An Account of the Late Dreadful Earth-Quake

In the I S L A N D of  N E V I S,  S T. C HR I S T O P H E R S, &c.

Which happened in the Beginning of April, of this present Year 1690.

In a L E T T E R to a Friend in London

24 June 1690


S I R,

The Interest which you have in the Trade of this Island, obliges me to give you some Account of the Earth-Quake that happened in this Place. It was
very astonishing and terrible while it lasted; but as for what Mischief it has done, we cannot for the present give a just Account of it, and therefore
must leave it imperfect till the next. However, you may be sure it was very great, by the wasteful Destruction of Buildings, which it has made:

And it was one of our chiefest Happinesses that the Fort and Magazine escaped. It began upon the sixth of April, about five of the Clock in the
Afternoon. At what time we heard a rumbling Noise, like that of distant Thunder, which seemed to come from the Bowels of the great Mountain, seated
in the very Navel of the Island. We heard it for a short while with great Amazement; for it lasted not long before we felt the dire Effects of the those
violent Vapours struggling and contending in the Womb of the Earth for passage forth. So strong was the Motion, that within some few Moments after
the Noise began, ensued a most amazing Earth-Quake, which shook the whole Island to that degree, that all the Houses in Charlestown that were
built of Brick or Stone, dropped of a sudden down from the Top to the Bottom in perfect Ruins. Those that were built of Wood were no less violently
shaken, but stood however; which showed that the Rivetings of wooden Structures are far stronger, and not so easily disjointed as the
Co-agmentations of Cement and Mortar. Nevertheless, it was a dreadful thing to see Men, Women and Children flying up and down from Place to
Place in Fear and Consternation, yet not knowing where to fly for Safety, while the Surface of the tottering Earth hardly give them Liberty, no less in
an Agony than the Earth itself, to set their Feet upon the Ground: which in many places also opened, and from the yawning Clefts, vomited up a sort
of hot bituminous Water, whole Tons full at a time, no less offensive to the Smell, than dreadful to the Sight: and such was the Force which thrust up
that heavy Element, as to mount it a great height in the Air. The Sea itself for a time forsook the Shore for about three quarters of a Mile together,
and left a great Number of Fish of a large Size to the gaping upon the Sand, till it returned again: which violent Motion of the Water happened many
times, though not with the same Rapidness and Fury, nor at so great a Distance as at first.

Another thing was observable, that whereas it is an usual thing in this Island, for every house to have a large Cistern, nine or ten foot deep, and
fifteen or twenty Foot in Diameter, for the Conveniency of receiving the Rain-water, the Violence of the Earthquake all over the Island was such, that
those Cisterns threw up the Water eight or ten foot high in the Air, as if it had been spouted out of so many monstrous Springs. The Earth also in
many places was thrown up in a vast Heaps; and great Numbers of large Trees were torn up by the Roots, and buried in the Rents and Gapings of
the Island, and never expected to be seen more. I wish we may have a true Sense of this terrible Judgment of God upon us.

Nor has this Island only felt the severe Strokes of Celestial Indignation. For as we are told of several Persons, since come from thence to this Island,
St. Chriftophers has had a large Share of the same Calamity; where a late Earth-quake, no less dreadful, has made the same Ravages, by throwing
down and burying whole Houses in the wide Fissures of the gaping Mold, overturning their Sugar-Mills, and demolishing the Jessuits College,
together with several other Piles of Brick and Stone, to the great Amazement of all that beheld it, and no less Damage of them that suffered. We are
also informed that Antigua and Montserrat have likewise been very greatly shaken, though not in so severe a manner; and that the Barbados also
has had some trembling Fits, but not so considerable. As for our parts we are not quite rid of all our Fears, for this Island has had several short
Agonies since, that have not long endured, which is all we have to make us hope that the Fury of the Cause is over, and the Effects will consequently
cease.

After we had somewhat recovered ourselves, I began to consider what might be the Cause of this dreadful Accident: and by my little Reading, I find
the great Philosophers cannot agree concerning the true Cause of Earth-quakes. For some will have Wind, some Water to be the Cause of them,
when put up within the Bowels of the Earth, like strong Liquor fermenting in a Bottle, and not able to get forth, otherwise, than breaking the Flask. For
my Part, I believe both Wind and Water concurred in this which we have suffered. But I shall not trouble you with my Philosophy, you being in a Place
where you may have recourse to the more Learned, for better Satisfaction than I can pretend to give you. This is certain, we have severely felt the
fatal Consequences of these Contentions within the Bowels of the Earth; and this being over, I hope I shall have no more occasion to trouble you with
these sad Relations.
________________________________________________________________________
London Printed for A. Smith, 1690


Note:  "Translated" into "quasi-modern" English from "1690 English" by the website developer
Back to Home Page