Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/391

This page has been validated.
387
THE JAMAICA EARTHQUAKE

PSM V70 D391 Commodore bartlett relief map of the caribbean.png

Fig. 2. Photograph of Comd'r Bartlett's Relief Map of the Caribbean Sea.

has noted some twenty-six minor shocks that occurred from 1880 to 1886, and this number might be regarded as typical of the seismic phenomena in that region. A slight shock was noticed by many in November last, but the memories of the destruction of Port Royal by the historic earthquake of 1692 had been dulled by the interval of two centuries, and the Jamaicans had begun to think themselves in a region of comparative safety. Slight tremors and shocks caused but scant attention or notice on the part of a few of the people. Consequently, when the real cry of 'wolf' came, for the first second or so but few realized the danger. The slight tremor, however, instantly increased to a terrible vibration of the earth that threw down great walls and buildings and inside of a minute transformed the city of Kingston from a prosperous metropolis to a place of destruction and mourning.

In order to appreciate their relative importance and possible influence upon seismic activity, let us notice the topographic, geologic and bathographic conditions that exist at Jamaica.

The etymology of the word Jamaica, originating in two descriptive Indian words meaning 'well wooded and watered' and modified by the Spaniards to 'Xaymaca,'[1] is interesting, taken in connection with the historic topographic description of the island given by Columbus to Queen Isabella on his return from the West Indies—'a crumpled handkerchief picked up by the middle.'

The aptness of the simile can not be questioned when one sees the many steep knife-edged divides (typical 'bad-land' topography) rising abruptly in fifteen miles 7,400 feet to the misty Blue Mountain peaks that tower above the small inland valleys or the narrow plains that


  1. 'Handbook of Jamaica,' 1906, p. 23.