
rigging, ropes, tarpaulins, sails, awnings, etc., were charred or
burned, and most of the upper stanchions and spars were swept
overboard 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
"I think the performance of the Roddam's captain was most
wonderful, and the more so when I saw his pitiful condition. I do
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 obscured
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 world
had suddenly broken down. It was deafening, and the flash of light
that accompanied it was blinding, more so than any lightning I have
"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
mysterious 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 knowing
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
"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 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
convulsion. 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 explosion
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 direction
of Martinique, there was a very black sky, an unusual thing at 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 horizon toward
Martinique, however, did not fade away with the breaking 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 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 forward
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 suffocating,
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
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
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 the Etona.
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
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 mountain 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 toward 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.
"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 overboard.
"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 fragments 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
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 that
"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.
"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 funnel.
PREPARED TO TRUST TO LUCK
"We 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 Suchet 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, but she kept on. We learned afterward that she
was the Roddam."
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 indicating
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.
Soundings 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
submarine volcano, boiling and hissing continually.
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 Martinique.
The following is the story told by Captain Eric Lillien-skjold:
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 seams.
"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
minute 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.
"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
yelling, 'Cest 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 morning
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
"No, sir; you couldn't get me through a thing like that again for
$10,000. 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 completely
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 showing 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 survivors who were taken from the ships in the
harbor, as they say that their first experience was one of
The dumb animals were wiser than man, and early took warning 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 uncontrollable.
Cattle lowed in the night. Dogs howled and sought the company of
their masters, and when driven forth they gave every evidence of
Wild animals disappeared from the vicinity of Mont Pelee. Even the
snakes, which at ordinary times are found in great numbers 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, commander of the
troops who formed a cordon round the doomed city.
St. Vincent Island and Mont Soufriere in 1812.
Among all the islands of the Caribbees St. Vincent is unique in
natural wonders and beauties. Situated about ninety-five miles
west of Barbados, it has a length of eighteen and a width of eleven
miles, the whole mass being largely composed of a single peak which
rises from the ocean's bed. From north to south volcanic hills
traverse its length, their ridges intersected by fertile and
A ridge of mountains crosses the island, dividing it into eastern
and western parts. Kingstown, the capital, a town of 8,000
inhabitants, is on the southward side and extends along the shores
of a beautiful bay, with mountains gradually rising behind it in
the form of a vast amphitheatre. Three streets, broad and lined
with good houses, run parallel to the water-front. There are many
other intersecting highways, some of which lead back to the
foothills, from which good roads ascend the mountains.
The majority of the houses have red tile roofing and a goodly
number of them are of stone, one story high, with thick walls after
the Spanish style--the same types of houses that were in St. Pierre
and which are not unlike the old Roman houses which in all stages
of ruin and semi-preservation are found in Pompeii to this day.
Behind the general group of the houses of the town loom the
Governor's residence and the buildings of the botanical gardens
which overlook the town.
Kingstown is the trading centre and the town of importance in the
island. It contains the churches and chapels of five Protestant
denominations and a number of excellent schools. Away from
Kingstown, and the smaller settlement of Georgetown, the population
is almost wholly rural, occupying scattered villages which consist
of negro huts clustering around a few substantial buildings or of
cabins grouped about old plantation buildings somewhat after the
ante-bellum fashion in our own Southern States.
One of the tragedies of the West Indies was the sinking of old Port
Royal, the resort of buccaneers, in 1692. The harbor of Kingstown
is commonly supposed to cover the site of the old settlement.
There is a tradition that a buoy for many years was attached to the
spire of a sunken church in order to warn mariners. Three thousand
persons perished in the disaster.
DESCENDANTS OF ORIGINAL INDIAN POPULATION
The northern portion of the island, that desolated by the recent
volcanic eruption, was inhabited by people living in the manner
just described, the great majority of them being negroes. The
total population of the island is about 45,000, of whom 30,000 are
Africans and about 3,000 Europeans, the remainder being nearly all
Asiatics. There are, or rather were, a number of Caribs, the
descendants of the original warlike Indian population of these
islands. Many of these live in St. Vincent, though there are
others in Dominico. As their residence was in the northern section
of the island, the volcano seems to have completed the work for the
Caribs of this island which the Spaniard long ago began. These
Caribs were really half-breds, having amalgamated with the negroes.
Many of the blacks own land of their own, raising arrow root,
which, since the decay of the sugar industry, is the chief export.
In an island only eighteen miles long by eleven broad there is not
room for any distinctly marked mountain range. The whole of St.
Vincent, in fact, is a fantastic tumble of hills, culminating in
the volcanic ridge which runs lengthwise of the oval-shaped island.
The culminating peak of the great volcanic mass, for St. Vincent is
nothing more, is Mont Garou, of which La Soufriere is a sort of
lofty excrescence in the northwest, 4,048 feet high, and flanking
the main peak at some distance away.
It may be said that all the volcanic mountains in this part of the
West Indies have what the people call a "soufriere"--a "sulphur
pit," or "sulphur crater"--the name coming, as in the case of past
disturbances of Mont Pelee, from the strong stench of sulphuretted
hydrogen which issues from them when the volcano becomes agitated.
In 1812 it was La Soufriere adjacent to Mont Garou which broke
loose on the island of St. Vincent, and it is the same Soufriere
which again has devastated the island and has bombarded Kingstown
with rocks, lava and ashes.
The old crater of Mont Garou has long been extinct, and, like the
old crater of Mont Pelee, near St. Pierre, it had far down in its
depths, surrounded by sheer cliffs from 500 to 800 feet high, a
lake. Glimpses of the lake of Mont Garou are difficult to get,
owing to the thick verdure growing about the dangerous edges of the
precipices, but those who have seen it describe it as a beautiful
sheet of deep blue water.
THE APPEARANCE OF THE SOUFRIERE
Previous to the eruption of 1812 the appearance of the Soufriere
was most interesting. The crater was half a mile in diameter and
five hundred feet in depth. In its centre was a conical hill,
fringed with shrubs and vines; at whose base were two small lakes,
one sulphurous, the other pure and tasteless. This lovely and
beautiful spot was rendered more interesting by the singularly
melodious notes of a bird, an inhabitant of these upper solitudes,
and altogether unknown to the other parts of the island--hence
called, or supposed to be, "invisible," as it had never been seen.
(It is of interest to state that Frederick A. Ober, in a visit to
the island some twenty years ago, succeeded in obtaining specimens
of this previously unknown bird.) From the fissures of the cone a
thin white smoke exuded, occasionally tinged with a light blue
flame. Evergreens, flowers and aromatic shrubs clothed the steep
sides of the crater, which made, as the first indication of the
eruption on April 27, 1812, a tremulous noise in the air. A severe
concussion of the earth followed, and then a column of thick black
smoke burst from the crater.
THE ERUPTION OF 1812
The eruption which followed these premonitory symptoms was one of
the most terrific which had occurred in the West Indies up to that
time. It was the culminating event which seemed to relieve a
pressure within the earth's crust which extended from the
Mississippi Valley to Caracas, Venezuela, producing terrible
effects in the latter place. Here, thirty-five days before the
volcanic explosion, the ground was rent and shaken by a frightful
earthquake which hurled the city in ruins to the ground and killed
ten thousand of its inhabitants in a moment of time.
La Soufriere made the first historic display of its hidden powers
in 1718, when lava poured from its crater. A far more violent
demonstration of its destructive forces was that above mentioned.
On this occasion the eruption lasted for three days, ruining a
number of the estates in the vicinity and destroying many lives.
Myriads of tons of ashes, cinders, pumice and scoriae, hurled from
the crater, fell in every section of the island. Volumes of sand
darkened the air, and woods, ridges and cane fields were covered
with light gray ashes, which speedily destroyed all vegetation.
The sun for three days seemed to be in a total eclipse, the sea was
discolored and the ground bore a wintry appearance from the white
crust of fallen ashes.
Carib natives who lived at Morne Rond fled from their houses to
Kingstown. As the third day drew to a close flames sprang
pyramidically from the crater, accompanied by loud thunder and
electric flashes, which rent the column of smoke hanging over the
volcano. Eruptive matter pouring from the northwest side plunged
over the cliff, carrying down rocks and woods in its course. The
island was shaken by an earthquake and bombarded with showers of
cinders and stones, which set houses on fire and killed many of the
THE TERRIBLE EARTHQUAKE AT CARACAS
For nearly two years before this explosion earthquakes had been
common, and sea and land had been agitated from the valley of the
Mississippi to the coasts of Venezuela and the mountains of New
Grenada, and from the Azores to the West Indies. On March 26,
1812, these culminated in the terrible tragedy, spoken of above, of
which Humboldt gives us a vivid account.
On that day the people of the Venezuelan city of Caracas were
assembled in the churches, beneath a still and blazing sky, when
the earth suddenly heaved and shook, like a great monster waking
from slumber, and in a single minute 10,000 people were buried
beneath the walls of churches and houses, which tumbled in hideous
ruin upon their heads. The same earthquake made itself felt along
the whole line of the Northern Cordilleras, working terrible
destruction, and shook the earth as far as Santa Fe de Bogota and
Honda, 180 leagues from Caracas. This was a preliminary symptom of
the internal disorder of the earth.
While the wretched inhabitants of Caracas who had escaped the
earthquake were dying of fever and starvation, and seeking among
villages and farms places of safety from the renewed earthquake
shocks, the almost forgotten volcano of St. Vincent was muttering
in suppressed wrath. For twelve months it had given warning, by
frequent shocks of the earth, that it was making ready to play its
part in the great subterranean battle. On the 27th of April its
deep-hidden powers broke their bonds, and the conflict between rock
and fire began.
THE MOUNTAIN STONES A HERD-BOY
The first intimation of the outbreak was rather amusing than
alarming. A negro boy was herding cattle on the mountain side. A
stone fell near him. Another followed. He fancied that some other
boys were pelting him from the cliff above, and began throwing
stones upward at his fancied concealed tormentors. But the stones
fell thicker, among them some too large to be thrown by any human
hand. Only then did the little fellow awake to the fact that it
was not a boy like himself, but the mighty mountain, that was
flinging these stones at him. He looked up and saw that the black
column which was rising from the crater's mouth was no longer
harmless vapor, but dust, ashes and stones. Leaving the cattle to
their fate, he fled for his life, while the mighty cannon of the
Titans roared behind him as he ran. For three days and nights this
continued; then, on the 30th, a stream of lava poured over the
crater's rim and rushed downward, reaching the sea in four hours,
and the great eruption was at an end.
On the same day, says Humboldt, at a distance of more than 200
leagues, "the inhabitants not only of Caracas, but of Calabozo,
situated in the midst of the Lianos, over a space of 4,000 square
leagues, were terrified by a subterranean noise which resembled
frequent discharges of the heaviest cannon. It was accompanied by
no shock, and, what is very remarkable, was as loud on the coast as
at eighty leagues' distance inland, and at Caracas, as well as at
Calabozo, preparations were made to put the place in defence
against an enemy who seemed to be advancing with heavy artillery."
It was no enemy that man could deal with. Fortunately, it confined
its assault to deep noises, and desisted from earthquake shocks.
Similar noises were heard in Martinique and Guadeloupe, and here
also without shocks. The internal thunder was the signal of what
was taking place on St. Vincent. With this last warning sound the
trouble, which had lasted so long, was at an end. The earthquakes
which for two years had shaken a sheet of the earth's surface
larger than half Europe, were stilled by the eruption of St.
Vincent's volcanic peak.
BARBADOS COVERED WITH ASHES
Northeast of the original crater of the Soufriere a new one was
formed which was a half mile in diameter and five hundred feet
deep. The old crater was in time transformed into a beautiful blue
lake, as above stated, walled in by ragged cliffs to a height of
eight hundred feet.
It was looked upon as a remarkable circumstance that although the
air was perfectly calm during the eruption, Barbados, which is
ninety-five miles to the windward, was covered inches deep with
ashes. The inhabitants there and on other neighboring islands were
terrified by the darkness, which continued for four hours and a
half. Troops were called under arms, the supposition from the
continued noise being that hostile fleets were in an engagement.
The movement of the ashes to windward, as just stated, was viewed
as a remarkable phenomenon, and is cited by Elise Reclus, in "The
Ocean," to show the force of different aerial currents; "On the
first day of May, 1812, when the northeast trade-wind was in all
its force, enormous quantities of ashes obscured the atmosphere
above the Island of Barbados, and covered the ground with a thick
layer. One would have supposed that they came from the volcanoes
of the Azores, which were to the northeast; nevertheless they were
cast up by the crater in St. Vincent, one hundred miles to the
west. It is therefore certain that the debris had been hurled, by
the force of the eruption, above the moving sheet of the trade-
winds into an aerial river proceeding in a contrary direction."
For this it must have been hurled miles high into the air, till
caught by the current of the anti-trade winds.
KINGSLEY'S VISIT TO SAINT VINCENT
From Charles Kingsley's "At Last" we extract, from the account of
the visit of the author to St. Vincent, some interesting matter
concerning the 1812 eruption and its effect on the mountain; also
its influence upon distant Barbados, as just stated.
"The strangest fact about this eruption was, that the mountain did
not make use of its old crater. The original vent must have become
so jammed and consolidated, in the few years between 1785 and 1812,
that it could not be reopened, even by a steam force the vastness
of which may be guessed at from the vastness of the area which it
had shaken for two years. So, when the eruption was over, it was
found that the old crater-lake, incredible as it may seem, remained
undisturbed, so far as has been ascertained; but close to it, and
separated only by a knife-edge of rock some 700 feet in height, and
so narrow that, as I was assured by one who had seen it, it is
dangerous to crawl along it, a second crater, nearly as large as
the first, had been blasted out, the bottom of which, in like
manner, was afterward filled with water.
"I regretted much that I could not visit it. Three points I longed
to ascertain carefully--the relative heights of the water in the
two craters; the height and nature of the spot where the lava
stream issued; and, lastly, if possible, the actual causes of the
locally famous Rabacca, or 'Dry River,' one of the largest streams
in the island, which was swallowed up during the eruption, at a
short distance from its source, leaving its bed an arid gully to
this day. But it could not be, and I owe what little I know of the
summit of the soufriere principally to a most intelligent and
gentleman-like young Wesleyan minister, whose name has escaped me.
He described vividly, as we stood together on the deck, looking up
at the volcano, the awful beauty of the twin lakes, and of the
clouds which, for months together, whirl in and out of the cups in
fantastic shapes before the eddies of the trade wind.
BLACK SUNDAY AT BARBADOS
"The day after the explosion, 'Black Sunday,' gave a proof of,
though no measure of, the enormous force which had been exerted.
Eighty miles to windward lies Barbados. All Saturday a heavy
cannonading had been heard to the eastward. The English and French
fleets were surely engaged. The soldiers were called out; the
batteries manned; but the cannonade died away, and all went to bed
in wonder. On the 1st of May the clocks struck six, but the sun
did not, as usual in the tropics, answer to the call. The darkness
was still intense, and grew more intense as the morning wore on. A
slow and silent rain of impalpable dust was falling over the whole
island. The negroes rushed shrieking into the streets. Surely the
last day was come. The white folk caught (and little blame to
them) the panic, and some began to pray who had not prayed for
years. The pious and the educated (and there were plenty of both
in Barbados) were not proof against the infection. Old letters
describe the scene in the churches that morning as hideous--
prayers, sobs, and cries, in Stygian darkness, from trembling
crowds. And still the darkness continued and the dust fell.
INCIDENTS AT BARBADOS
"I have a letter written by one long since dead, who had at least
powers of description of no common order, telling how, when he
tried to go out of his house upon the east coast, he could not find
the trees on his own lawn save by feeling for their stems. He
stood amazed not only in utter darkness, but in utter silence; for
the trade-wind had fallen dead, the everlasting roar of the surf
was gone, and the only noise was the crashing of branches, snapped
by the weight of the clammy dust. He went in again, and waited.
About one o'clock the veil began to lift; a lurid sunlight stared
in from the horizon, but all was black overhead. Gradually the
dust drifted away; the island saw the sun once more, and saw itself
inches deep in black, and in this case fertilizing, dust. The
trade-wind blew suddenly once more out of the clear east, and the
surf roared again along the shore.
"Meanwhile a heavy earthquake-wave had struck part at least of the
shores of Barbados. The gentleman on the east coast, going out,
found traces of the sea, and boats and logs washed up some ten to
twenty feet above high-tide mark; a convulsion which seemed to have
gone unmarked during the general dismay.
"One man at least, an old friend of John Hunter, Sir Joseph Banks
and others their compeers, was above the dismay, and the
superstitious panic which accompanied it. Finding it still dark
when he rose to dress, he opened (so the story used to run) his
window; found it stick, and felt upon the sill a coat of soft
powder. "The volcano in St. Vincent has broken out at last,' said
the wise man, 'and this is the dust of it.' So he quieted his
household and his negroes, lighted his candles, and went to his
scientific books, in that delight, mingled with an awe not the less
deep, because it is rational and self-possessed, with which he,
like the other men of science, looked at the wonders of this
Submarine Volcanoes and their Work of Island Building.
In November, 1867, a volcano suddenly began to show signs of
activity beneath the deep sea of the Pacific Ocean. There are some
islands nearly two thousands miles to the east of Australia called
the Navigator's Group, in which there had been no history of an
eruption, nor had such an event been handed down by tradition.
Most of the islands in the Pacific Ocean are old volcanoes, or are
made up of rocks cast forth from extinct burning mountains. They
rise up like peaks through the great depths of the ocean, and the
top, which just appears above the sea-level, is generally encircled
by a growth of coral. Hence they are termed coral islands. These
islands every now and then rise higher than the sea-level, owing to
some deep upheaving force, and then the coral is lifted up above
the water, and become a solid rock. But occasionally the reverse
of this takes place, and the islands begin to sink into the sea,
owing to a force which causes the base of the submarine mountain to
become depressed. Sometimes they disappear. All this shows that
some great disturbing forces are in action at the bottom of the
sea, and just within the earth's crust, and that they are of a
For some time before the eruption in question, earthquakes shook
the surrounding islands of the Navigator's Group, and caused great
alarm, and when the trembling of the earth was very great, the sea
began to be agitated near one of the islands, and vast circles of
disturbed water were formed. Soon the water began to be forced
upwards, and dead fish were seen floating about. After a while,
steam rushed forth, and jets of mud and volcanic sand. Moreover,
when the steam began to rush up out of the water, the violence of
the general agitation of the land and of the surface of the sea
AN ERUPTION DESCRIBED
When the eruption was at its height vast columns of mud and masses
of stone rushed into the air to a height of 2,000 feet, and the
fearful crash of masses of rock hurled upwards and coming in
collision with others which were falling attested the great volume
of ejected matter which accumulated in the bed of the ocean,
although no trace of a volcano could be seen above the surface of
the sea. Similar submarine volcanic action has been observed in
the Atlantic Ocean, and crews of ships have reported that they have
seen in different places sulphurous smoke, flame, jets of water,
and steam, rising up from the sea, or they have observed the waters
greatly discolored and in a state of violent agitation, as if
boiling in large circles.
New shoals have also been encountered, or a reef of rocks just
emerging above the surface, where previously there was always
supposed to have been deep water. On some few occasions, the
gradual building up of an island by submarine volcanoes has been
observed, as that of Sabrina in 1181, off St. Michael's, in the
Azores. The throwing up of ashes in this case, and the formation
of a conical hill 300 feet high, with a crater out of which spouted
lava and steam, took place very rapidly. But the waves had the
best of it, and finally washed Sabrina into the depths of the
ocean. Previous eruptions in the same part of the sea were
recorded as having happened in 1691 and 1720.
In 1831, a submarine volcanic eruption occurred in the
Mediterranean Sea, between Sicily and that part of the African
coast where Carthage formerly stood. A few years before, Captain
Smyth had sounded the spot in a survey of the sea ordered by
Government, and he found the sea-bottom to be under 500 feet of
water. On June 28, about a fortnight before the eruption was
visible, Sir Pulteney Malcom, in passing over the spot in his ship,
felt the shock of an earthquake as if he had struck on a sandbank,
and the same shocks were felt on the west coast of Sicily, in a
direction from south-west to north-east.
BUILDING UP OF AN ISLAND BY SUBMARINE VOLCANOES
About July 10, the captain of a Sicilian vessel reported that as he
passed near the place he saw a column of water like a waterspout,
sixty feet high, and 800 yards in circumference, rising from the
sea, and soon after a dense rush of steam in its place, which
ascended to the height of 1,800 feet. The same captain, on his
return eighteen days after, found a small island twelve feet high,
with a crater in its centre, throwing forth volcanic matter and
immense columns of vapor, the sea around being covered with
floating cinders and dead fish. The eruption continued with great
violence to the end of the same month. By the end of the month the
island grew to ninety feet in height, and measured three-quarters
of a mile round. By August 4th it became 200 feet high and three
miles in circumference; after which it began to diminish in size by
the action of the waves. Towards the end of October the island was
levelled nearly to the surface of the sea.
Naval officers and foreign ministers alike took an absorbing
interest in this new island. The strong national thirst for
territory manifested itself and eager mariners waited only till the
new land should be cool enough to set foot on to strive who should
be first to plant there his country's flag. Names in abundance
were given it by successive observers,--Nerita, Sciacca,
Fernandina, Julia, Hotham, Corrao, and Graham. The last holds good
in English speech, and as Graham's Island it is known in books to-
day, though the sea took back what it had given, leaving but a
shoal of cinders and sand.
The Bay of Santorin, in the island of that name, which lies
immediately to the north of Crete, has long been noted for its
submarine volcanoes. According to one account, indeed, the whole
island was at a remote period raised from the bottom of the sea;
but this is questionable. It is, with more reason, supposed that
the bay is the site of an ancient crater, which was situated on the
summit of a volcanic cone that subsequently fell in. Certain it is
that islands have from time to time been thrown up by volcanic
forces from the bottom of the sea within this bay, and that some of
them have remained, while others have sunk again.
HOW AN ISLAND GREW
Of the existing islands, some were thrown up shortly before the
beginning of the Christian era; in particular, one called the Great
Cammeni, which, however, received a considerable accession to its
size by a fresh eruption in A. D. 726. The islet nearest Santorin
was raised in 1573, and was named the Little Cammeni; and in 1707
there was added, between the other two, a third, which is now
called the Black Island. This made its appearance above water on
the 23rd of May, 1707, and was first mistaken for a wreck; but some
sailors, who landed on it, found it to be a mass of rock;
consisting of a very white soft stone, to which were adhering
quantities of fresh oysters. While they were collecting these, a
violent shaking of the ground scared them away.
During several weeks the island gradually increased in volume; but
in July, at a distance of about sixty paces from the new islet,
there was thrown up a chain of black calcined rocks, followed by
volumes of thick black smoke, having a sulphurous smell. A few
days thereafter the water all around the spot became hot, and many
dead fishes were thrown up. Then, with loud subterraneous noises,
flames arose, and fresh quantities of stones and other substances
were ejected, until the chain of black rocks became united to the
first islet that had appeared. This eruption continued for a long
time, there being thrown out quantities of ashes and pumice, which
covered the island of Santorin and the surface of the sea--some
being drifted to the coasts of Asia Minor and the Dardanelles. The
activity of this miniature volcano was prolonged, with greater or
less energy, for about ten years.
In 1866 similar phenomena took place in the Bay of Santorin,
beginning with underground sounds and slight shocks of earthquake,
which were followed by the appearance of flames on the surface of
the sea. Soon after there arose, out of a dense smoke, a small
islet, which gradually increased until in a week's time it was 60
feet high, 200 long and 90 wide. The people of Santorin named it
"George," in honor of the King of Greece. In another week it
joined and became continuous with the Little Cammeni. The
detonations increased in loudness, and large quantities of
incandescent stones were thrown up from the crater.
About the same time, at the distance of nearly 150 feet from the
coast, to the westward of a point called Cape Phlego, there rose
from the sea another island, to which was given the name of
Aphroessa. It sank and reappeared several times before it
established itself above water. The detonations and ejection of
incandescent lava and stones continued at intervals during three
weeks. From the crater of the islet George, which attained a
height of 150 feet, some stones several cubic yards in bulk were
projected to a great distance. One of them falling on board of a
merchant vessel, killed the captain and set fire to the ship.
By the 10th of March the eruptions had partially subsided, but were
then renewed, and a third island, which was named Reka, rose
alongside of Aphroessa. They were at first separated by a channel
sixty feet deep; but in three days this was filled up, and the two
islets became united.
Reference may properly be made here to Monte Nuovo and Jorullo, not
that they appertain to the present subject, but that they form
examples of the action of similar forces, in the one instance
exerted on a lake bottom, in the other on dry land, each yielding
permanent volcanic elevations in every respect analogous to those
which rise as islands from the bottom of the sea.
IN THE ICELANDIC SEAS
Off the coast of Iceland islands have appeared during several of
the volcanic eruptions which that remote dependency of Denmark has
manifested, and at various periods in Iceland's history the sea has
been covered with pumice and other debris, which tell their own
tale of what has been going on, without being in sufficient
quantity to reach the surface in the form of an island mass. The
sea off Reykjanes--Smoky Cape, as the name means--has been a
frequent scene of these submarine eruptions. In 1240, during what
the Icelandic historians describe as the eighth outburst, a number
of islets were formed, though most of them subsequently
disappeared, only to have their places occupied by others born at a
later date. In 1422 high rocks of considerable circumference
appeared. In 1783, about a month before the eruption of Skaptar
Jokull, a volcanic island named Nyoe, from which fire and smoke
issued, was built up. But in time it vanished under the waves, all
that remains of it to-day being a reef from five to thirty-five
fathoms below the sea-level. In 1830, after several long-continued
eruptions of the usual character, another isle arose; while at the
same time the skerries known as the Geirfuglaska disappeared, and
with them vanished the great auks, or gare-fowls--birds now
extinct--which up to that time had bred on them. At all events,
though the auks could not well have been drowned, no traces of them
were seen after the date mentioned. In July, 1884, an island again
appeared about ten miles off Reykjanes; but it is already beginning
to diminish in size, and may soon disappear.
OFF THE COAST OF ALASKA
Elsewhere in the region of the northern seas there are other
instances of the influence of the submarine forces in raising up
and lowering land. The coast of Alaska is a region of intense
volcanic action. In 1795, during a period of volcanic activity in
the craters of Makushina, on Unalaska, and in others on Umnak
Island, a volume of smoke was seen to rise out of the sea about 42
miles to the north of Unalaska, and the next year it was followed
by a heap of cindery material, from which arose flame and volcanic
matter, the glow being visible over a radius of ten miles. In four
years the island grew into a large cone, 3000 feet above the sea-
level, and two or three miles in circumference. Two years later it
was still so hot that when some hunters landed on it they found the
soil too warm for walking. It was named Ionna Bogoslova (St. John
the Theologian), by the Russians, Agashagok by the Aleuts, and is
now known to the whites of that region as Bogosloff. Mr. Dall
believes that it occupies the site of some rocks that existed there
as long as tradition extends.
There were additions to the cone up to the year 1823, when it
became so quiescent as to be the favorite haunt of seals and sea-
fowls, and, when the weather was favorable, was visited by native
egg-hunters from Unalaska. During the summer of 1883 Bogosloff was
again seen in eruption, as it was thought. However, on closely
examining the neighborhood, it was found that the old island was
undisturbed, but that there had been a fresh eruption, which had
resulted in the extension of Bogosloff by the appearance of a cone
and crater (Hague Volcano), 357 feet high, connected with the
parent island by a low sand-spit, and situated in a spot where, the
year before, the lead showed 800 fathoms of water. At the same
time Augustin and two other previously quiet islands on the
peninsula of Alaska began simultaneously to emit smoke, dust and
ashes, while a reef running westward and formerly submerged became
elevated to the sea surface. Other islands, of origin exactly
similar to Bogosloff and those mentioned, are to be found in this
region, notably Koniugi and Kasatochi, in the western Aleutians,
and Pinnacle Island, near St. Matthew Island. Indeed, the volcano
of Kliutchevsk, which rises to a height of over 15,000 feet, is
really a volcanic island.
A permanent addition was made to the Aleutian group of Islands by
the action of a submarine volcano in 1806. This new island has the
form of a volcanic peak, with several subsidiary cones. It is four
geographical miles in circumference. In 1814 another arose out of
the sea in the same archipelago, the cone of which attained a
height of 3,000 feet; but at the end of a year it lost a portion of
In 1856, in the sea in the same neighborhood, Captain Newell, of
the whaling bark Alice Fraser, witnessed a submarine eruption,
which was also seen by the crews of several other vessels. There
was no island formed on this occasion, but large jets of water were
thrown up, and the sea was greatly agitated all around. Then
followed volcanic smoke, and quantities of stones, ashes, and
pumice; the two latter being scattered over the surface of the sea
to a great distance. Loud thundering reports accompanied this
eruption, and all the ships in the neighborhood felt concussions
like those produced by an earthquake. These phenomena seem to have
ended in the formation of some great submarine chasm, into which
the waters rushed with extreme violence and a terrific roar.
Occurrences similar to this last have been several times observed
in a tract of open sea in the Atlantic, about half a degree south
of the equator, and between 20 and 22 degrees of west longitude.
Although quantities of volcanic dross have been from time to time
thrown up to the surface in this region, no island has yet made its
appearance above water.
The events here described repeat on a far smaller scale similar
ones which have occurred in remote ages in many parts of the ocean
and left great island masses as the permanent effects of their
work. We may instance the Hawaiian group, which is wholly of
volcanic origin, with the exception of its minor coral additions,
and represents a stupendous activity of underground agencies
beneath the domain of Father Neptune.
In part, as we have said elsewhere in this work, all oceanic
islands, remote from those in the shoal bordering waters of the
continents, have been of volcanic or coral formation, or more often
a combination of the two. No sooner does an island mass appear
above or near the surface of tropical waters than the minute coral
animals--effective only by their myriads--begin their labors,
building fringes of coral rock around the cindery heaps lifted from
the ocean floor. The atolls of the Pacific--circular or oval rings
of coral with lagunes of sea-water within--have long been thought
to be built on the rims of submarine volcanoes, rising to within a
few hundred feet of the surface, much as coral reefs around actual
islands. If the volcanic mass should subsequently subside, as it
is likely to do, the minute ocean builders will continue their
work--unless the subsidence be too rapid for their powers of
production--and in this way ring-like islands of coral may in time
rise from great depths of sea, their basis being the volcanic
island which has sunk from near the surface far toward old ocean's
Mud Volcanoes, Geysers, and Hot Springs.
Our usual impression of a volcano is indicated in the title of
"burning mountain," so often employed, a great fire-spouting cone
of volcanic debris, from which steam, lava, rock-masses, cinder-
like fragments, and dust, often of extreme fineness, are flung high
into the air or flow in river-like torrents of molten rock. This,
no doubt, applies in the majority of cases, but the volcanic forces
do not confine themselves to these magnificent displays of energy,
nor are their products limited to those above specified. We have
seen that mud is a not uncommon product, due to the mingling of
water with volcanic dust, while water alone is occasionally
emitted, of which we have a marked instance in the Volcan de Agua,
of Guatemala, already mentioned. As regards mud flows, we may
specially instance the first outflow from Mont Pelee, that by which
the Guerin sugar works were overwhelmed.
The imprisoned forces of the earth have still other modes of
manifestation. A very frequent one of these, and the most
destructive to human life of them all, is the earthquake.
Minor manifestations of volcanic action may be seen in the geyser
and the hot spring, the latter the most widely disseminated of all
the resultant effects of the heated condition of the earth's
interior. It is these displays of subterranean energy, differing
from those usually termed volcanic, yet due to the same general
causes, that we have next to consider. And it may be premised that
their manifestations, while, except in the case of the earthquake,
less violent, are no less interesting, especially as the minor
displays are free from that peril to human life which renders the
major ones so terrible.
While the largest volcanoes at times pour out rivers of liquid mud,
there are volcanoes from which nothing is ever ejected but mud and
water, the latter being generally salt. From this circumstance
they are sometimes called salses, but they are more generally
termed mud-volcanoes. Some varieties of them throw out little else
than gases of different sorts, and these are called air-volcanoes.
THE GREAT MUD VOLCANO OF SICILY
One of the best known mud-volcanoes is at Macaluba, near Girgenti,
in Sicily. It consists of several conical mounds, varying from
time to time in their form and height, which ranges from eight to
thirty feet. From orifices on the tops of these mounds there are
thrown out sometimes jets of warmish water and mud mixed with
bitumen, sometimes bubbles of gas, chiefly carbonic acid and
carburetted hydrogen, occasionally pure nitrogen. The mud ejected
has often a strong sulphurous smell. The jets in general ascend
only to a moderate height; but occasionally they are thrown up with
great violence, attaining a height of about 200 feet. In 1777
there was ejected an immense column, consisting of mud strongly
impregnated with sulphur and mixed with naphtha and stones,
accompanied also by quantities of sulphurous vapors. This mud-
volcano is known to have been in action for fifteen centuries.
Very recently a small mud-volcano has been formed on the flanks of
Mount Etna. It began with the throwing up of jets of boiling
water, mixed with petroleum and mud, great quantities of gas
bubbling up at the same time. In several of the valleys of Iceland
there are similar phenomena, the boiling water and mud being thrown
up in jets to the height of fifteen feet and upwards, the mud
accumulating around the orifices whence the jets arise.
A mud-volcano named Korabetoff, in the Crimea, presents phenomena
more akin to those of the igneous volcanoes of South America.
There was an eruption from this mountain on the 6th of August,
1853. It began by throwing up from the summit a column of fire and
smoke, which ascended to a great height. This continued for five
or six minutes, and was followed at short intervals by two similar
eruptions. There was then ejected with a hissing noise a quantity
of black fetid mud, which was so hot as to scorch the grass on the
edges of the stream. The mud continued to pour out for three
hours, covering a wide space at the mountain's base. The mud-
volcanoes on the coast of Beloochistan are very numerous, and
extend over an area of nearly a thousand square miles. Their
action resembles that at Macaluba.
THE MUD VOLCANO OF JAVA
There is a mud volcano in Java which is of interest as somewhat
resembling the geyser in its mode of operation and apparently due
to similar agencies. It is thus described by Dr. Horsfield:--
"On approaching it from a distance, it is first discovered by a
large volume of smoke, rising and disappearing at intervals of a
few seconds, resembling the vapors rising from a violent surf. A
loud noise is heard, like that of distant thunder. Having advanced
so near that the vision was no longer impeded by the smoke, a large
hemispherical mass was observed, consisting of black earth mixed
with water, about sixteen feet in diameter, rising to the height of
twenty or thirty feet in a perfectly regular manner, and as if it
were pushed up by a force beneath, which suddenly exploded with a
loud noise, and scattered about a volume of black mud in every
direction. After an interval of two or three, or sometimes four or
five seconds, the hemispherical body of mud rose and exploded
again. In the manner stated this volcanic ebullition goes on
without interruption, throwing up a globular body of mud, and
dispersing it with violence through the neighboring plain. The
spot where the ebullition occurs is nearly circular, and perfectly
level. It is covered only with the earthy particles, impregnated
with salt water, which are thrown up from below. The circumference
may be estimated at about half an English mile. In order to
conduct the salt water to the circumference, small passages or
gutters are made in the loose muddy earth, which lead to the
borders, where it is collected in holes dug in the ground for the
purpose of evaporation."
The mud has a strong, pungent, sulphurous smell, resembling that of
mineral oil, and is hotter than the surrounding atmosphere. During
the rainy season the explosions increase in violence.
There are submarine mud volcanoes as well as those of igneous kind.
In 1814 one of this character broke out in the Sea of Azof,
beginning with flame and black smoke, accompanied by earth and
stones, which were flung to a great height. Ten of these
explosions occurred, and, after a period of rest, others were heard
during the night. The next morning there was visible above the
water an island of mud some ten feet high. A very similar
occurrence took place in 1827, near Baku, in the Caspian sea. This
began with a flaming display and the ejection of great fragments of
rock. An eruption of mud succeeded. A set of small volcanoes
discovered by Humboldt in Turbaco, in South America, confined their
emissions almost wholly to gases, chiefly nitrogen.
There is a close connection in character between mud volcanoes and
those intermittent boiling springs named geysers. A good many of
the mud volcanoes throw out jets of boiling water along with the
mud; but in the case of the geysers, the boiling water is ejected
alone, without any visible impregnation, though some mineral in
solution, as silica, carbonate of lime, or sulphur, is usually
THE GEYSER IS A WATER VOLCANO
The phenomenon of the geyser serves in a measure to support the
theory that steam is an important agent in volcanic action. A
geyser, in fact, may be designated as a water volcano, since it
throws up water only. It comprises a cone or mound, usually only a
few feet high. In the middle of this is a crater-like opening with
a passage leading down into the earth. As in the case of the
volcano, the geyser cone is built up by its own action. In the
boiling water which is ejected there is dissolved a certain amount
of silica. As the water falls and cools this mineral is deposited,
gradually building up a cup-like elevation. The basin of the
geyser is generally full of clear water, with a little steam rising
from its surface; but at intervals an eruption takes place,
sometimes at regular periods, but more often at irregular
Among the largest and best known geysers in the world are those of
Iceland, chief among them being the Great Geyser. Silica is the
mineral with which the waters of this fountain are impregnated, and
the substance which they deposit, as they slowly evaporate, is
named siliceous sinter. Of this material is composed the mound,
six or seven feet high, on which the spring is situated. On the
top of the mound is a large oval basin, about three feet in depth,
measuring in its larger diameter about fifty-six, and in its
shorter about forty-six feet. The centre of this basin is occupied
by a circular well about ten feet in diameter, and between seventy
and eighty feet deep.
Out of the central well springs a jet of boiling water, at
intervals of six or seven hours. When the fountain is at rest,
both the basin and the well appear quite empty, and no steam is
seen. But on the approach of the moment for action, the water
rises in the well, till it flows over into the basin. Then loud
subterranean explosions are heard, and the ground all round is
Instantly, and with immense force, a steaming jet of boiling water,
of the full width of the well, springs up and ascends to a great
height in the air. The top of this large column of water is
enveloped in vast clouds of steam, which diffuse themselves through
the air, rendering it misty. These jets succeed each other with
great rapidity to the number of sixteen or eighteen, the period of
action of the fountain being about five minutes. The last of the
jets generally ascends to the greatest height, usually to about
100, but sometimes to 150 feet; on one occasion it rose to the
great height of 212 feet. Having ejected this great column of
water, the action ceases, and the water that had filled the basin
sinks down into the well. There it remains till the time for the
next eruption, when the same phenomena are repeated. It has been
found that, by throwing large stones into the well, the period of
the eruption may be hastened, while the loudness of the explosions
and the violence of the fountain effect are increased, the stones
being at the same time ejected with great force.
ERUPTION CAN BE INDUCED BY ARTIFICIAL MEANS
Geysers are found all over the island, presenting various
peculiarities. In the case of one of the smaller ones, which is
called Strokr, or the Churn, an eruption can be induced by
artificial means. A barrow-load of sods is thrown into the crater
of the geyser, with the effect of causing an eruption. The
sensitiveness of Strokr is due to its peculiar form. An observer
states that, "The bore is eight feet in diameter at the top, and
forty-four feet deep. Below twenty-seven feet it contracts to
nineteen inches, so that the turf thrown in completely chokes it.
Steam collects below; a foaming scum covers the surface of the
water, and in a quarter of an hour it surges up the pipe. The
fountain then begins playing, sending its bundles of jets rather
higher than those of the Great Geyser, flinging up the clods of
turf which have been its obstruction like a number of rockets.
This magnificent display continues for a quarter of an hour or
twenty minutes. The erupted water flows back into the pipe from
the curved sides of the bowl. This occasions a succession of
bursts, the last expiring effort, very generally, being the most
magnificent. Strokr gives no warning thumps, like the Great
Geyser, and there is not the same roaring of steam accompanying the
outbreak of the water."
The same author thus describes an eruption of the Great Geyser,
which occurred about two o'clock in the morning: "A violent
concussion of the ground brought me and my companions to our feet.
We rushed out of the tent in every condition of dishabille and were
in time to see Geyser put forth his full strength. Five strokes
underground were the signal, then an overflow, wetting every side
of the mound. Presently a dome of water rose in the centre of the
basin and fell again, immediately to be followed by a fresh bell,
which sprang into the air fully forty feet high, accompanied by a
roaring burst of steam. Instantly the fountain began to play with
the utmost violence, a column rushing up to the height of ninety or
one hundred feet against the gray night sky, with mighty volumes of
white steam cloud rolling after it and swept off by the breeze to
fall in torrents of hot rain. Jets and lines of water tore their
way through the clouds, or leaped high above its domed mass. The
earth trembled and throbbed during the explosion, then the column
sank, started up again, dropped once more, and seemed to be sucked
back into the earth. We ran to the basin, which was left dry, and
looked down the bore at the water, which was bubbling at the depth
of six feet."
In the case of Strokr, the cause of this eruption is not difficult
to understand. The narrow part of the channel is choked up by the
turf and the steam, and prevented from escaping. Finally it gains
such force as to drive out the obstacle with a violent explosion,
just as a bottle of fermenting liquor may blow out the cork and
discharge some of its contents.
Geysers are somewhat abundant phenomena, existing in many parts of
the earth, while striking examples of them are found in the widely
separated regions of Iceland, New Zealand, Japan and the western
United States. In the volcanic region of New Zealand geysers and
their associated hot springs are abundant. It was to their action
that we owed the famous white and pink terraces and the warm lake
of Rotomahana which were ruined by the destructive eruption of
Mount Tarawera, already described.
GEYSERS OF THE UNITED STATES
The United States is abundantly supplied with hot springs, but
geysers, outside of the Yellowstone region, are found only in
California and Nevada. Those of California exist chiefly in Napa
Valley, north of San Francisco, in a canon or defile. Their waters
are impregnated not with silica, but with sulphur, and they thus
approach more nearly in their character to mud-volcanoes, whose
ejections are, in like manner, much impregnated with that
substance. They are also, like them, collected in groups, there
being no less than one hundred openings within a space of flat
ground a mile square. Owing to their number and proximity, their
individual energy is nothing like so violent as that of the geysers
of Iceland. Their jets seldom rise higher than 20 or 30 feet; but
so great a number playing within so confined a space produces an
imposing effect. The jets of boiling water issue with a loud noise
from little conical mounds, around which the ground is merely a
crust of sulphur. When this crust is penetrated, the boiling water
may be seen underneath. The rocks in the neighborhood of these
fountains are all corroded by the action of the sulphurous vapors.
Nevertheless, within a distance of not more than 50 feet from them,
trees grow without injury to their health.
Few of these fountains, however, are regular geysers, most of them
discharging only steam. From the Steamboat Geyser this ascends to
a height of from 50 to 100 feet, with a roar like that of the
escape from a steamboat boiler. Associated with the geysers are
numerous hot springs, some clear, some turbid, and variously
impregnated with iron, sulphur or alum. In Nevada the Steamboat
Springs, as they are designated, exist in Washoe Valley, east of
the Virginian range. They come nearer in character to the
Yellowstone geysers, their waters depositing true geyserite, or
silicious concretions. The Volcano Springs, in Lauder County, are
also true geysers, though of small importance. The ground here is
so thickly perforated by holes from which steam escapes that it
looks like a cullender.
THE YELLOWSTONE GEYSERS
The most remarkable geyser country in the world, alike for the size
and the number of its spouting fountains, is the Yellowstone region
in the northwest part of the Territory of Wyoming, in the United
States, which, by a special act of Congress, has been reserved as
the Yellowstone National Park, exempt from settlement, purchase or
pre-emption. Here nearly every form of geyser and unintermittent
hot spring occurs, with deposits of various kinds, silicious,
calcareous, etc. Of the hot springs, Dr. Peale enumerates 2,195,
and considers that within the limits of the park--which is about 54
miles by 62 miles, and includes 3,312 square miles--as many as
3,000 actually exist. The same geologist notes the existence of 71
geysers in the area mentioned, though some of the number are only
inferred to be spouting springs from the form of their basins and
the character of the surrounding deposits. Of this vast collection
of still and eruptive springs, between which there seems every
gradation, those which do not send water into the air are, owing to
the magnificent cascades which they form, often quite as remarkable
as those which take the shape of geysers. The more striking of the
latter may, however, be briefly mentioned.
In the Gibbon Basin is a geyser of late origin. In 1878 this
consisted of two steam holes, roaring on the side of a hill, that
looked as if they had recently burst through the surface; and the
gully leading towards the ravine was at that date filled with sand,
which appeared to have been poured out during an eruption. Dead
trees stood on the line of this sand floor, and others, with their
bark still remaining, and even with their foliage not lost, were
uprooted hard by, everything indicating that the "steamboat vent,"
as it was called, was of recent formation. In 1875 it had no
existence, but in 1879 the spouting spring--which first opened, it
is believed, on the 11th of August in the preceding year--had
"settled down to business as a very powerful flowing geyser," with
a double period; one eruption occurring every half hour, and
projecting water to the height of 30 feet; the main eruption
occurring every six or seven days, with long continued action, and
a column of nearly 100 feet.
The New Geyser in the same basin is also of quite recent origin.
It consists of two fissures in the rock, in which the water boils
vigorously. But there is no mound, and the rocks of the fissure
are just beginning to get a coating of the silicious geyserite
deposited from the water, so that it cannot long have been
spouting. Again, in the Grotto Geyser--in the Upper Geyser Basin
of Fire Hole River--the main or larger crater is hollowed into
fantastic arches, beneath which are the grotto-like cavities from
which it is named, which act as lateral orifices for the escape of
water during an eruption. It plays several times in the course of
the twenty-four hours, and sends a column of water sixty feet high,
the eruption lasting an hour. As yet, however, the force of the
water has not been sufficient, or of sufficiently long duration, to
break through the arches covering the basin or crater. The
Excelsior--claimed to be the largest of its order, which sent water
nearly 300 feet into the air at intervals of about five hours, and
of such volume as to wash away bridges over small streams below--
was not, until comparatively recent years, known as a specially
powerful geyser. But if it had for a time waned in importance, its
immense crater, 330 feet in length and 200 feet at the widest part,
shows that at a still earlier date it was a gigantic fountain. In
this deep pit, when the breeze wafted aside the clouds of steam
constantly arising from its surface, the water could be seen
seething 15 or 20 feet below the surrounding level. Yet into the
cauldron of boiling water a little stream of cold water, from the
melting snow of the uplands, ran unceasingly. Since 1888 this
great geyser has been inactive.
The Castle Geyser is so named on account of the fancied resemblance
which its mound of white and grey deposit presents to the ruins of
a feudal keep, the crater itself being placed on a cone or turret,
which has a somewhat imposing appearance compared with the other
geysers in the neighborhood. It throws a column usually about
fifty or sixty feet high, at intervals of two or three hours, but
sometimes the discharge shoots up much higher.
The Giant, in the Upper Geyser Basin, has a peculiar crater, which
has been likened to the stump of a hollow sycamore tree of gigantic
proportions, whose top has been wrenched off by a storm. This
curious cup is broken down at one side, as though it had been torn
away during an eruption of more than ordinary violence, and on this
side the visitor is able to look into the crater, if he can
contrive to avoid the jets which are constantly spouted from it.
The periods of rest which it takes are varied, an eruption often
not occurring for several days at a time; yet when it breaks out it
continues playing for more than three hours, with a volume of water
reaching a height of from 130 to 140 feet. In the interval little
spouts are constantly in progess. Mr. Stanley saw one eruption
which he calculated to have shot a column of water to the height of
more than 200 feet. At first it seemed as though the geyser was
only making a feint, the discharge which preceded the great one
being merely repeated several times, followed by a cessation both
of the rumbling noises and of the ejection of water. But soon,
after a premonitory cloud of steam, the geyser began to work in
earnest, the column discharged rising higher and higher, until it
reached the altitude mentioned.
"At first it appeared to labor in raising the immense volume, which
seemed loath to start on its heavenward tour; but it was with
perfect ease that the stupendous column was held to its place, the
water breaking into jets and returning in glittering showers to the
basin. The steam ascended in dense volumes for thousands of feet,
when it was freighted on the wings of the winds and borne away in
clouds. The fearful rumble and confusion attending it were as the
sound of distant artillery, the rushing of many horses to battle,
or the roar of a fearful tornado. It commenced to act at 2 P. M.,
and continued for an hour and a half, the latter part of which it
emitted little else than steam, rushing upward from its chambers
below, of which, if controlled, there was enough to run an engine
of wonderful power. The waving to and fro of such a gigantic
fountain, when the column is at its height,
'Tinselled o'er in robes of varying hues,'
and glistening in the bright sunlight, which adorns it with the
glowing colors of many a gorgeous rainbow, affords a spectacle so
wonderful and grandly magnificent, so overwhelming to the mind,
that the ablest attempt at description gives the reader who has
never witnessed such a display but a feeble idea of its glory."
A DESCRIPTION OF THE GEYSER AT WORK
The only other geysers in this remarkable geyserland which we can
spare room to notice are those known as the Giantess, the Beehive,
and the Grand. The Giantess sends a column of water to the height
of 250 feet. An eruption is usually divided into three periods--
two preliminary efforts and a final one, divided from each other by
intervals of between one and two hours, while the intervals of
discharge are very long. Sometimes it does not play for several
weeks. The Beehive, which is 400 feet from the Giantess, gets its
name from the peculiar beehive-like cone which it has formed. The
eruption is also almost unique. It is heralded by a slight escape
of steam, which is followed by a column of steam and water,
shooting to the height of over 200 feet. The column is somewhat
fan-shaped, but it does not fall in rain, the spray being
evaporated and carried off as steam--if, indeed, there is not more
steam than water in the column. The duration of the discharge is
between four and five minutes, and the interval between two
eruptions from twenty-one to twenty-five hours.
The Grand is one of the most important in the Upper Geyser basin.
Yet, unlike the Grotto, the Giant, or the Old Faithful,--so called
from its frequent and regular eruptions--it has no raised cone or
crater, and a much less cavernous bowl than the Giantess and other
geysers. The column discharged ascends to the height of from
eighty to two hundred feet, and the eruptions last from fifteen
minutes to three-quarters of an hour, with intervals on an average
of from seven to twenty hours. This fountain is apparently very
irregular in its action, though it is just possible that when the
Yellowstone geysers have been more consecutively studied, it will
be found that these seeming irregularities depend on the varying
supplies of water at different times of the year.
THE MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS
The marvellous phenomena of the Yellowstone region are not confined
to geyser action, hot springs of steady flow being, as above
stated, exceedingly numerous. Of these the most striking are those
known as the Mammoth Hot Springs, whose waters find their way
through underground passages, finally flowing from an opening as
the "Boiling River," which empties into the Gardiner River.
These springs are marvels of beauty. Their terraced bowls, adorned
with delicate fret-work, are among the finest specimens of Nature's
handiwork in the world, and the colored waters themselves are
startling in their brilliancy. Red, pink, black, canary, green,
saffron, blue, chocolate, and all their intermediate gradations are
found here in exquisite harmony. The springs rise in terraces of
various heights and widths, having intermingled with their delicate
shades chalk-like cliffs, soft and crumbly, these latter being the
remains of springs from which the life and beauty have departed.
The great spring is the largest in the country, the water flowing
through three openings into a basin forty feet long by twenty-five
feet wide. From this the hot mineral waters drip over into lower
basins, of gracefully curved and scalloped outline, the minerals
deposited on the lips of the basin forming stalagmites of
variegated hue, yielding a brilliant and beautiful effect. The
terraced basins bear a close resemblance to the former New Zealand
pink and white terraces, and since the annihilation of the latter
are the most charming examples in existence of this rare form of
Nature's artistic handiwork.
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