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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 61.djvu/358

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352
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

FIELD NOTES OF A GEOLOGIST IN MARTINIQUE AND ST. VINCENT.
By Dr. THOMAS AUGUSTUS JAGGAR,

U. S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY AND HARVARD UNIVERSITY.

"So late as 1851, Mont Pelée burst forth furiously with flames and smoke, which naturally threw the people into a serious panic, many persons taking refuge temporarily on board the shipping in the harbor. The eruption on this occasion did not amount to anything very serious, only covering some hundreds of acres with sulphurous débris, yet serving to show that the volcano was not dead, but sleeping. Once or twice since that date ominous mutterings have been heard from Mont Pelée, which it is confidently predicted will one day deluge St. Pierre with ashes and lava, repeating the story of Pompeii." M. M. Ballou in 'Equatorial America,' Houghton, Mifflin, 1892.

THE extraordinary accuracy of the above prediction, printed ten years ago, has been forced upon the world's attention recently by the sad story that the newspapers have told of the volcanic disasters in the Caribbee Islands. The following notes and the accompanying illustrations were collected hastily in the field after a month spent in incomplete study of the two volcanoes and their effects. Such notes necessarily contain inaccuracies; they may be more accurate, however, than many of the fairy stories that have gained currency in the dailies, and if I succeed in correcting some false impressions that have gone abroad about the meaning of these eruptions from the scientist's standpoint, I shall accomplish all that is necessary prior to more complete and accurate publication as the product of laboratory research at home. When the first news of the explosions reached America the newspaper accounts proved marvelously accurate; when half a hundred correspondents reached the field the degree of accuracy waned—probably directly as the public interest, which needs fiction to keep it alive. It is to be hoped that when the magazine stage of recording the Caribbean eruptions is reached, the truth curve will rise once more and the facts assert themselves. Even here—I write from Barbados—the most remarkable statements are solemnly believed; victims were found with their intestines charred and the outer skin untouched; a man was found seated on the box seat of a carriage in a lifelike position, twirling his moustache; scientists assert that the whole island of Martinique is likely to blow up at any minute, and great rents traverse the island from end to end; St. Vincent is in flames, a hundred minor craters have broken out, not a living green plant persists on the island and vessels cannot land; Ameri-