National Geographic : 1902 Dec
ERUPTIONS ON MARTINIS other occurrence connected with the eruption of Mont Pelee, unless it be in reference to the secondary craters re ferred to above. Obviously many deaths occurred in St Pierre from the bombard ment of missiles that swept through the city, as just mentioned, from the falling of walls and other objects, from the fire that followed the volcanic blast, from nervous shock, etc.; but opinions differ as to the principal cause of the loss of life. The opinions referred to fall in two groups: a, those favoring the idea that gases were the deadly agency, and, b, those which refer the loss of life to the effects of steam charged with hot dust. a. Certain observers are strongly in clined to the opinion that Mont Pelee, or more accurately, the " Riviere Blanche subcrater," discharged gases which as phyxiated the inhabitants of St Pierre. As to the nature of the supposed gases, at least two suggestions have been made-one that it was mainly sulphu reted hydrogen, and the other, carbon dioxide or some similar gas. Coupled with the first of these suggestions is the further hypothesis that gas explo sions took place within the city and added to the deadly effect of the as phyxiating gases. The hypothesis that gases were the direct cause of the greater part of the loss of life, as claimed at St Pierre, has not, so far as I am aware, been extended to St Vincent, but the dead and the injured on the two islands met their fate in precisely similar ways. The evidence bearing on the question under consideration has been judiciously discussed by George Kennan, and the testimony of the sole survivor of the dis aster of May 8 placed on record. Had noxious gases, and especially such heavy ones as carbon dioxide and sulphureted hydrogen, been swept over the city in sufficient quantities to kill nearly all the inhabitants, it is evident that the occu pant of a cell below the level of the ad jacent street would have been in a most dangerous position. The testimony of QUE AND ST VINCENT 427 the prisoner referred to, as summarized by Kennan, after a critical cross-exami nation, is that he " heard no explosions or detonations; saw no flame; smelled no sulphurous gas; and had no feeling of suffocation. He was simply burned by hot air and hot ashes which came into his cell through the door grating." It is impracticable to review in this essay all the evidence which it is claimed sustains the hypothesis of asphyxia tion by gases. This side of the discus sion, however, has been well presented by R. T . Hill in the NATIONAL GEO GRAPHIC MAGAZINE, in the Century Magazine and in Collier'sIWeekly, and by Angelo Heilprin in MJcClure'sMlagazine (see list at end of this essay). b. The efficiency of steam charged with hot dust, or of either of these agencies alone, to cause scalds, burns, and even instantaneous death, is not open to doubt. The question is, Was the steam and hot dust swept over the portions of Martinique and St Vincent at the time so many thousand people were killed the chief agency in their destruction ? Cumulative evidence has been added to the various classes of facts presented by me in the July number of this Magazine,* which sustains conclu sions then reached. I refer to the nar rative of George Kennan published in The Outlook for August 16 ; the prelim inary report made by Tempest Anderson and J. S. Flett to the Royal Society of London, and the preliminary report made by E. O. Hovey to the American * It was impracticable for me to read the proof of the article referred to, and in the titles of some of the illustrations, especially, there are serious errors. In the title of the plate opposite page 278, "Georgetown " should be substituted for " Kingstown ; " the title of the plate opposite page 282, should be '' Valley of Wallibu River deeply filled with hot debris;" on page 284, the title of the illustration should read " Summit of Morne d'Orange, St Pierre." The map on page 282 fails to show the area at the north end of St Vincent, as indicated on the original, which was not devastated, and is much generalized in other ways -I . C . R.