National Geographic : 1902 Dec
THE ERUPTIONS the windward coast were all stripped of their glass, while immense quantities of dust were carried to the Island of Bar bados, 90 miles due east, and beyond. The accounts of other eyewitnesses in clude the mention of a strong blast of volcanic material " returning from the. sea"' after the main cloud had rushed down the mountain. There probably was an inrush of air toward the inoun tain, due to the uprushing column from the crater acting on the east side in con nection with the trade winds. An official's estimate of the loss of life on St Vincent by the eruption places the number of killed at 1,350. The ac tual number of bodies buried was i, 298, including those of the wounded who died in the hospitals. Almost all of the people who passed through the fury of the eruption and escaped uninjured had taken refuge in cellars, the only open ings into which were on the side farthest from the crater, and were, moreover, tightly closed with wooden doors or shutters. The most striking example of such protection was at Orange Hill, on the windward coast two and one-half miles north of Georgetown, where one hundred thirty-two persons were saved unharmed in an empty run cellar. This cellar, which is only partly under ground, is part of a sugar factory situ ated on a rather flat divide between two ravines, which may have tended to sep arate the volcanic storm somewhat, though the roof of the building over the cellar was demolished by the ejecta. The only openings into the cellar were a door and two windows on the side op posite the crater, and these were pro vided with heavy wooden shutters which were kept closed during the fury of the eruption. The manager of the estate, Alexander McKenzie, with his wife and a son, re mained in the manor house, scarcely a OF LA SOUFRIERE 457 hundred yards from the rum cellar, and were killed during the eruption, appar ently by asphyxiation. The house had large windows, the glass of which was shattered by the projectiles from the volcano, permitting free entry to the deadly dust-laden steam. These three Scotch people and a Portuguese em ployd at the Wallibu sugar works, on the leeward side, were the only white people killed by the eruption. The ex periences of the people in the cellars suggest the great desirability of con structing similar places of refuge for use in time of hurricane as well as of vol canic eruption. The deaths on St Vincent seem to have been due, principally, to the fol lowing causes: (i) asphyxiation by hot, dust-laden steam and air; (2) burns due to hot stones, lapilli, and dust; (3) blows by falling stones; (4) nervous shock ; (5) burning by steam alone, and (6) strokes of lightning The last mentioned cause is perhaps somewhat doubtful, for though it is very generally named by the survivors, there has been no substantiation mentioned beyond the fact that there was a great deal of ex tremely vivid lightning during the erup tion. The action of steam would ac count for the burns received underneath the clothing where the clothing was not even charred. Sulphur dioxide, SO,, and hydrogen sulphide, HS, were ob served in troublesome quantities in the steam coming from the crater, and it is more than probable that these gases, especially the former, added very ma terially to the deadly character of the dust-laden steam. Strange as it may seem, not an autopsy was made on any of the hundreds of victims of the catas trophe, so that it never can be known definitely what part was played by these or other poisonous gases in the destruc tion of human life.