Carib natives who lived at Morne Rond fled from their houses to Kingstown. As the third day drew to a close flames sprang pyramidically from the crater, accompanied by loud thunder and electric flashes, which rent the column of smoke hanging over the volcano. Eruptive matter pouring from the northwest side plunged over the cliff, carrying down rocks and woods in its course. The island was shaken by an earthquake and bombarded with showers of cinders and stones, which set houses on fire and killed many of the natives.
For nearly two years before this explosion earthquakes had been common, and sea and land had been agitated from the valley of the Mississippi to the coasts of Venezuela and the mountains of New Grenada, and from the Azores to the West Indies. On March 26, 1812, these culminated in the terrible tragedy, spoken of above, of which Humboldt gives us a vivid account.
On that day the people of the Venezuelan city of Caracas were assembled in the churches, beneath a still and blazing sky, when the earth suddenly heaved and shook, like a great monster waking from slumber, and in a single minute 10,000 people were buried beneath the walls of churches and houses, which tumbled in hideous ruin upon their heads. The same earthquake made itself felt along the whole line of the Northern Cordilleras, working terrible destruction, and shook the earth as far as Santa Fe de Bogota and Honda, 180 leagues from Caracas. This was a preliminary symptom of the internal disorder of the earth.
While the wretched inhabitants of Caracas who had escaped the earthquake were dying of fever and starvation, and seeking among villages and farms places of safety from the renewed earthquake shocks, the almost forgotten volcano of St. Vincent was muttering in suppressed wrath. For twelve months it had given warning, by frequent shocks of the earth, that it was making ready to play its part in the great subterranean battle. On the 27th of April its deep-hidden powers broke their bonds, and the conflict between rock and fire began.
The first intimation of the outbreak was rather amusing than alarming. A negro boy was herding cattle on the mountain side. A stone fell near him. Another followed. He fancied that some other boys were pelting him from the cliff above, and began throwing stones upward at his fancied concealed tormentors. But the stones fell thicker, among them some too large to be thrown by any human hand. Only then did the little fellow awake to the fact that it was not a boy like himself, but the mighty mountain, that was flinging these stones at him. He looked up and saw that the black column which was rising from the crater’s mouth was no longer harmless vapor, but dust, ashes and stones. Leaving the cattle to their fate, he fled for his life, while the mighty cannon of the Titans roared behind him as he ran. For three days and nights this continued; then, on the 30th, a stream of lava poured over the crater’s rim and rushed downward, reaching the sea in four hours, and the great eruption was at an end.