“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 knife.
HEAT CAUSED EXPLOSIONS
“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 fire.”