The San Francisco calamity by earthquake and fire eBook

Charles W. Morris
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 432 pages of information about The San Francisco calamity by earthquake and fire.

“The weather was clear and we had a fine view, but the old outlines of St. Pierre were not recognizable.  Everything was a mass of blue lava, and the formation of the land itself seemed to have changed.  When we were about eight miles off the northern end of the island Mount Pelee began to belch a second time.  Clouds of smoke and lava shot into the air and spread over all the sea, darkening the sun.  Our decks in a few minutes were covered with a substance that looked like sand dyed a bluish tint, and which smelled like phosphorus.  For all that the day was clear, there was little to be seen satisfactorily.  Over the island there hung a blue haze.  It seemed to me that the formation, the topography, of the island was altered.

“Everything seemed to be covered with a blue dust, such as had fallen aboard us every day since we had been within the affected region.  It was blue lava dust.  For more than an hour we scanned the coast with our glasses, now and then discovering something that looked like a ruined hamlet or collection of buildings.  There was no life visible.  Suddenly we realized that we might have to fight for our lives as the Roddam’s people had done.

“We were about four miles off the northern end of the island when suddenly there shot up in the air to a tremendous height a column of smoke.  The sky darkened and the smoke seemed to swirl down upon us.  In fact, it spread all around, darkening the atmosphere as far as we could see.  I called Chief Engineer Farrish to the deck.

“‘Do you see that over there?’ I asked, pointing to the eruption, for it was the second eruption of Mont Pelee.  He saw it all right.  Captain Freeman’s story was fresh in my mind.

“’Well, Farrish, rush your engines as they have never been rushed before,’ I said to him.  He went below, and soon we began to burn coal and pile up the feathers in our forefoot.

“I was on watch with Second Officer Gibbs.  At once we began to furl awnings and make secure against fire.  The crew were all showing an anxious spirit, and everybody on board, including the four passengers, were serious and apprehensive.

“We began to cut through the water at almost twelve knots.  Ordinarily we make ten knots.  We could see no more of the land contour, but everything seemed to be enveloped in a great cloud.  There was no fire visible, but the lava dust rained down upon us steadily.  In less than an hour there were two inches of it upon our deck.

“The air smelled like phosphorus.  No one dared to look up to try to locate the sun, because one’s eyes would fill with lava dust.  Some of the blue lava dust is sticking to our mast yet, although we have swabbed decks and rigging again and again to be clear of it.

“After a little more than an hour’s fast running we saw daylight ahead and began to breathe easier.  If I had not talked with Captain Freeman and heard from him just how the black swirl of wind and fire rolled down upon him, I would not have been so apprehensive, but would have thought that the darkness and cloud that came down upon us meant just an unusually heavy squall.”

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The San Francisco calamity by earthquake and fire from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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