The old crater of Mont Garou has long been extinct, and, like the old crater of Mont Pelee, near St. Pierre, it had far down in its depths, surrounded by sheer cliffs from 500 to 800 feet high, a lake. Glimpses of the lake of Mont Garou are difficult to get, owing to the thick verdure growing about the dangerous edges of the precipices, but those who have seen it describe it as a beautiful sheet of deep blue water.
Previous to the eruption of 1812 the appearance of the Soufriere was most interesting. The crater was half a mile in diameter and five hundred feet in depth. In its centre was a conical hill, fringed with shrubs and vines; at whose base were two small lakes, one sulphurous, the other pure and tasteless. This lovely and beautiful spot was rendered more interesting by the singularly melodious notes of a bird, an inhabitant of these upper solitudes, and altogether unknown to the other parts of the island—hence called, or supposed to be, “invisible,” as it had never been seen. (It is of interest to state that Frederick A. Ober, in a visit to the island some twenty years ago, succeeded in obtaining specimens of this previously unknown bird.) From the fissures of the cone a thin white smoke exuded, occasionally tinged with a light blue flame. Evergreens, flowers and aromatic shrubs clothed the steep sides of the crater, which made, as the first indication of the eruption on April 27, 1812, a tremulous noise in the air. A severe concussion of the earth followed, and then a column of thick black smoke burst from the crater.
The eruption which followed these premonitory symptoms was one of the most terrific which had occurred in the West Indies up to that time. It was the culminating event which seemed to relieve a pressure within the earth’s crust which extended from the Mississippi Valley to Caracas, Venezuela, producing terrible effects in the latter place. Here, thirty-five days before the volcanic explosion, the ground was rent and shaken by a frightful earthquake which hurled the city in ruins to the ground and killed ten thousand of its inhabitants in a moment of time.
La Soufriere made the first historic display of its hidden powers in 1718, when lava poured from its crater. A far more violent demonstration of its destructive forces was that above mentioned. On this occasion the eruption lasted for three days, ruining a number of the estates in the vicinity and destroying many lives. Myriads of tons of ashes, cinders, pumice and scoriae, hurled from the crater, fell in every section of the island. Volumes of sand darkened the air, and woods, ridges and cane fields were covered with light gray ashes, which speedily destroyed all vegetation. The sun for three days seemed to be in a total eclipse, the sea was discolored and the ground bore a wintry appearance from the white crust of fallen ashes.