From Charles Kingsley’s “At Last” we extract, from the account of the visit of the author to St. Vincent, some interesting matter concerning the 1812 eruption and its effect on the mountain; also its influence upon distant Barbados, as just stated.
“The strangest fact about this eruption was, that the mountain did not make use of its old crater. The original vent must have become so jammed and consolidated, in the few years between 1785 and 1812, that it could not be reopened, even by a steam force the vastness of which may be guessed at from the vastness of the area which it had shaken for two years. So, when the eruption was over, it was found that the old crater-lake, incredible as it may seem, remained undisturbed, so far as has been ascertained; but close to it, and separated only by a knife-edge of rock some 700 feet in height, and so narrow that, as I was assured by one who had seen it, it is dangerous to crawl along it, a second crater, nearly as large as the first, had been blasted out, the bottom of which, in like manner, was afterward filled with water.
“I regretted much that I could not visit it. Three points I longed to ascertain carefully—the relative heights of the water in the two craters; the height and nature of the spot where the lava stream issued; and, lastly, if possible, the actual causes of the locally famous Rabacca, or ‘Dry River,’ one of the largest streams in the island, which was swallowed up during the eruption, at a short distance from its source, leaving its bed an arid gully to this day. But it could not be, and I owe what little I know of the summit of the soufriere principally to a most intelligent and gentleman-like young Wesleyan minister, whose name has escaped me. He described vividly, as we stood together on the deck, looking up at the volcano, the awful beauty of the twin lakes, and of the clouds which, for months together, whirl in and out of the cups in fantastic shapes before the eddies of the trade wind.
“The day after the explosion, ‘Black Sunday,’ gave a proof of, though no measure of, the enormous force which had been exerted. Eighty miles to windward lies Barbados. All Saturday a heavy cannonading had been heard to the eastward. The English and French fleets were surely engaged. The soldiers were called out; the batteries manned; but the cannonade died away, and all went to bed in wonder. On the 1st of May the clocks struck six, but the sun did not, as usual in the tropics, answer to the call. The darkness was still intense, and grew more intense as the morning wore on. A slow and silent rain of impalpable dust was falling over the whole island. The negroes rushed shrieking into the streets. Surely the last day was come. The white folk caught (and little blame to them) the panic, and some began to pray who had not prayed for years. The pious and the educated (and there were plenty of both in Barbados) were not proof against the infection. Old letters describe the scene in the churches that morning as hideous—prayers, sobs, and cries, in Stygian darkness, from trembling crowds. And still the darkness continued and the dust fell.