The San Francisco calamity by earthquake and fire eBook

Charles W. Morris
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 368 pages of information about The San Francisco calamity by earthquake and fire.

“In another instant it was all over for him.  As I was looking at him he was all ablaze.  He reeled and fell on the bridge with his face toward me.  His mustache and eyebrows were gone in a jiffy.  His hat had gone, and his hair was aflame, and so were his clothes from head to foot.  I knew he was conscious when he fell, by the look in his eyes, but he didn’t make a sound.

“That all happened a long way inside of half a minute; then something new happened.  When the wave of fire was going over us, a tidal wave of the sea came out from the shore and did the rest.  That wall of rushing water was so high and so solid that it seemed to rise up and join the smoke and flame above.  For an instant we could see nothing but the water and the flame.

“That tidal wave picked the ship up like a canoe and then smashed her.  After one list to starboard the ship righted, but the masts, the bridge, the funnel and all the upper works had gone overboard.

“I had saved myself from fire by jamming a metal ventilator cover over my head and jumping from the fo’c’s’l head.  Two St. Kitts negroes saved me from the water by grabbing me by the legs and pulling me down into the fo’c’s’l after them.  Before I could get up three men tumbled in on top of me.  Two of them were dead.

“Captain Muggah went overboard, still clinging to the fragments of his wrecked bridge.  Daniel Taylor, the ship’s cooper, and a Kitts native jumped overboard to save him.  Taylor managed to push the captain on to a hatch that had floated off from us and then they swam back to the ship for more assistance, but nothing could be done for the captain.  Taylor wasn’t sure he was alive.  The last we saw of him or his dead body it was drifting shoreward on that hatch.

“Well, after staying in the fo’c’s’l about twenty minutes I went out on deck.  There were just four of us left aboard who could do anything.  The four were Thompson, Dan Taylor, Quashee, and myself.  It was still raining fire and hot rocks and you could hardly see a ship’s length for dust and ashes, but we could stand that.  There were burning men and some women and two or three children lying around the deck.  Not just burned, but burning, then, when we got to them.  More than half the ship’s company had been killed in that first rush of flame.  Some had rolled overboard when the tidal wave came and we never saw so much as their bodies.  The cook was burned to death in his galley.  He had been paring potatoes for dinner and what was left of his right hand held the shank of his potato knife.  The wooden handle was in ashes.  All that happened to a man in less than a minute.  The donkey engineman was killed on deck sitting in front of his boiler.  We found parts of some bodies—­a hand, or an arm or a leg.  Below decks there were some twenty alive.

“The ship was on fire, of course, what was left of it.  The stumps of both masts were blazing.  Aft she was like a furnace, but forward the flames had not got below deck, so we four carried those who were still alive on deck into the fo’c’s’l.  All of them were burned and most of them were half strangled.

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