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The San Francisco Calamity

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clearness, but the thirsty tongue at once detects it to be a very
strong solution of alum. The whole aspect of the place is
infernal, and naturally suggests the name given its principal
geyser, O-gigoko (Big Hell).

Fujiyama is almost a perfect cone, with, as above said, a truncated
top, in which is the crater. It is, however, less steep than
Mayon. Its upper part is comparatively steep, even to thirty-five
degrees, but below this portion the inclination gradually lessens,
till its elegant outlines are lost in the plain from which it
rises. The curves of the sides depend partly on the nature, size
and shape of the ejected material, the fine uniform pieces
remaining on comparatively steep slopes, while the larger and
rounder ones roll farther down, resting on the inclination that
afterward becomes curved from the subsidence of the central mass.

The most recent and one of the most destructive of volcanic
eruptions recorded in Japan was that of Bandaisan or Baldaisan.
For ages this mountain had been peaceful, and there was scarcely an
indication of its volcanic character or of the terrific forces
which lay dormant deep within its heart. On its flanks lay some
small deposits of scoriae, indications of far-past eruptions, and
there were some hot springs at its base, while steam arose from a
fissure. Yet there was nothing to warn the people of the vicinity
that deadly peril lay under their feet.


This sense of security was fatally dissipated on a day in July,
1888, when the mountain suddenly broke into eruption and flung
1,600 million cubic yards of its summit material so high into the
air that many of the falling fragments, in their fall, struck the
ground with such velocity as to be buried far out of sight. The
steam and dust were driven to a height of 13,000 feet, where they
spread into a canopy of much greater elevation, causing pitchy
darkness beneath. There were from fifteen to twenty violent
explosions, and a great landslide devastated about thirty square
miles and buried many villages in the Nagase Valley.

Mr. Norman, a traveler who visited the spot shortly afterward, thus
describes the scene of ruin. After a journey through the forests
which clothed the slopes of the volcanic mountain and prevented any
distant view, the travelers at last found themselves "standing upon
the ragged edge of what was left of the mountain of Bandaisan,
after two-thirds of it, including, of course, the summit, had been
literally blown away and spread over the face of the country.

"The original cone of the mountain," he continues, "had been
truncated at an acute angle to its axis. From our very feet a
precipitous mud slope falls away for half a mile or more till it
reaches the level. At our right, still below us, rises a mud wall
a mile long, also sloping down to the level, and behind it is
evidently the crater; but before us, for five miles in a straight
line, and on each side nearly as far, is a sea of congealed mud,
broken up into ripples and waves and great billows, and bearing
upon its bosom a thousand huge boulders, weighing hundreds of tons

On reaching the crater he found it to resemble a gigantic cauldron,
fully a mile in width, and enclosed with precipitous walls of
indurated mud. From several orifices volumes of steam rose into
the air, and when the vapor cleared away for a moment glimpses of a
mass of boiling mud were obtained. Before the eruption the
mountain top had terminated in three peaks. Of these the highest
had an elevation of about 5,800 feet. The peak destroyed was the
middle one, which was rather smaller than the other two.

"The explosion was caused by steam; there was neither fire nor lava
of any kind. It was, in fact, nothing more nor less than a
gigantic boiler explosion. The whole top and one side of Sho-
Bandai-san had been blown into the air in a lateral direction, and
the earth of the mountain was converted by the escaping steam, at
the moment of the explosion, into boiling mud, part of which was
projected into the air to fall at a long distance, and then take
the form of an overflowing river, which rushed with vast rapidity
and covered the country to a depth of from 20 to 150 feet. Thirty
square miles of country were thus devastated."

In the devastated lowlands and buried villages below and on the
slopes of the mountain many lives were lost. From the survivors
Mr. Norman gathered some information, enabling him to describe the
main features of the catastrophe. We append a brief outline of his


"At a few minutes past 8 o'clock in the morning a frightful noise
was heard by the inhabitants of a village ten miles distant from
the crater. Some of them instinctively took to flight, but before
they could run much more than a hundred yards the light of day was
suddenly changed into a darkness more intense than that of
midnight; a shower of blinding hot ashes and sand poured down upon
them; the ground was shaken with earthquakes, and explosion
followed explosion, the last being the most violent of all. Many
fugitives, as well as people in the houses, were overwhelmed by the
deluge of mud, none of the fugitives, when overtaken by death,
being more than two hundred yards from the village." From the
statements made by those fortunate enough to escape with their
lives, and from a personal examination of the ground, Mr. Norman
inferred that the mud must have been flung fully six miles through
the air and then have poured in a torrent along the ground for four
miles further. All this was done in less than five minutes, so
that "millions of tons of boiling mud were hurled over the country
at the rate of two miles a minute."

The velocity of the mud torrent may perhaps be overestimated, but
in its awful suddenness this catastrophe was evidently one with few
equals. The cone destroyed may have been largely composed of
rather fine ashes and scoriae, which was almost instantaneously
converted into mud by the condensing steam and the boiling water
ejected. The quantity of water thus discharged must have been

Of the remaining volcanic regions of the Pacific, the New Zealand
islands present some of the most striking examples of activity.
All the central parts, indeed, of the northern island of the group
are of a highly volcanic character. There is here a mountain named
Tongariro, on whose snow-clad summit is a deep crater, from which
volcanic vapors are seen to issue, and which exhibits other
indications of having been in a state of greater activity at a not
very remote period of time. There is also, at no great distance
from this mountain, a region containing numerous funnel-shaped
chasms, emitting hot water, or steam, or sulphurous vapors, or
boiling mud. The earthquakes in New Zealand had probably their
origin in this volcanic focus.


Tongariro has a height of about 6,500 feet, while Egmont, 8,270
feet in height, is a perfect cone with a perpetual cap of snow.
There are many other volcanic mountains, and also great numbers of
mud volcanoes, hot springs and geysers. It is for the latter that
the island is best known to geologists. Their waters are at or
near the boiling point and contain silica in abundance.

At a place called Rotomahana, in the vicinity of Mount Tarawera,
there was formerly a lake of about one hundred and twenty acres in
area, which was in its way one of the most remarkable bodies of
water upon the earth. Formerly, we say, for this lake no longer
exists, it having been destroyed by the very forces to which it
owed its fame. Its waters were maintained nearly at the boiling
point by the continual accession of boiling water from numerous
springs. The most abundant of those sources was situated at the
height of about 100 feet above the level of the lake. It kept
continually filled an oval basin about 250 feet in circumference--
the margins of which were fringed all round with beautiful pure
white stalactites, formed by deposits of silica, with which the hot
water was strongly impregnated. At various stages below the
principal spring were several others, that contributed to feed the
lake at the bottom, in the centre of which was a small island.
Minute bubbles continually escaped from the surface of the water
with a hissing sound, and the sand all round the lake was at a high
temperature. If a stick was thrust into it, very hot vapors would
ascend from the hole. Not far from this lake were several small
basins filled with tepid water, which was very clear, and of a blue

The conditions here were of a kind with those to which are due the
great geysers of Iceland and the Yellowstone Park, but different in
the fact that instead of being intermittent and throwing up jets at
intervals, the springs allowed the water to flow from them in a
continuous stream.


The silicious incrustations left by the overflow from the large
pool had made a series of terraces, two to six feet high, with the
appearance of being hewn from white or pink marble; each of the
basins containing a similar azure water. These terraces covered an
area of about three acres, and looked like a series of cataracts
changed into stone, each edge being fringed with a festoon of
delicate stalactites. The water contained about eighty-five per
cent. of silica, with one or two per cent of iron alumina, and a
little alkali.

There were no more beautiful products of nature upon the earth than
those "pink and white terraces," as they were called. The hot
springs of the Yellowstone have produced formations resembling
them, but not their equal in fairy-like charm. One series of these
terraced pools and cascades was of the purest white tint, the other
of the most delicate pink, the waters topping over the edge of each
pool and falling in a miniature cascade to the one next below, thus
keeping the edges built up by a continual renewal of the silicious
incrustation. But all their beauty could not save them from utter
and irremediable destruction by the forces below the earth's

On June 9, 1886, a great volcanic disturbance began in the Auckland
Lake region with a tremendous earthquake, followed during the night
by many others. At seven the next morning a lead-covered cloud of
pumice sand, advancing from the south, burst and discharged showers
of fine dust. The range of Mount Tarawera seemed to be in full
volcanic activity, including some craters supposed to be extinct,
and embracing an area of one hundred and twenty miles by twenty.

The showers of dust were so thick as to turn day into night for
nearly two days. Some lives were lost, and several villages were
destroyed, these being covered ten feet deep with ashes, dust and
clayey mud. The volcanic phenomena were of the most violent
character, and the whole island appears to have been more or less
convulsed. Mount Tarawera is said to be five hundred feet higher
than before the eruption; glowing masses were thrown up into the
air, and tongues of fiery hue, gases or illuminated vapors, five
hundred feet wide, towered up one thousand feet high. The mountain
was 2,700 feet in height.


This eruption presented a spectacle of rarely-equalled grandeur.
To travelers and strangers the greatest resultant loss will be the
destruction of those world-famous curiosities, the white and pink
terraces, in the vicinity of Lake Rotomahana and the region of the
famous geysers. The natives have a superstition that the eruption
of the extinct Tarawera was caused by the profanation of foreign
footsteps. It was to them a sacred place, and its crater a
repository for their dead. The first earthquake occurred in this
region. One side of the mountain fell in, and then the eruption
began. The basin of the lake was broken up and disappeared, but
again reappeared as a boiling mud cauldron; craters burst out in
various places, and the beautiful terraces were no more. After the
first day the violence gradually diminished, and in a week had
ceased. Very possibly another lake will be formed, and in time
other terraces; but it is hardly within the range of probability
that the beauty of the lost terraces will ever be paralleled.

In this eruption, as usual, we find the earthquake preceding the
volcanic outburst. New Zealand, like the Philippines, Java and the
Japanese Islands, is situated over a great earth-fissure or line of
weakness. Subsidence or dislocation from tensile strain of the
crust took place, and the influx of water to new regions of heated
strata may have developed the explosive force. The earthquake and
the volcano worked together here, as they frequently do,
unfortunately in this case destroying one of the most beautiful
scenes on the surface of the globe.


Much further south, on the frozen shore of Victoria Land in the
Antarctic regions, Sir James Ross, in 1841, sailing in his
discovery ships the Erebus and Terror, discovered two great
volcanic mountains, which he named after those two vessels. Mount
Erebus is continually covered, from top to bottom, with snow and
glaciers. The mountain is about 12,000 feet high, and although the
snow reaches to the very edge of the crater, there rise continually
from the summit immense volumes of volcanic fumes, illuminated by
the glare of glowing lava beneath them. The vapors ascend to an
estimated height of 2,200 feet above the top of the mountain.


The Wonderful Hawaiian Craters and Kilauea's Lake of Fire.

In the central region of the North Pacific Ocean lies the
archipelago formerly known as the Sandwich Islands, now
collectively designated as Hawaii. The people of the United States
should be specially interested in this island group, for it has
become one of our possessions, an outlying Territory of our growing
Republic, and in making it part of our national domain we have not
alone extended our dominion far over the seas, but have added to
the many marvels of nature within our land one of the chief wonders
of the world, the stupendous Hawaiian volcanoes, before whose
grandeur many of more ancient fame sink into insignificance.


The Island of Hawaii, the principal island of the group, we may
safely say contains the most enormous volcano of the earth.
Indeed, the whole island, which is 4000 square miles in extent, may
be regarded as of volcanic origin. It contains four volcanic
mountains--Kohola, Hualalia, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. The two last
named are the chief, the former being 13,800 feet, the latter
13,600 feet, above the sea-level. Although their height is so
vast, the ascent to their summits is so gradual that their
circumference at the base is enormous. The bulk of each of them is
reckoned to be equal to two and a half times that of Etna. Some of
the streams of lava which have emanated from them are twenty-six
miles in length by two miles in breadth.

On the adjoining island of Maui is a still larger volcano, the
mighty Haleakala, long since extinct, but memorable as possessing
the most stupendous crater on the face of the earth. The mountain
itself is over 10,000 feet high, and forms a great dome-like mass
of 90 miles circumference at base. The crater on its summit has a
length of 7 1/2 and a width of 2 1/4 miles, with a total area of
about sixteen square miles. The only approach in dimensions to
this enormous opening exists in the still living crater of Kilauea,
on the flank of Mauna Loa.


The peaks named are the most apparent remnants of a world-rending
volcanic activity in the remote past, by whose force this whole
Hawaiian island group was lifted up from the depths of the ocean,
here descending some three and a half miles below the surface
level. The coral reefs which abound around the islands are of
comparatively recent formation, and rest upon a substratum of lava
probably ages older, which forms the base of the archipelago. The
islands are volcanic peaks and ridges that have been pushed up
above the surrounding seas by the profound action of the interior
forces of the earth.

It must not be supposed that this action was a violent
perpendicular thrust upward over a very limited locality, for the
mountains continue to slope at about the same angle under the sea
and for great distances on every side, so that the islands are
really the crests of an extensive elevation, estimated to cover an
area of about 2000 miles in one direction by 150 or 200 miles in
the other. The process was probably a gradual one of up-building,
by means of which the sea receded as the land steadily rose. Some
idea of the mighty forces that have been at work beneath the sea
and above it can be gained by considering the enormous mass of
material now above the sea-level. Thus, the bulk of the island of
Hawaii, the largest of the group, has been estimated by the
Hawaiian Surveyor General as containing 3,600 cubic miles of lava
rock above sea-level. Taking the area of England at 50,000 square
miles, this mass of volcanic matter would cover that entire country
to a depth of 274 feet. We must remember, however, that what is
above sea-level is only a small fraction of the total amount, since
it sweeps down below the waves hundreds of miles on every side.


Of the lava openings on these islands, the extinct one of
Haleakala, as stated, with its twenty-seven miles circumference, is
far the most stupendous. It is easy of access, the mountain sides
leading to it presenting a gentle slope; while the walls of the
crater, in places perpendicular, in others are so sloping that man
and horse can descend them. The pit varies from 1500 to 2000 feet
in depth, its bottom being very irregular from the old lava flows
and the many cinder cones, these still looking as fresh as though
their fires had just gone out. Some of these cones are over 500
feet high. There is a tradition among the natives that the vast
lava streams which in the past flowed from the crater to the sea
continued to do so in the period of their remote ancestors. They
still, indeed, appear as if recent, though there are to-day no
signs of volcanic activity anywhere on this island.

In fact, the only volcano now active in the Hawaiian Islands is
Mauna Loa, in the southern section of the Island of Hawaii. A
striking feature of this is that it has two distinct and widely
disconnected craters, one on its summit, the other on its flank, at
a much lower level. The latter is the vast crater of Kilauea, the
largest active crater known on the face of the globe.


We cannot offer a better description of the aspect of this lava
abyss than to give Miss Bird's eloquent description of her
adventurous descent into it:

"The abyss, which really is at a height of four thousand feet on
the flank of Mauna Loa, has the appearance of a pit on a rolling
plain. But such a pit! It is quite nine miles in circumference,
and at its lowest area--which not long ago fell about three hundred
feet, just as the ice on a pond falls when the water below is
withdrawn--covers six square miles. The depth of the crater varies
from eight hundred to one thousand feet, according as the molten
sea below is at flood or ebb. Signs of volcanic activity are
present more or less throughout its whole depth and for some
distance along its margin, in the form of steam-cracks, jets of
sulphurous vapor, blowing cones, accumulating deposits of acicular
crystals of sulphur, etc., and the pit itself is constantly rent
and shaken by earthquakes. Great eruptions occur with
circumstances of indescribable terror and dignity; but Kilauea does
not limit its activity to these outbursts, but has exhibited its
marvellous phenomena through all known time in a lake or lakes on
the southern part of the crater three miles from this side.

"This lake--the Hale-mau-mau, or "House of everlasting Fire", of
the Hawaiian mythology, the abode of the dreaded goddess Pele--is
approachable with safety, except during an eruption. The
spectacle, however, varies almost daily; and at times the level of
the lava in the pit within a pit is so low, and the suffocating
gases are evolved in such enormous quantities, that travellers are
unable to see anything.

"At the time of our visit there had been no news from it for a
week; and as nothing was to be seen but a very faint bluish vapor
hanging round its margin, the prospect was not encouraging. After
more than an hour of very difficult climbing, we reached the lowest
level of the crater, pretty nearly a mile across, presenting from
above the appearance of a sea at rest; but on crossing it, we found
it to be an expanse of waves and convolutions of ashy-colored lava,
with huge cracks filled up with black iridescent rolls of lava only
a few weeks old. Parts of it are very rough and ridgy, jammed
together like field-ice, or compacted by rolls of lava, which may
have swelled up from beneath; but the largest part of the area
presents the appearance of huge coiled hawsers, the ropy formation
of the lava rendering the illusion almost perfect. These are riven
by deep cracks, which emit hot sulphurous vapors.

"As we ascended, the flow became hotter under our feet, as well as
more porous and glistening. It was so hot that a shower of rain
hissed as it fell upon it. The crust became increasingly insecure,
and necessitated our walking in single file with the guide in
front, to test the security of the footing. I fell through several
times, and always into holes full of sulphurous steam so
malignantly acid that my strong dogskin gloves were burned through
as I raised myself on my hands.

"We had followed the lava-flow for thirty miles up to the crater's
brink, and now we had toiled over recent lava for three hours, and,
by all calculations, were close to the pit; yet there was no smoke
or sign of fire, and I felt sure that the volcano had died out for
once for my special disappointment.

"Suddenly, just above and in front of us, gory drops were tossed in
the air, and springing forwards, we stood on the brink of Hale-mau-
mau, which was about thirty-five feet below us. I think we all
screamed. I know we all wept; but we were speechless, for a new
glory and terror had been added to the earth. It is the most
unutterable of wonderful things. The words of common speech are
quite useless. It is unimaginable, indescribable; a sight to
remember forever; a sight which at once took possession of every
faculty of sense and soul, removing one altogether out of the range
of ordinary life. Here was the real 'bottomless pit', 'the fire
which is not quenched', 'the place of Hell', 'the lake which
burneth with fire and brimstone', 'the everlasting burnings', 'the
fiery sea whose waves are never weary'. Perhaps those Scripture
phrases were suggested by the sight of some volcano in eruption.
There were groanings, rumblings, and detonations; rushings,
hissings, splashings, and the crashing sound of breakers on the
coast; but it was the surging of fiery waves upon a fiery shore.
But what can I write? Such words as jets, fountains, waves, spray,
convey some idea of order and regularity, but here there are none.

"The inner lake, while we stood there, formed a sort of crater
within itself; the whole lava sea rose about three feet; a blowing
cone about eight feet high was formed; it was never the same two
minutes together. And what we saw had no existence a month before,
and probably will be changed in every essential feature a month
from hence. The prominent object was fire in motion; but the
surface of the double lake was continually skimming over for a
second or two with a cool crust of lustrous grey-white, like frost-
silver, broken by jagged cracks of a bright rose-color. The
movement was nearly always from the sides to the centre; but the
movement of the centre itself appeared independent, and always took
a southerly direction. Before each outburst of agitation there was
much hissing and throbbing, with internal roaring as of imprisoned
gases. Now it seemed furious, demoniacal, as if no power on earth
could bind it, then playful and sportive; then for a second
languid, but only because it was accumulating fresh force.
Sometimes the whole lake took the form of mighty waves, and,
surging heavily against the partial barrier with a sound like the
Pacific surf, lashed, tore, covered it, and threw itself over it in
clots of living fire. It was all confusion, commotion, forces,
terror, glory, majesty, mystery, and even beauty. And the color,
'eye hath not seen' it! Molten metal hath not that crimson gleam,
nor blood that living light."

To this description we may add that of Mr. Ellis, a former
missionary to these islands, and one of the number who have
descended to the shores of Kilauea's abyss of fire. He says, after
describing his difficult descent and progress over the lava-strewn


"Immediately before us yawned an immense gulf, in the form of a
crescent, about two miles in length, from northeast to southwest;
nearly a mile in width, and apparently 800 feet deep. The bottom
was covered with lava, and the southwestern and northern parts of
it were one vast flood of burning matter in a state of terrific
ebullition, rolling to and fro its 'fiery surges' and flaming
billows. Fifty-one conical islands, of varied form and size,
containing as many craters, rose either round the edge or from the
surface of the burning lake; twenty-two constantly emitted columns
of gray smoke or pyramids of brilliant flame, and several of these
at the same time vomited from their ignited mouths streams of lava,
which rolled in blazing torrents down their black indented sides
into the boiling mass below.

"The existence of these conical craters led us to conclude that the
boiling cauldron of lava before us did not form the focus of the
volcano; that this mass of melted lava was comparatively shallow,
and that the basin in which it was contained was separated by a
stratum of solid matter from the great volcanic abyss, which
constantly poured out its melted contents through these numerous
craters into this upper reservoir. The sides of the gulf before
us, although composed of different strata of ancient lava, were
perpendicular for about 400 feet, and rose from a wide horizontal
ledge of solid black lava of irregular breadth, but extending
completely round. Beneath this ledge the sides sloped gradually
towards the burning lake, which was, as nearly as we could judge,
300 or 400 feet lower.

"It was evident that the large crater had been recently filled with
liquid lava up to this black ledge, and had, by some subterraneous
canal, emptied itself into the sea or spread under the low land on
the shore. The gray and in some places apparently calcined sides
of the great crater before us, the fissures which intersected the
surface of the plain on which we were standing, the long banks of
sulphur on the opposite side of the abyss, the vigorous action of
the numerous small craters on its borders, the dense columns of
vapor and smoke that rose at the north and west end of the plain,
together with the ridge of steep rocks by which it was surrounded,
rising probably in some places 300 or 400 feet in perpendicular
height, presented an immense volcanic panorama, the effect of which
was greatly augmented by the constant roaring of the vast furnaces


Of the two great craters of Mauna Loa, the summit one has
frequently in modern times overflowed its crest and poured its
molten streams in glowing rivers over the land. This has rarely
been the case with the lower and incessantly active crater of
Kilauea, whose lava, when in excess, appears to escape by
subterranean channels to the sea. We append descriptions of some
of the more recent examples of Mauna Loa's eruptive energy. The
lava from this crater does not alone flow over the crater's lip,
but at times makes its way through fissures far below, the immense
pressure causing it to spout in great flashing fountains high into
the air. In 1852 the fiery fountains reached a height of 500 feet.
In some later eruptions they have leaped 1,000 feet high. The lava
is white hot as it ascends, but it assumes a blood-red tint in its
fall, and strikes the ground with a frightful noise.

The quantities of lava ejected in some of the recent eruptions have
been enormous. The river-like flow of 1855 was remarkable for its
extent, being from two to eight miles wide, with a depth of from
three to three hundred feet, and extending in a winding course for
a distance of sixty miles. The Apostle of Hawaiian volcanoes, the
Rev. Titus Coan, who ventured to the source of this flow while it
was in supreme action, thus describes it:--

"We ascended our rugged pathway amidst steam and smoke and heat
which almost blinded and scathed us. We came to open orifices down
which we looked into the fiery river which rushed madly under our
feet. These fiery vents were frequent, some of them measuring ten,
twenty, fifty or one hundred feet in diameter. In one place we saw
the river of lava uncovered for thirty rods and rushing down a
declivity of from ten to twenty-five degrees. The scene was awful,
the momentum incredible, the fusion perfect (white heat), and the
velocity forty miles an hour. The banks on each side of the stream
were red-hot, jagged and overhanging. As we viewed it rushing out
from under its ebon counterpane, and in the twinkling of an eye
diving again into its fiery den, it seemed to say, 'Stand off!
Scan me not! I am God's messenger. A work to do. Away!'"

Later he wrote again:--"The great summit fountain is still playing
with fearful energy, and the devouring stream rushes madly down
toward us. It is now about ten miles distant, and heading directly
for our bay. In a few days we may be called to announce the
painful fact that our beauteous Hilo is no more,--that our lovely,
our inimitable landscape, our emerald bowers, our crescent strand
and our silver bay are blotted out. A fiery sword hangs over us.
A flood of burning ruin approaches us. Devouring fires are near
us. With sure and solemn progress the glowing fusion advances
through the dark forest and the dense jungle in our rear, cutting
down ancient trees of enormous growth and sweeping away all
vegetable life. For months the great summit furnace on Mauna Loa
has been in awful blast. Floods of burning destruction have swept
wildly and widely over the top and down the sides of the mountain.
The wrathful stream has overcome every obstacle, winding its fiery
way from its high source to the bases of the everlasting hills,
spreading in a molten sea over the plains, penetrating the ancient
forests, driving the bellowing herds, the wild goats and the
affrighted birds before its lurid glare, leaving nothing but ebon
blackness and smoldering ruin in its track."

His anticipation of the burial of Hilo under the mighty flow was
happily not realized. It came to an abrupt halt while seven miles
distant, the checked stream standing in a threatening and rugged
ridge, with rigid, beetling front.


In January, 1859, Mauna Loa was again at its fire-play, throwing up
lava fountains from 800 to 1,000 feet in height. From this great
fiery fountain the lava flowed down in numerous streams, spreading
over a width of five or six miles. One stream, probably formed by
the junction of several smaller, attained a height of from twenty
to twenty-five feet, and a breadth of about an eighth of a mile.
Great stones were thrown up along with the jet of lava, and the
volume of seeming smoke, composed probably of fine volcanic dust,
is said to have risen to the height of 10,000 feet.

An eruption of still greater violence took place in 1865,
characterized by similar phenomena, particularly the throwing up of
jets of lava. This fiery fountain continued to play without
intermission for twenty days and nights, varying only as respects
the height to which the jet arose, which is said to have ranged
between 100 and 1,000 feet, the mean diameter of the jet being
about 100 feet. This eruption was accompanied by explosions so
loud as to have been heard at a distance of forty miles.

A cone of about 300 feet in height, and about a mile in
circumference, was accumulated round the orifice whence the jet
ascended. It was composed of solid matters ejected with the lava,
and it continued to glow like a furnace, notwithstanding its
exposure to the air. The current of lava on this occasion flowed
to a distance of thirty-five miles, burning its way through the
forests, and filling the air with smoke and flames from the ignited
timber. The glare from the glowing lava and the burning trees
together was discernible by night at a distance of 200 miles from
the island.


A succeeding great lava flow was that which began on November 6,
1880. Mr. David Hitchcock, who was camping on Mauna Kea at the
time of this outbreak, saw a spectacle that few human eyes have
ever beheld. "We stood," writes he, "on the very edge of that
flowing river of rock. Oh, what a sight it was! Not twenty feet
from us was this immense bed of rock slowly moving forward with
irresistible force, bearing on its surface huge rocks and immense
boulders of tons' weight as water would carry a toy-boat. The
whole front edge was one bright red mass of solid rock incessantly
breaking off from the towering mass and rolling down to the foot of
it, to be again covered by another avalanche of white-hot rocks and
sand. The whole mass at its front edge was from twelve to thirty
feet in height. Along the entire line of its advance it was one
crash of rolling, sliding, tumbling red-hot rock. We could hear no
explosions while we were near the flow, only a tremendous roaring
like ten thousand blast furnaces all at work at once."

This was the most extensive flow of recent years, and its progress
from the interior plain through the dense forests above Hilo and
out on to the open levels close to the town was startling and
menacing enough. Through the woods especially it was a turbulent,
seething mass that hurled down mammoth trees, and licked up streams
of water, and day and night kept up an unintermitting cannonade of
explosions. The steam and imprisoned gases would burst the
congealing surface with loud detonations that could be heard for
many miles. It was not an infrequent thing for parties to camp out
close to the flow over night. Ordinarily a lava-flow moves
sluggishly and congeals rapidly, so that what seems like hardihood
in the narrating is in reality calm judgment, for it is perfectly
safe to be in the close vicinity of a lava-stream, and even to walk
on its surface as soon as one would be inclined to walk on cooling
iron in a foundry. This notable flow finally ceased within half a
mile of Hilo, where its black form is a perpetual reminder of a
marvellous deliverance from destruction.


Kilauea seems never, in historic times, to have filled and
overflowed its vast crater. To do so would need an almost
inconceivable volume of liquid rock material. But it approached
this culmination in 1840, when it became, through its whole extent,
a raging sea of fire. The boiling lava rose in the mighty
mountain-cup to a height of from 500 to 600 feet. Then it forced a
passage through a subterranean cavity twenty-seven miles long, and
reached the sea forty miles distant, in two days. The stream where
it fell into the sea was half a mile wide, and the flow kept up for
three weeks, heating the ocean twenty miles from land. An eye-
witness of this extraordinary flow thus describes it:

"When the torrent of fire precipitated itself into the ocean, the
scene assumed a character of terrific and indescribable grandeur.
The magnificence of destruction was never more perceptibly
displayed than when these antagonistic elements met in deadly
strife. The mightiest of earth's magazines of fire poured forth
its burning billows to meet the mightiest of oceans. For two score
miles it came rolling, tumbling, swelling forward, an awful agent
of death. Rocks melted like wax in its path; forests crackled and
blazed before its fervent heat; the works of man were to it but as
a scroll in the flames. Imagine Niagara's stream, above the brink
of the Falls, with its dashing, whirling, madly-raging waters
hurrying on to their plunge, instantaneously converted into fire; a
gory-hued river of fused minerals; volumes of hissing steam
arising; some curling upward from ten thousand vents, which give
utterance to as many deep-toned mutterings, and sullen, confined
clamorings; gases detonating and shrieking as they burst from their
hot prison-house; the heavens lurid with flame; the atmosphere dark
and oppressive; the horizon murky with vapors and gleaming with the
reflected contest!

"Such was the scene as the fiery cataract, leaping a precipice of
fifty feet, poured its flood upon the ocean. The old line of
coast, a mass of compact, indurated lava, whitened, cracked and
fell. The waters recoiled, and sent forth a tempest of spray; they
foamed and dashed around and over the melted rock, they boiled with
the heat, and the roar of the conflicting agencies grew fiercer and
louder. The reports of the exploding gases were distinctly heard
twenty-five miles distant, and were likened to a whole broadside of
heavy artillery. Streaks of the intensest light glanced like
lightning in all directions; the outskirts of the burning lava as
it fell, cooled by the shock, were shivered into millions of
fragments, and scattered by the strong wind in sparkling showers
far into the country. For three successive weeks the volcano
disgorged an uninterrupted burning tide, with scarcely any
diminution, into the ocean. On either side, for twenty miles, the
sea became heated, with such rapidity that, on the second day of
the junction of the lava with the ocean, fishes came ashore dead in
great numbers, at a point fifteen miles distant. Six weeks later,
at the base of the hills, the water continued scalding hot, and
sent forth steam at every wash of the waves."


In 1866 the great crater of Kilauea presented a new and unlooked-
for spectacle in the sinking and vanishing of its great lava lake.
In March of that year the fires in the ancient cauldron totally
disappeared, and the surrounding lava rock sank to a depth of
nearly 600 feet. Mr. Thrum, in a pamphlet on "The Suspended
Activity of Kilauea," says of it:

"Distant rumbling noises were heard, accompanied by a series of
earthquakes, forty-three in number. With the fourth shock the
brilliancy of New Lake disappeared, and towards 3 A. M. the fires
in Halemaumau disappeared also, leaving the whole crater in

"With the dawn the shocks and noises ceased, and revealed the
changes which Kilauea had undergone in the night. All the high
cliffs surrounding Halemaumau and New Lake, which had become a
prominent feature in the crater, had vanished entirely, and the
molten lava of both lakes had disappeared by some subterranean
passage from the bottom of Halemaumau. There was no material
change in the sunken portion of the crater except a continual
falling in of rocks and debris from its banks as the contraction
from its former intense heat loosened their compactness and sent
them hurling some 200 or 300 feet below, giving forth at times a
boom as of distant thunder, followed by clouds of cinders and ashes
shooting up into the air 100 to 300 feet, proportionate, doubtless,
to the size of the newly fallen mass.

This remarkable recession of the liquid lava in Halemaumau was
probably due to the opening of some deep subterranean passage
through which the lake of lava made its way unseen to the ocean's
depths. The Rev. Mr. Baker, probably the most adventuresome
explorer of Hawaiian volcanoes, actually descended into that
crumbling pit to a point within what he judged to be fifty feet of
the bottom. But Halemaumau had only taken an intermission, for in
two short months signs of returning life became frequent and
unmistakable, and, in June, culminated in the sudden outbreak of a
lake that has since then steadily increased in activity.


We cannot close this chapter without some reference to the Goddess
Pele, to whom the Hawaiians long imputed the wonder-work of their
volcanic mountains. When there is unusual commotion in Kilauea
myriads of thread-like filaments float in the air and fall upon the
cliffs, making deposits much resembling matted hair. A single
filament over fifteen inches long was picked up on a Hilo veranda,
having sailed in the air a distance of fifty miles. This is the
famous Pele's Hair, being the glass-like product of volcanic fires.
It resembles Prince Rupert's Drops, and the tradition is that
whenever the volcano becomes active it is because Pele, the Goddess
of the crater, emerges from her fiery furnace and shakes her
vitreous locks in anger.

This fabled being, according to Emerson, in a paper on "The Lesser
Hawaiian Gods," "could at times assume the appearance of a handsome
young woman, as when Kamapauaa, to his cost, was smitten with her
charms when first he saw her with her sisters at Kilauea."
Kamapauaa was a gigantic hog, who "could appear as a handsome young
man, a hog, a fish or a tree." "At other times the innate
character of the fury showed itself, and Pele appeared in her usual
form as an ugly and hateful old hag, with tattered and fire-burnt
garments, scarcely concealing the filth and nakedness of her
person. Her bloodshot eyes and fiendish countenance paralized the
beholder, and her touch turned him to stone. She was a jealous and
vindictive monster, delighting in cruelty, and at the slightest
provocation overwhelming the unoffending victims of her rage in
widespread ruin."

The superstition regarding the Goddess Pele was thought to have
received a death blow in 1825, when Kapiolani, an Hawaiian princess
and a Christian convert, ascended, with numerous attendants, to the
crater of Kilauea, where she publicly defied the power and wrath of
the goddess. No response came to her defiance, she descended in
safety, and faith in Pele's power was widely shaken.

Yet as late as 1887 the old superstition revived and claimed an
exalted victim, for in that year the Princess Like Like, the
youngest sister of the king, starved herself to death to appease
the anger of the Goddess Pele, supposed to be manifested in Mauna
Loa's eruption of that year, and to be quieted only by the
sacrifice of a victim of royal blood. Thus slowly do the old
superstitions die away.


Popocatapetl and Other Volcanoes of Mexico and Central America.

Mexico is very largely a vast table-land, rising through much of
its extent to an elevation of from 7,000 to 8,000 feet above sea-
level, and bounded east and west by wide strips of torrid lowlands
adjoining the oceans. It is crossed at about 19 degrees north
latitude by a range of volcanic mountains, running in almost a
straight line east and west, upon which are several extinct
volcanic cones, and five active or quiescent volcanoes. The
highest of these is Popocatapetl, south of the city of Mexico and
nearly midway between the Atlantic and Pacific.

East of this mountain lies Orizabo, little below it in height, and
San Martin or Tuxtla, 9,700 feet high, on the coast south of Vera
Cruz. West of it is Jorullo, 4,000 feet, and Colima, 12,800, near
the Pacific coast. The volcanic energy continues southward toward
the Isthmus, but decreases north of this volcanic range. These
mountains have shown little signs of activity in recent times.
Popocatapetl emits smoke, but there is no record of an eruption
since 1540. Orizabo has been quiet since 1566. Tuxtla had a
violent eruption in 1793, but since then has remained quiescent.
Colima is the only one now active. For ten years past it has been
emitting ashes and smoke. The most remarkable of these volcanoes
is Jorullo, which closely resembled Monte Nuovo, described in
Chapter XIII., in its mode of origin.

Popocatapetl, the hill that smokes, in the Mexican language, the
huge mountain clothed in eternal snows, and regarded by the
idolaters of old as a god, towers up nearly 18,000 feet above the
level of the sea, and in the days of the conquest of Mexico was a
volcano in a state of fierce activity. It was looked upon by the
natives with a strange dread, and they told the white strangers
with awe that no man could attempt to ascend its slopes and yet
live; but, from a feeling of vanity, or the love of adventure, the
Spaniards laughed at these fears, and accordingly a party of ten of
the followers of Cortes commenced the ascent, accompanied by a few
Indians. But these latter, after ascending about 13,000 feet to
where the last remains of stunted vegetation existed, became
alarmed at the subterranean bellowings of the volcano, and
returned, while the Spaniards still painfully toiled on through the
rarefied atmosphere, their feet crushing over the scoriae and
black-glazed volcanic sand, until they stood in the region of
perpetual snow, amidst the glittering, treacherous glaciers and
crevasses, with vast slippery-pathed precipices yawning round.

Still they toiled on in this wild and wondrous region. A few hours
before they were in a land of perpetual summer; here all was snow.
They suffered the usual distress awarded to those who dare to
ascend to these solitudes of nature but it was not given to them to
achieve the summit, for suddenly, at a higher elevation, after
listening to various ominous threatenings from the interior of the
volcano, they encountered so fierce a storm of smoke, cinders, and
sparks, that they were driven back half suffocated to the lower
portions of the mountain.

Some time after another attempt was made; and upon this occasion
with a definite object. The invaders had nearly exhausted their
stock of gunpowder, and Cortes organized a party to ascend to the
crater of the volcano, to seek and bring down sulphur for the
manufacture of this necessary of warfare. This time the party
numbered but five, led by one Francisco Montano; and they
experienced no very great difficulty in winning their way upwards.
The region of verdure gave place to the wild, lava-strewn slope,
which was succeeded in its turn by the treacherous glaciers; and at
last the gallant little band stood at the very edge of the crater,
a vast depression of over a league in circumference, and 1,000 feet
in depth.


Flame was issuing from the hideous abysses, and the stoutest man's
heart must have quailed as he peered down into the dim, mysterious
cavity to where the sloping sides were crusted with bright yellow
sulphur, and listened to the mutterings which warned him of the
pent-up wrath and power of the mighty volcano. They knew that at
any moment flame and stifling sulphurous vapor might be belched
forth, but now no cowardice was shown. They had come provided with
ropes and baskets, and it only remained to see who should descend.
Lots were therefore drawn, and it fell to Montano, who was
accordingly lowered by his followers in a basket 400 feet into the
treacherous region of eternal fires.

The basket swayed and the rope quivered and vibrated, but the brave
cavalier sturdily held to his task, disdaining to show fear before
his humble companions. The lurid light from beneath flashed upon
his tanned features, and a sulphurous steam rose slowly and
condensed upon the sides; but, whatever were his thoughts, the
Spaniard collected as much sulphur as he could take up with him,
breaking off the bright incrustations, and even dallying with his
task as if in contempt of the danger, till he had leisurely filed
his basket, when the signal was given and he was drawn up. The
basket was emptied, and then he once more descended into the lurid
crater, collected another store and was again drawn up; but far
from shrinking from his task, he descended again several times,
till a sufficiency had been obtained, with which the party
descended to the plain.


No further back than the middle of the eighteenth century the site
of Jorullo was a level plain, including several highly-cultivated
fields, which formed the farm of Don Pedro di Jorullo. The plain
was watered by two small rivers, called Cuitimba and San Pedro, and
was bounded by mountains composed of basalt--the only indications
of former volcanic action. These fields were well irrigated, and
among the most fertile in the country, producing abundant crops of
sugar-cane and indigo.

In the month of June, 1759, the cultivators of the farm began to be
disturbed by strange subterranean noises of an alarming kind,
accompanied by frequent shocks of earthquake, which continued for
nearly a couple of months; but they afterward entirely ceased, so
that the inhabitants of the place were lulled into security. On
the night between the 28th and 29th of September, however, the
subterranean noises were renewed with greater loudness than before,
and the ground shook severely. The Indian servants living on the
place started from their beds in terror, and fled to the
neighboring mountains. Thence gazing upon their master's farm they
beheld it, along with a tract of ground measuring between three and
four square miles, in the midst of which it stood, rise up bodily,
as if it had been inflated from beneath like a bladder. At the
edges this tract was uplifted only about 39 feet above the original
surface, but so great was its convexity that toward the middle it
attained a height of no less than 524 feet.

The Indians who beheld this strange phenomenon declared that they
saw flames issuing from several parts of this elevated tract, that
the entire surface became agitated like a stormy sea, that great
clouds of ashes, illuminated by volcanic fires glowing beneath
them, rose at several points, and that white-hot stones were thrown
to an immense height. Vast chasms were at the same time opened in
the ground, and into these the two small rivers above mentioned
plunged. Their waters, instead of extinguishing the subterranean
conflagration, seemed only to add to its intensity. Quantities of
mud, enveloping balls of basalt, were then thrown up, and the
surface of the elevated ground became studded with small cones,
from which volumes of dense vapor, chiefly steam, were emitted,
some of the jets rising from 20 to 30 feet in height.

These cones the Indians called ovens, and in many of them was long
heard a subterranean noise resembling that of water briskly
boiling. Out of a great chasm in the midst of those ovens there
were thrown up six larger elevations, the highest being 1,640 feet
above the level of the plain, 4,315 above sea level, and now
constituting the principal volcano of Jorullo. The smallest of the
six was 300 feet in height; the others of intermediate elevation.
The highest of these hills had on its summit a regular volcanic
crater, whence there have been thrown up great quantities of dross
and lava, containing fragments of older rocks. The ashes were
transported to immense distances, some of them having fallen on the
houses at Queretaro, more than forty-eight leagues from Jorullo.
The volcano continued in this energetic state of activity for about
four months; in the following years its eruptions became less
frequent, but it still continues to emit volumes of vapor from the
principal crater, as well as from many of the ovens in the upheaved


The two rivers, which disappeared on the first night of this great
eruption, now pursue an underground course for about a mile and a
quarter, and then reappear as hot springs, with a temperature of
126 degrees F.

This wonderful volcanic upheaval is all the more remarkable, from
the inland situation of the plain on which it occurred, it being no
less than 120 miles distant from the nearest ocean, while there is
no other volcano nearer to it than 80 miles. The activity of the
ovens has now ceased, and portions of the upheaved plain on which
they are situated have again been brought under cultivation, and
the volcano is in a state of quiescence.

The crater of Popocatapetl, which towers to a height of 17,000
feet, is a vast circular basin, whose nearly vertical walls are in
some parts of a pale rose tint, in others quite black. The bottom
contains several small fuming cones, whence arise vapors of
changeable color, being successively red, yellow and white. All
round them are large deposits of sulphur, which are worked for
mercantile purposes.

Orizaba has a little less lofty snow-clad peak. This mountain was
in brisk volcanic activity from 1545 to 1560, but has since then
relapsed into a prolonged repose. It was climbed, in 1856, by
Baron Muller, to whose mind the crater appeared like the entrance
to a lower world of horrible darkness. He was struck with
astonishment on contemplating the tremendous forces required to
elevate and rend such enormous masses--to melt them, and then pile
them up like towers, until by cooling they became consolidated into
their present forms. The internal walls of the crater are in many
places coated with sulphur, and at the bottom are several small
volcanic craters. At the time of his visit the summit was wholly
covered with snow, but the Indians affirmed that hot vapors
occasionally ascend from fissures in the rocks. Since then others
have reached its summit, among them Angelo Heilprin, the first to
gaze into the crater of Mont Pelee after its eruption.


On the 14th of November, 1867, there commenced an eruption from a
mountain about eight leagues to the eastward of the city of Leon,
in Nicaragua. This mountain does not appear to have been
previously recognized as an active volcano, but it is situated in a
very volcanic country. The outburst had probably some connection
with the earthquake at St. Thomas, which took place on the 18th of
November following. The mountain continued in a state of activity
for about sixteen days. There was thrown out an immense quantity
of black sand, which was carried as far as to the coast of the
Pacific, fifty miles distant. Glowing stones were projected from
the crater to an estimated height of three thousand feet.

Central America is more prolific of volcanoes than Mexico, and the
State of Guatemala in particular. One authority credits this State
with fifteen or sixteen and another with more than thirty volcanic
cones. Of these at least five are decidedly active. Tajumalco,
which was in eruption at the time of the great earthquake of 1863,
yields great quantities of sulphur, as also does Quesaltenango.
The most famous is the Volcan de Agua (Water Volcano), so called
from its overwhelming the old city of Guatemala with a torrent of
water in 1541.

Nicaragua is also rich in volcanoes, being traversed its entire
length by a remarkable chain of isolated volcanic cones, several of
which are to some extent active. We have already told the story of
the tremendous eruption of Coseguina in 1835, one of the most
violent of modern times. The latest important eruption here was
that of Ometepec, a volcanic mount on an island of the same name in
Lake Nicaragua. This broke a long period of repose on June 19,
1883, with a severe eruption, in which the lava, pouring from a new
crater, in seven days overflowed the whole island and drove off its
population. Incessant rumblings and earthquake shocks accompanied
the eruption, and mud, ashes, stones and lava covered the mountain
slopes, which had been cultivated for many centuries. These were
the most recent strong displays of volcanic energy in Central
America, though former great outflows of lava are indicated by
great fields of barren rock, which extend for miles.


The Terrible Eruption of Krakatoa.

The most destructive volcanic explosion of recent times, one
perhaps unequalled in violence in all times, was that of the small
mountain island of Krakatoa, in the East Indian Archipelago, in
1883. This made its effects felt round the entire globe, and
excited such wide attention that we feel called upon to give it a
chapter of its own.

The island of Krakatoa lies in the Straits of Sunda, between Java
and Sumatra. In size it is insignificant, and had been silent so
long that its volcanic character was almost lost sight of. Of its
early history we know nothing. At some remote time in the past it
may have appeared as a large cone, of some twenty-five miles in
circumference at base and not less than 10,000 feet high. Then,
still in unknown times, its cone was blown away by internal forces,
leaving only a shattered and irregular crater ring. This crater
was two or three miles in diameter, while the highest part of its
walls rose only a few hundred feet above the sea. Later volcanic
work built up a number of small cones within the crater, and still
later a new cone, called Rakata, rose on the edge of the old one to
a height of 2,623 feet.

The first known event in the history of the island volcano was an
eruption in the year 1680. After that it lay in repose, forming a
group of islands, one much larger than the others. Some of the
smaller islands indicated the rim of the old crater, much of which
was buried under the sea. Its state of quiescence continued for
two centuries, a tropical vegetation richly mantled the island, and
to all appearance it had sunk permanently to rest.

Indications of a coming change appeared in 1880, in the form of
earthquakes, which shook all the region around. These continued at
intervals for more that two years. Then, on May 20, 1883, there
were heard at Batavia, a hundred miles away, "booming sounds like
the firing of artillery." Next day the captain of a vessel passing
through the Straits saw that Krakatoa was in eruption, sending up
clouds of smoke and showers of dust and pumice. The smoke was
estimated to reach a height of seven miles, while the volcanic dust
drifted to localities 300 miles away.


The mountain continued to play for about fourteen weeks with
varying activity, several parties meanwhile visiting it and making
observations. Such an eruption, in ordinary cases, would have
ultimately died away, with no marked change other than perhaps the
ejection of a stream of lava. But such was not now the case. The
sequel was at once unexpected and terrible. As the island was
uninhabited, no one actually saw what took place, those nearest to
the scene of the eruption having enough to do to save their own
lives, while the dense clouds of vapor and dust baffled

The phase of greatest violence set in on Sunday, August 26th. Soon
after midday sailors on passing ships saw that the island had
vanished behind a dense cloud of black vapor, the height of which
was estimated at not less than seventeen miles. At intervals
frightful detonations resounded, and after a time a rain of pumice
began to fall at places ten miles distant. For miles round fierce
flashes of lightning rent the vapor, and at a distance of fully
forty miles ghostly corposants gleamed on the rigging of a vessel.

These phenomena grew more and more alarming until August 27th, when
four explosions of fearful intensity shook earth and sea and air,
the third being "far the most violent and productive of the most
widespread results." It was, in fact, perhaps the most tremendous
volcanic outburst, in its intensity, known in human history. It
seemed to overcome the obstruction to the energy of the internal
forces, for the eruption now declined, and in a day or two
practically died away, though one or two comparatively
insignificant outbursts took place later.


The eruption spread ruin and death over many surrounding leagues.
At Krakotoa itself, when men once more reached its shores,
everything was found to be changed. About two-thirds of the main
island were blown completely away. The marginal cone was cut
nearly in half vertically, the new cliff falling precipitously
toward the centre of the crater. Where land had been before now
sea existed, in some places more than one hundred feet deep. But
the part of the island that remained had been somewhat increased in
size by ejected materials.

Of the other islands and islets some had disappeared; some were
partially destroyed; some were enlarged by fallen debris, while
many changes had taken place in the depth of the neighboring sea-
bed. Two new islands, Steers and Calmeyer, were formed. The
ejected pumice, so cavernous in structure as to float upon the
water, at places formed great floating islands which covered the
sea for miles, and sometimes rose from four to seven feet above it,
proving a serious obstacle to navigation. On vessels near by dust
fell to the depth of eighteen inches. The enormous clouds of
volcanic dust which had been flung high into the air darkened the
sky for a great area around. At Batavia, about a hundred miles
from the volcano, it produced an effect not unlike that of a London
fog. This began about seven in the morning of August 27th. Soon
after ten the light had become lurid and yellow, and lamps were
required in the houses; then came a downfall of rain, mingled with
dust, and by about half-past eleven the town was in complete
darkness. It soon after began to lighten, and the rain to
diminish, and about three o'clock it had ceased.

At Buitenzorg, twenty miles further away, the conditions were
similar, but lasted for a shorter time. In places much farther
away the upper sky presented a strangely murky aspect, and the sun
assumed a green color. Phenomena of this kind were traced over a
broad area of the globe, even as far as the Hawaiian Islands, while
over a yet wider area the sky after sunset was lit up by after-
glows of extraordinary beauty. The height to which the dust was
projected has been calculated from various data, with the result
that 121,500 feet, or nearly 25 miles, is thought to be a probable
maximum estimate, though it may be that occasional fragments of
larger size were shot up to a still greater height.


Another effect, of a distressing character, followed the eruption.
A succession of enormous waves, emanating from Krakatoa, traversed
the sea, and swept the coast bordering the Straits of Sunda with
such force as to destroy many villages on the low-lying shores in
Java, Sumatra and other islands. Some buildings at a height of
fifty feet above sea-level were washed away, and in some places the
water rose higher, in one place reaching the height of 115 feet.
At Telok Betong, in Sumatra, a ship was carried inland a distance
of nearly two miles, and left stranded at a height of thirty feet
above the sea.

The eruption of Krakatoa seems to have been due to some deep-lying
causes of extraordinary violence, this appearing not only in the
terrible explosion which tore the island to fragments and sent its
remnants as floating dust many miles high into the air, but also
from an internal convulsion that affected many of the volcanoes of
Java, which almost simultaneously broke into violent eruption. We
extract from Dr. Robert Bonney's "Our Earth and its Story" a
description of these closely-related events.

"The disturbances originated on the island of Krakatoa, with
eruptions of red hot stones and ashes, and by noon next day Semeru,
the largest of the Javanese volcanoes, was reported to be belching
forth flames at an alarming rate. The eruption soon spread to
Gunung Guntur and other mountains, until more than a third of the
forty-five craters of Java were either in activity or seriously
threatening it.

"Just before dusk a great cloud hung over Gunung Guntur, and the
crater of the volcano began to emit enormous streams of white
sulphurous mud and lava, which were rapidly succeeded by
explosions, followed by tremendous showers of cinders and enormous
fragments of rock, which were hurled high into the air and
scattered in all directions, carrying death and destruction with
them. The overhanging clouds were, moreover, so charged with
electricity that water-spouts added to the horror of the scene.
The eruption continued all Saturday night, and next day a dense
cloud, shot with lurid red, gathered over the Kedang range,
intimating that an eruption had broken out there.

"This proved to be the case, for soon after streams of lava poured
down the mountain sides into the valleys, sweeping everything
before them. About two o'clock on Monday morning--we are drawing
on the account of an eye-witness--the great cloud suddenly broke
into small sections and vanished. When light came it was seen that
an enormous tract of land, extending from Point Capucin on the
south, and Negery Passoerang on the north and west, to the lowest
point, covering about fifty square miles, had been temporarily
submerged by the 'tidal wave.' Here were situated the villages of
Negery and Negery Babawang. Few of the inhabitants of these places
escaped death. This section of the island was less densely
populated than the other portions, and the loss of life was
comparatively small, although it must have aggregated several
thousands. The waters of Welcome Bay in the Sunda Straits, Pepper
Bay on the east, and the Indian Ocean on the south, had rushed in
and formed a sea of turbulent waves.


"On Monday night the volcano of Papandayang was in an active state
of paroxysmal eruption, accompanied by detonations which are said
to have been heard for many miles away. In Sumatra three distinct
columns of flame were seen to rise from a mountain to a vast
height, and its whole surface was soon covered with fiery lava
streams, which spread to great distances on all sides. Stones fell
for miles around, and black fragmentary matter carried into the air
caused total darkness. A whirlwind accompanied the eruption, by
which house-roofs, trees, men, and horses were swept into the air.
The quantity of matter ejected was such as to cover the ground and
the roofs of the houses at Denamo to the depth of several inches.
Suddenly the scene changed. At first it was reported that
Papandayang had been split into seven distinct peaks. This proved
untrue; but in the open seams formed could be seen great balls of
molten matter. From the fissures poured forth clouds of steam and
black lava, which, flowing in steady streams, ran slowly down the
mountain sides, forming beds 200 or 300 feet in extent. At the
entrance to Batavia was a large group of houses extending along the
shore, and occupied by Chinamen. This portion of the city was
entirely destroyed, and not many of the Chinese who lived on the
swampy plains managed to save their lives. They stuck to their
homes till the waves came and washed them away, fearing torrents of
flame and lava more than torrents of water.

"Of the 3,500 Europeans and Americans in Batavia--which for several
hours was in darkness, owing to the fall of ashes--800 perished at
Anjer. The European and American quarter was first overwhelmed by
rocks, mud and lava from the crater, and then the waters came up
and swallowed the ruins, leaving nothing to mark the site, and
causing the loss of about 200 lives of the inhabitants and those
who sought refuge there."

The loss of life above mentioned was but a small fraction of the
total loss. All along the coasts of the adjoining large islands
towns and villages were swept away and their inhabitants drowned,
till the total loss was, as nearly as could be estimated, 36,000
souls. Krakatoa thus surpassed Mont Pelee in its tale of
destruction. These two, indeed, have been the most destructive to
life of known volcanic explosions, since the volcano usually falls
far short of the earthquake in its murderous results.

The distant effects of this explosion were as remarkable as the
near ones. The concussion of the air reached to an unprecedented
distance and the clouds of floating dust encircled the earth,
producing striking phenomena of which an account is given at the
end of this chapter.

The rapidity with which the effects of the Krakatoa eruption made
themselves evident in all parts of the earth is perhaps the most
remarkable outcome of this extraordinary event. The floating
pumice reached the harbor of St. Paul on the 22nd of March, 1884,
after having made a voyage of some two hundred and sixty days at a
rate of six-tenths of a mile an hour. Immense quantities of pumice
of a similar description, and believed to have been derived from
the same source, reached Tamatave in Madagascar five months later,
and no doubt much of it long continued to float round the world.


Another result of the eruption was the series of atmospheric waves,
caused by the disturbance in the atmosphere, which affected the
barometer over the entire world. The velocity with which these
waves traveled has been variously estimated at from 912.09 feet to
1066.29 feet per second. This speed is, of course, very much
inferior to that at which sound travels through the air. Yet, in
three distinct cases, the noise of the Krakatoa explosions was
plainly heard at a distance of at least 2,200 miles, and in one
instance--that recorded from Rodriguez--of nearly 3,000. The sound
travelled to Ceylon, Burmah, Manila, New Guinea and Western
Australia, places, however, within a radius of about 2,000 miles;
out Diego Garcia lies outside that area, and Rodriguez a thousand
miles beyond it. Six days subsequent to the explosion, after the
atmospheric waves had traveled four times round the globe, the
barometer was still affected by them.

Another result, similar in kind, was the extraordinary
dissemination of the great ocean wave, which in a like manner seems
to have encircled the earth, since high waves, without evident
cause, appeared not only in the Pacific, but at many places on the
Atlantic coast within a few days after the event. They were
observed alike in England and at New York. The writer happened to
be at Atlantic City, on the New Jersey coast, at this time. It was
a period of calm, the winds being at rest, but, unheralded, there
came in an ocean wave of such height as to sweep away the ocean-
front boardwalk and do much other damage. He ascribed this strange
wave at the time to the Krakatoa explosion, and is of the same
opinion still.

In addition to the account given of this extraordinary volcanic
event, it seems desirable to give Sir Robert S. Ball's description
of it in his recent work, "The Earth's Beginnings." While
repeating to some extent what we have already said, it is worthy,
from its freshness of description and general readability, of a
place here.


"Until the year 1883 few had ever heard of Krakatoa. It was
unknown to fame, as are hundreds of other gems of glorious
vegetation set in tropical waters. It was not inhabited, but the
natives from the surrounding shores of Sumatra and Java used
occasionally to draw their canoes up on its beach, while they
roamed through the jungle in search of the wild fruits that there
abounded. It was known to the mariner who navigated the Straits of
Sunda, for it was marked on his charts as one of the perils of the
intricate navigation in those waters. It was no doubt recorded
that the locality had been once, or more than once, the seat of an
active volcano. In fact, the island seemed to owe its existence to
some frightful eruption of by-gone days; but for a couple of
centuries there had been no fresh outbreak. It almost seemed as if
Krakatoa might be regarded as a volcano that had become extinct.
In this respect it would only be like many other similar objects
all over the globe, or like the countless extinct volcanoes all
over the moon.

"As the summer of 1883 advanced the vigor of Krakatoa, which had
sprung into notoriety at the beginning of the year, steadily
increased and the noises became more and more vehement; these were
presently audible on shores ten miles distant, and then twenty
miles distant; and still those noises waxed louder and louder,
until the great thunders of the volcano, now so rapidly developing,
astonished the inhabitants that dwelt over an area at least as
large as Great Britain. And there were other symptoms of the
approaching catastrophe. With each successive convulsion a
quantity of fine dust was projected aloft into the clouds. The
wind could not carry this dust away as rapidly as it was hurled
upward by Krakatoa, and accordingly the atmosphere became heavily
charged with suspended particles.

"A pall of darkness thus hung over the adjoining seas and islands.
Such was the thickness and density of these atmospheric volumes of
Krakatoa dust that, for a hundred miles around, the darkness of
midnight prevailed at midday. Then the awful tragedy of Krakatoa
took place. Many thousands of the unfortunate inhabitants of the
adjacent shores of Sumatra and Java were destined never to behold
the sun again. They were presently swept away to destruction in an
invasion of the shore by the tremendous waves with which the seas
surrounding Krakatoa were agitated.

"As the days of August passed by the spasms of Krakatoa waxed more
and more vehement. By the middle of that month the panic was
widespread, for the supreme catastrophe was at hand. On the night
of Sunday, August 26, 1883, the blackness of the dust-clouds, now
much thicker than ever in the Straits of Sunda and adjacent parts
of Sumatra and Java, was only occasionally illumined by lurid
flashes from the volcano.

"At the town of Batavia, a hundred miles distant, there was no
quiet that night. The houses trembled with subterranean violence,
and the windows rattled as if heavy artillery were being discharged
in the streets. And still these efforts seemed to be only
rehearsing for the supreme display. By ten o'clock on the morning
of Monday, August 27, 1883, the rehearsals were over, and the
performance began. An overture, consisting of two or three
introductory explosions, was succeeded by a frightful convulsion
which tore away a large part of the island of Krakatoa and
scattered it to the winds of heaven. In that final outburst all
records of previous explosions on this earth were completely


"This supreme effort it was which produced the mightiest noise
that, so far as we can ascertain, has ever been heard on this
globe. It must have been indeed a loud noise which could travel
from Krakatoa to Batavia and preserve its vehemence over so great a
distance; but we should form a very inadequate conception of the
energy of the eruption of Krakatoa if we thought that its sounds
were heard by those merely a hundred miles off. This would be
little indeed compared with what is recorded on testimony which it
is impossible to doubt.

"Westward from Krakatoa stretches the wide expanse of the Indian
Ocean. On the opposite side from the Straits of Sunda lies the
island of Rodriguez, the distance from Krakatoa being almost three
thousand miles. It has been proved by evidence which cannot be
doubted that the thunders of the great volcano attracted the
attention of an intelligent coast-guard on Rodriguez, who carefully
noted the character of the sounds and the time of their occurrence.
He had heard them just four hours after the actual explosion, for
this is the time the sound occupied on its journey.


"This mighty incident at Krakatoa has taught us other lessons on
the constitution of our atmosphere. We previously knew little, or
I might say almost nothing, as to the conditions prevailing above
the height of ten miles overhead. It was Krakatoa which first gave
us a little information which was greatly wanted. How could we
learn what winds were blowing at a height four times as great as
the loftiest mountain on the earth, and twice as great as the
loftiest altitude to which a balloon has ever soared? No doubt a
straw will show which way the wind blows, but there are no straws
up there. There was nothing to render the winds perceptible until
Krakatoa came to our aid. Krakatoa drove into those winds
prodigious quantities of dust. Hundreds of cubic miles of air were
thus deprived of that invisibility which they had hitherto

"With eyes full of astonishment men watched those vast volumes of
Krakatoa dust on a tremendous journey. Of course, every one knows
the so-called trade-winds on our earth's surface, which blow
steadily in fixed directions, and which are of such service to the
mariner. But there is yet another constant wind. It was first
disclosed by Krakatoa. Before the occurrence of that eruption, no
one had the slightest suspicion that far up aloft, twenty miles
over our heads, a mighty tempest is incessantly hurrying, with a
speed much greater than that of the awful hurricane which once laid
so large a part of Calcutta on the ground and slew so many of its
inhabitants. Fortunately for humanity, this new trade-wind does
not come within less than twenty miles of the earth's surface. We
are thus preserved from the fearful destruction that its
unintermittent blasts would produce, blasts against which no tree
could stand and which would, in ten minutes, do as much damage to a
city as would the most violent earthquake. When this great wind
had become charged with the dust of Krakatoa, then, for the first,
and, I may add, for the only time, it stood revealed to human
vision. Then it was seen that this wind circled round the earth in
the vicinity of the equator, and completed its circuit in about
thirteen days.


"The dust manufactured by the supreme convulsion was whirled round
the earth in the mighty atmospheric current into which the volcano
discharged it. As the dust-cloud was swept along by this
incomparable hurricane it showed its presence in the most glorious
manner by decking the sun and the moon in hues of unaccustomed
splendor and beauty. The blue color in the sky under ordinary
circumstances is due to particles in the air, and when the ordinary
motes of the sunbeam were reinforced by the introduction of the
myriads of motes produced by Krakatoa even the sun itself sometimes
showed a blue tint. Thus the progress of the great dust-cloud was
traced out by the extraordinary sky effects it produced, and from
the progress of the dust-cloud we inferred the movements of the
invisible air current which carried it along. Nor need it be
thought that the quantity of material projected from Krakatoa
should have been inadequate to produce effects of this world-wide
description. Imagine that the material which was blown to the
winds of heaven by the supreme convulsion of Krakatoa could be all
recovered and swept into one vast heap. Imagine that the heap were
to have its bulk measured by a vessel consisting of a cube one mile
long, one mile broad and one mile deep; it has been estimated that
even this prodigious vessel would have to be filled to the brim at
least ten times before all the products of Krakatoa had been

It is not specially to the quantity of material ejected from
Krakatoa that it owes its reputation. Great as it was, it has been
much surpassed. Professor Judd says that the great eruptions of
Papapandayang, in Java, in 1772, of Skaptur Jokull, in Iceland, in
1783, and of Tamboro, in Sumbawa, in 1815, were marked by the
extrusion of much larger quantities of material. The special
feature of the Krakatoa eruption was its extreme violence, which
flung volcanic dust to a height probably never before attained, and
produced sea and air waves of an intensity unparalleled in the
records of volcanic action. Judd thinks this was due to the
situation of the crater, and the possible inflow through fissures
of a great volume of sea water to the interior lava, the result
being the sudden production of an enormous volume of steam.


The red sunsets spoken of above were so extraordinary in character
that a fuller description of them seems advisable. A remarkable
fact concerning them is the great rapidity with which they were
disseminated to distant regions of the earth. They appeared around
the entire equatorial zone in a few days after the eruption, this
doubtless being due to the great rapidity with which the volcanic
dust was carried by the upper air current. They were seen at
Rodriguez, 3,000 miles away, on August 28, and within a week in
every part of the torrid zone. From this zone they spread north
and south with less rapidity. Their first appearance in Australia
was on September 15th, and at the Cape of Good Hope on the 20th.
On the latter day they were observed in California and the Southern
United States. They were first seen in England on November 9th.
Elsewhere in Europe and the United States they appeared from
November 20th to 30th.

The effect lasted in some instances as long as an hour and three-
quarters after sunset. In India the sun and skies assumed a
greenish hue, and there was much curiosity regarding the cause of
the "green sun." Another remarkable phenomenon of this period was
the great prevalence of rain during the succeeding winter. This
probably was due to the same cause; that is, to the fact of the air
being so filled with dust; the prevailing theory in regard to rain
being that the existence of dust in the air is necessary to its
fall. The vapor of the air concentrates into drops around such
minute particles, the result being that where dust is absent rain
cannot fall.

As regards the sunsets spoken of, there are three similar instances
on record. The first of these was in the year 526, when a dry fog
covered the Roman Empire with a red haze. Nothing further is known
concerning it. The other instances were in the years 1783 and
1831. The former of these has been traced to the great eruption of
Skaptur Jokull in that year. It lasted for several months as a
pale blue haze, and occasioned so much obscurity that the sun was
only visible when twelve degrees above the horizon, and then it had
a blood-red appearance. Violent thunderstorms were associated with
it, thus assimilating it with that of 1883. Alike in 1783 and 1831
there was a pearly, phosphorescent gleam in the atmosphere, by
which small print could be read at midnight. We know nothing
regarding the meteorological conditions of 1831.

The red sunsets of 1883 were remarkable for their long persistence.
They were observed in the autumn of 1884 with almost their original
brilliancy, and they were still visible in 1885, being seen at
intervals, as if the dust was then distributed in patches, and
driven about by the winds. In fact, similar sunsets were
occasionally visible for several years afterwards. These may well
have been due to the same cause, when we consider with what extreme
slowness very fine dust makes its way through the air, and how much
it may be affected by the winds.


One writer describes the appearance of these sunsets in the
following terms: "Immediately after sunset a patch of white light
appeared ten or fifteen degrees above the horizon, and shone for
ten minutes with a pearly lustre. Beneath it a layer of bright red
rested on the horizon, melting upward into orange, and this passed
into yellow light, which spread around the lucid spot. Next the
white light grew of a rosy tint, and soon became an intense rose
hue. A vivid golden oriole yellow strip divided it from the red
fringe below and the rose red above." This description, although
exaggerated, represents the general conditions of the phenomenon.

On October 20th, 1884, the author observed the sunset effect as
follows: "Immediately after the sun had set, a broad cone of
silvery lustre rested upon a horizon of smoky pink. After fifteen
minutes the white became rose color above and yellowish below,
deepening to lemon color, and finally into reddish tint, while the
rose faded out. The whole cone gradually sank and died away in the
brownish red flush on the horizon, more than an hour after sunset."
The time of duration varied, since, on the succeeding evening, it
lasted only a half-hour. These sunset effects, if we can justly
attribute them all to the Krakatoa eruption, were extraordinary not
alone for their intensity and beauty but for their extended
duration, the influence of this remarkable volcanic outbreak being
visible for several years after the event.

Though no doubt is entertained concerning the cause of the red
sunset effects of 1783 and 1883, that of 1831 is not so readily
explained, there having been no known volcanic explosion of great
intensity in that year. But in view of the fact that volcanoes
exist in unvisited parts of the earth, some of which may have been
at work unknown to scientific man, this difficulty is not
insuperable. Possibly Mounts Erebus or Terror, the burning
mountains of the Antarctic zone, may, unseen by man, have prepared
for civilized lands this grand spectacular effect of Nature's


Mount Pelee and its Harvest of Death.

St. Pierre, the principal city of the French island of Martinique,
in the West Indies, lies for the length of about a mile along the
island coast, with high cliffs hemming it in, its houses climbing
the slope, tier upon tier. At one place where a river breaks
through the cliffs, the city creeps further up towards the
mountains. As seen from the bay, its appearance is picturesque and
charming, with the soft tints of its tiles, the grey of its walls,
the clumps of verdure in its midst, and the wall of green in the
rear. Seen from its streets this beauty disappears, and the chief
attraction of the town is gone.

Back from the three miles of hills which sweep in an arc round the
town, is the noble Montagne Pelee lying several miles to the north
of the city, a mass of dark rock some four thousand feet high, with
jagged outline, and cleft with gorges and ravines, down which flow
numerous streams, gushing from the crater lake of the great

Though known to be a volcano, it was looked upon as practically
extinct, though as late as August, 1856, it had been in eruption.
No lava at that time came from its crater, but it hurled out great
quantities of ashes and mud, with strong sulphurous odor. Then it
went to rest again, and slept till 1902.

The people had long ceased to fear it. No one expected that grand
old Mount Pelee, the slumbering (so it was thought) tranquil old
hill, would ever spurt forth fire and death. This was entirely
unlooked for. Mont Pelee was regarded by the natives as a sort of
protector; they had an almost superstitious affection for it. From
the outskirts of the city it rose gradually, its sides grown thick
with rich grass, and dotted here and there with spreading shrubbery
and drooping trees. There was no pleasanter outing for an
afternoon than a journey up the green, velvet-like sides of the
towering mountain and a view of the quaint, picturesque city
slumbering at its base.


There were no rocky cliffs, no crags, no protruding boulders. The
mountain was peace itself. It seemed to promise perpetual
protection. The poetic natives relied upon it to keep back storms
from the land and frighten, with its stern brow, the tempests from
the sea. They pointed to it with profoundest pride as one of the
most beautiful mountains in the world.

Children played in its bowers and arbors; families picnicked there
day after day during the balmy weather; hundreds of tourists
ascended to the summit and looked with pleasure at the beautiful
crystal lake which sparkled and glinted in the sunshine. Mont
Pelee was the place of enjoyment of the people of St. Pierre. I
can hear the placid natives say: "Old Father Pelee is our
protector--not our destroyer."

Not until two weeks before the eruption did the slumbering mountain
show signs of waking to death and disaster. On the 23d of April it
first displayed symptoms of internal disquiet. A great column of
smoke began to rise from it, and was accompanied from time to time
by showers of ashes and cinders.

Despite these signals, there was nothing until Monday, May 5th, to
indicate actual danger. On that day a stream of smoking mud and
lava burst through the top of the crater and plunged into the
valley of the River Blanche, overwhelming the Guerin sugar works
and killing twenty-three workmen and the son of the proprietor.
Mr. Guerin's was one of the largest sugar works on the island; its
destruction entailed a heavy loss. The mud which overwhelmed it
followed the beds of streams towards the north of the island.

The alarm in the city was great, but it was somewhat allayed by the
report of an expert commission appointed by the Governor, which
decided that the eruption was normal and that the city was in no
peril. To further allay the excitement, the Governor, with several
scientists, took up his residence in St. Pierre. He could not
restrain the people by force, but the moral effect of his presence
and the decision of the scientists had a similar disastrous result.


The existing state of affairs during these few waiting days is so
graphically given in a letter from Mrs. Thomas T. Prentis, wife of
the United States Consul at St. Pierre, to her sister in Melrose, a
suburban city of Boston, that we quote it here:

"My Dear Sister: This morning the whole population of the city is
on the alert and every eye is directed toward Mont Pelee, an
extinct volcano. Everybody is afraid that the volcano has taken
into its heart to burst forth and destroy the whole island.

"Fifty years ago Mont Pelee burst forth with terrific force and
destroyed everything within a radius of several miles. For several
days the mountain has been bursting forth in flame and immense
quantities of lava are flowing down its sides.

"All the inhabitants are going up to see it. There is not a horse
to be had on the island, those belonging to the natives being kept
in readiness to leave at a moment's notice.

"Last Wednesday, which was April 23d, I was in my room with little
Christine, and we heard three distinct shocks. They were so great
that we supposed at first that there was some one at the door, and
Christine went and found no one there. The first report was very
loud, and the second and third were so great that dishes were
thrown from the shelves and the house was rocked.

"We can see Mont Pelee from the rear windows of our house, and
although it is fully four miles away, we can hear the roar of the
fire and lava issuing from it.

"The city is covered with ashes and clouds of smoke have been over
our heads for the last five days. The smell of sulphur is so
strong that horses on the streets stop and snort, and some of them
are obliged to give up, drop in their harness and die from
suffocation. Many of the people are obliged to wear wet
handkerchiefs over their faces to protect them from the fumes of

"My husband assures me that there is no immediate danger, and when
there is the least particle of danger we will leave the place.
There is an American schooner, the R. F. Morse, in the harbor, and
she will remain here for at least two weeks. If the volcano
becomes very bad we shall embark at once and go out to sea. The
papers in this city are asking if we are going to experience
another earthquake similar to that which struck here some fifty
years ago."


The writer of this letter and her husband, Consul Prentis, trusted
Mont Pelee too long. They perished, with all the inhabitants of
the city, in a deadly flood of fire and ashes that descended on the
devoted place on the fateful morning of Thursday, May 8th. Only
for the few who were rescued from the ships in the harbor there
would be scarcely a living soul to tell that dread story of ruin
and death. The most graphic accounts are those given by rescued
officers of the Roraima, one of the fleet of the Quebec Steamship
Co., trading with the West Indies. This vessel had left the Island
of Dominica for Martinique at midnight of Wednesday, and reached
St. Pierre about 7 o'clock Thursday morning. The greatest
difficulty was experienced in getting into port, the air being
thick with falling ashes and the darkness intense. The ship had to
grope its way to the anchorage. Appalling sounds were issuing from
the mountain behind the town, which was shrouded in darkness. The
ashes were falling thickly on the steamer's deck, where the
passengers and others were gazing at the town, some being engaged
in photographing the scene.

The best way in which we can describe a scene of which few lived to
tell the story, is to give the narratives of a number of the
survivors. From their several stories a coherent idea of the
terrible scene can be formed. From the various accounts given of
the terrible explosion by officers of the Roraima, we select as a
first example the following description by Assistant Purser


"I saw St. Pierre destroyed. It was blotted out by one great flash
of fire. Nearly 40,000 persons were all killed at once. Out of
eighteen vessels lying in the roads only one, the British steamship
Roddam, escaped, and she, I hear, lost more than half on board. It
was a dying crew that took her out.

"Our boat, the Roraima, of the Quebec Line, arrived at St. Pierre
early Thursday morning. For hours before we entered the roadstead
we could see flames and smoke rising from Mont Pelee. No one on
board had any idea of danger. Captain G. T. Muggah was on the
bridge, and all hands got on deck to see the show.

"The spectacle was magnificent. As we approached St. Pierre we
could distinguish the rolling and leaping of the red flames that
belched from the mountain in huge volumes and gushed high in to the
sky. Enormous clouds of black smoke hung over the volcano.

"When we anchored at St. Pierre I noticed the cable steamship
Grappler, the Roddam, three or four American schooners and a number
of Italian and Norwegian barks. The flames were then spurting
straight up in the air, now and then waving to one side or the
other for a moment and again leaping suddenly higher up.

"There was a constant muffled roar. It was like the biggest oil
refinery in the world burning up on the mountain top. There was a
tremendous explosion about 7.45 o'clock, soon after we got in. The
mountain was blown to pieces. There was no warning. The side of
the volcano was ripped out, and there was hurled straight toward us
a solid wall of flame. It sounded like thousands of cannon.

"The wave of fire was on us and over us like a lightning flash. It
was like a hurricane of fire. I saw it strike the cable steamship
Grappler broadside on and capsize her. From end to end she burst
into flames and then sank. The fire rolled in mass straight down
upon St. Pierre and the shipping. The town vanished before our
eyes and the air grew stifling hot, and we were in the thick of it.

"Wherever the mass of fire struck the sea the water boiled and sent
up vast clouds of steam. The sea was torn into huge whirlpools
that careened toward the open sea.

"One of these horrible hot whirlpools swung under the Roraima and
pulled her down on her beam ends with the suction. She careened
way over to port, and then the fire hurricane from the volcano
smashed her, and over she went on the opposite side. The fire wave
swept off the masts and smokestack as if they were cut with a


"Captain Muggah was the only one on deck not killed outright. He
was caught by the fire wave and terribly burned. He yelled to get
up the anchor, but, before two fathoms were heaved in the Roraima
was almost upset by the boiling whirlpool, and the fire wave had
thrown her down on her beam ends to starboard. Captain Muggah was
overcome by the flames. He fell unconscious from the bridge and
toppled overboard.

"The blast of fire from the volcano lasted only a few minutes. It
shriveled and set fire to everything it touched. Thousands of
casks of rum were stored in St. Pierre, and these were exploded by
the terrific heat. The burning rum ran in streams down every
street and out to the sea. This blazing rum set fire to the
Roraima several times. Before the volcano burst the landings of
St. Pierre were crowded with people. After the explosion not one
living being was seen on land. Only twenty-five of those on the
Roraima out of sixty-eight were left after the first flash.

"The French cruiser Suchet came in and took us off at 2 P. M. She
remained nearby, helping all she could, until 5 o'clock, then went
to Fort de France with all the people she had rescued. At that
time it looked as if the entire north end of the island was on

C. C. Evans, of Montreal, and John G. Morris, of New York, who were
among those rescued, say the vessel arrived at 6 o'clock. As eight
bells were struck a frightful explosion was heard up the mountain.
A cloud of fire, toppling and roaring, swept with lightning speed
down the mountain side and over the town and bay. The Roraima was
nearly sunk, and caught fire at once.

"I can never forget the horrid, fiery, choking whirlwind which
enveloped me," said Mr. Evans. "Mr. Morris and I rushed below. We
are not very badly burned, not so bad as most of them. When the
fire came we were going to our posts (we are engineers) to weigh
anchor and get out. When we came up we found the ship afire aft,
and fought it forward until 3 o'clock, when the Suchet came to our
rescue. We were then building a raft."

"Ben" Benson, the carpenter of the Roraima, said: "I was on deck,
amidships, when I heard an explosion. The captain ordered me to up
anchor. I got to the windlass, but when the fire came I went into
the forecastle and got my 'duds.' When I came out I talked with
Captain Muggah, Mr. Scott, the first officer and others. They had
been on the bridge. The captain was horribly burned. He had
inhaled flames and wanted to jump into the sea. I tried to make
him take a life-preserver. The captain, who was undressed, jumped
overboard and hung on to a line for a while. Then he disappeared."


James Taylor, a cooper employed on the Roraima, gives the following
account of his experience of the disaster:

"Hearing a tremendous report and seeing the ashes falling thicker,
I dived into a room, dragging with me Samuel Thomas, a gangway man
and fellow countryman, shutting the door tightly. Shortly after I
heard a voice, which I recognized as that of the chief mate, Mr.
Scott. Opening the door with great caution, I drew him in. The
nose of Thomas was burned by the intense heat.

"We three and Thompson, the assistant purser, out of sixty-eight
souls on board, were the only persons who escaped practically
uninjured. The heat being unbearable, I emerged in a few moments,
and the scene that presented itself to my eyes baffles description.
All around on the deck were the dead and dying covered with boiling
mud. There they lay, men, women and little children, and the
appeals of the latter for water were heart-rending. When water was
given them they could not swallow it, owing to their throats being
filled with ashes or burnt with the heated air.

"The ship was burning aft, and I jumped overboard, the sea being
intensely hot. I was at once swept seaward by a tidal wave, but,
the sea receding a considerable distance, the return wave washed me
against an upturned sloop to which I clung. I was joined by a man
so dreadfully burned and disfigured as to be unrecognizable.
Afterwards I found he was the captain of the Roraima, Captain
Muggah. He was in dreadful agony, begging piteously to be put on
board his ship.

"Picking up some wreckage which contained bedding and a tool chest,
I, with the help of five others who had joined me on the wreck,
constructed a rude raft, on which we placed the captain. Then,
seeing an upturned boat, I asked one of the five, a native of
Martinique, to swim and fetch it. Instead of returning to us, he
picked up two of his countrymen and went away in the direction of
Fort de France. Seeing the Roddam, which arrived in port shortly
after we anchored, making for the Roraima, I said good-bye to the
captain and swam back to the Roraima.

"The Roddam, however, burst into flames and put to sea. I reached
the Roraima at about half-past 2, and was afterwards taken off by a
boat from the French warship Suchet. Twenty-four others with
myself were taken on to Fort de France. Three of these died before
reaching port. A number of others have since died."

Samuel Thomas, the gangway man, whose life was saved by the
forethought of Taylor, says that the scene on the burning ship was
awful. The groans and cries of the dying, for whom nothing could
be done, were horrible. He describes a woman as being burned to
death with a living babe in her arms. He says that it seemed as if
the whole world was afire.


The inflammable material in the forepart of the ship that would
have ignited that part of the vessel was thrown overboard by him
and the other two uninjured men. The Grappler, the telegraph
company's ship, was seen opposite the Usine Guerin, and disappeared
as if blown up by a submarine explosion. The captain's body was
subsequently found by a boat from the Suchet.

Consul Ayme, of Guadeloupe, who, as already stated, had hastened to
Fort de France on hearing of the terrible event, tells the story of
the disaster in the following words:

"Thursday morning the inhabitants of the city awoke to find heavy
clouds shrouding Mont Pelee crater. All day Wednesday horrid
detonations had been heard. These were echoed from St. Thomas on
the north to Barbados on the south. The cannonading ceased on
Wednesday night, and fine ashes fell like rain on St. Pierre. The
inhabitants were alarmed, but Governor Mouttet, who had arrived at
St. Pierre the evening before, did everything possible to allay the

"The British steamer Roraima reached St. Pierre on Thursday with
ten passengers, among whom were Mrs. Stokes and her three children,
and Mrs. H. J. Ince. They were watching the rain of ashes, when,
with a frightful roar and terrific electric discharges, a cyclone
of fire, mud and steam swept down from the crater over the town and
bay, sweeping all before it and destroying the fleet of vessels at
anchor off the shore. There the accounts of the catastrophe so far
obtainable cease. Thirty thousand corpses are strewn about, buried
in the ruins of St. Pierre, or else floating, gnawed by sharks, in
the surrounding seas. Twenty-eight charred, half-dead human beings
were brought here. Sixteen of them are already dead, and only four
of the whole number are expected to recover."


Margaret Stokes, the 9 year old daughter of the late Clement
Stokes, of New York, who, with her mother, a brother aged 4 and a
sister aged 3 years, was on the ill-fated steamer Roraima, was
saved from that vessel, but is not expected to live. Her nurse,
Clara King, tells the following story of her experience:

She says she was in her stateroom, when the steward of the Roraima
called out to her:

"Look at Mont Pelee."

She went on deck and saw a vast mass of black cloud coming down
from the volcano. The steward ordered her to return to the saloon,

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