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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 61.djvu/280

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

the roadstead began, to seek safety; then a gale of burning gas and a rain of red-hot rock fell, and all St. Pierre, with fifteen of the seventeen vessels at anchor, were destroyed in an instant. Neighboring villages were blotted out; all Martinique was shaken; the detonation rolled out over the waves two hundred miles in every direction; the column of steam and rock-powder rose miles in height, and the dust was scattered over more than a hundred thousand square miles of isle-dotted ocean. This outbreak was not the end, nor even the culmination; La Souffriere continued to belch steam and mud, and Mont Pelee to erupt daily if not hourly, the explosion of May 20 exceeding in violence those of all earlier dates; and the magnetic disturbances accompanying the severer shocks were recorded in Maryland and Kansas, in Paris, and according to one report in Honolulu. The long quiescent crater of Tacana (Guatemala) was stirred into explosive activity; the warm springs of New Mexico resumed the long-past geyser form, and the crater near Grant, dead for five centuries, steamed anew; Mount Redoubt and neighboring craters in Washington State resumed alarming activity, and rumors of fresh outbreaks in Alaskan volcanoes gained currency; and the latest reports indicate that Kilauea, in Hawaii, has joined the concert. These are but the best-known links in the chain of sequence; it may not yet be affirmed that this succession is more than one of time, yet it is significant that the localities swept by the chain are all within reach of the magnetic disturbances extending for thousands of miles from Mont Pelee.

The eruption of Colima cost a number of lives not yet counted; the mortality at Quetzaltenango and neighboring places is estimated at 2,000 or more; the outbreak of Tacana is reported to have cost over a thousand lives; La Souffriere slew some two thousand; St. Pierre lost all of her 25,000, and other villages on Martinique some seven thousand more; so that Vulcan's victims in a single province during April and May, 1902, must approach 40,000. The number will never be accurately known; for there are no censuses covering certain Central American districts and some others in which the fatalities were numerous.

 

The lesson of Mont Pelee and St. Pierre is especially instructive. The researches of Hill, Russell, Heilprin, Jaggar, Borchgrevink, Hovey and Kennan have already made fairly clear the external aspects of the great eruption. Northern Martinique, like other West Indian islands, is a labyrinth of mornes and pitons, i. e., of singularly steep peaks and ridges (partly volcanic cones, partly erosional forms), densely clothed with forests and herbage; it culminates in the crater rim of Mont Pelee a little less than 5,000 feet in altitude, with a sinuous divide extending southward and minor aretes stretching sea-