“The Etona’s run from Montevideo was a fast one—I think a record breaker. We were 22 days and 21 hours from port to port. Off Martinique I stared at the coast for about an hour, and then went below. The blue lava that covered everything faded into the haze that hung over the island so that nothing was distinctly visible. Through my glass I discovered a stream of lava, though. It stretched down the mountain side, and seemed to be flowing into the sea. It was not clearly and distinctly visible, however.
“About 3 o’clock I went below to take forty winks. I had been in my berth only a few minutes when the steward told me the captain wanted me on the bridge.
“‘Do you see that, Farrish?’ he asked, pointing at the land. An outburst of smoke seemed to be sweeping down upon us. It made me think of the Roddam’s experience. Smoke and dust closed in about us, shutting out the sunlight, and precipitating a fall of lava on our decks.
“‘Go below and drive her,’ said the captain, and I didn’t lose any time, I can tell you. We burned coal as though it didn’t cost a cent. The safety valve was jumping every second, even though we were making twelve knots an hour. For two hours we kept up the pace, and then, running into clear daylight, let the engines slow down and we all cheered up a bit.”
Captain Cantell went on board the Roddam, whose frightful condition he thus describes:
“At St. Lucia, on May 11th, I went on board the British steamship Roddam, which had escaped from the terrible volcanic eruption at Martinique two days before. The state of the ship was enough to show that those on board must have undergone an awful experience.
“The Roddam was covered with a mass of fine bluish gray dust or ashes of cement-like appearance. In some parts it lay two feet deep on the decks. This matter had fallen in a red-hot state all over the steamer, setting fire to everything it struck that was burnable, and, when it fell on the men on board, burning off limbs and large pieces of flesh. This was shown by finding portions of human flesh when the decks were cleared of the debris. The rigging, ropes, tarpaulins, sails, awnings, etc., were charred or burned, and most of the upper stanchions and spars were swept overboard or destroyed by fire. Skylights were smashed and cabins were filled with volcanic dust. The scene of ruin was deplorable.
“The captain, though suffering the greatest agony, succeeded in navigating his vessel safely to the port of Castries, St. Lucia, with eighteen dead bodies on the deck and human limbs scattered about. A sailor stood by constantly wiping the captain’s injured eyes.
“I think the performance of the Roddam’s captain was most wonderful, and the more so when I saw his pitiful condition. I do not understand how he kept up, yet when the steamer arrived at St. Lucia and medical assistance was procured, this brave man asked the doctors to attend to the others first and refused to be treated until this was done.