Header Pelee jpeg
The eruptions of Mont Pelée and the Soufriére

Thursday 8 May, Ascension Day. This date should be written in blood
Monsieur Parel, Vicar-General of Martinique, 9 May 1902


Mont Pelée, seen from the ruins of St. Pierre

St. Pierre, the second town in the island of Martinique, one of the Lesser Antilles, was settled. Four miles from the town, the volcano Mont Pelée, or 'Bald Mountain', rose to 7,382 feet. The capital of the island, Fort de France, was 12 miles to the southeast.

March 26
Soufriere erupted. Ash fell 300 miles away. The Soufriere volcano, 7,314 feet high, forms the northern extremity of the island of St. Vincent. The ‘Old Crater’ of the volcano was almost a mile in diameter, with cliffs 500 feet high above a blue-green lake up to 600 feet deep.

January 22
Mont Pelee erupted. Powdery grey ash fell.

Mont Pelee. The eruption ceased.

April 27
Soufriere, St. Vincent. An eruption. A sudden rumbling was heard, and a huge column of smoke, dust and ash ascended.

April 28
Soufriere. The eruption column over the mountain rose and expanded to an enormous height. At night the glow from the crater illuminated the clouds.

April 30
Explosions grew louder. To persons at sea they resembled naval gunfire.

Night. The eruption column was lit up by lightning. A ‘moving mass of fire’ descended from the crater into a deep valley, and reached the sea in four hours.

May 1
The northern part of St. Vincent was in darkness and shaken by constant earth tremors. The whole island was coated in an ash layer, which in some places was 14 inches deep. Ash fell on ships 600 miles to the east.

Ash fell to a depth of six inches in some districts of the island, nearly 100 miles from St. Vincent. For some time afterward, 1812 was known as ‘the Year of the Dust’.

Afternoon. Soufriere. The mountain subsided. ‘The New Crater’, one-third of a mile in diameter, was formed on the lip of the 'Old Crater' by this eruption.

January 11
Martinique and St. Vincent. An earthquake at 5.50 a.m. threw down many buildings in Fort de France and killed 387 persons. At St. Pierre most houses were damaged and 2 persons killed. Buildings were damaged and one person killed in St. Vincent.

August 4
Mont Pelee. A 'long and appalling noise from the mountain...hollow roaring.' The noise continued all night.

August 5
Mont Pelee erupted. St. Pierre was 'showered with grey sand, calcined earth, and fevilla'.

Mont Pelee. The eruption ended (approximate date).

Mont Pelee. An éruption cast out mud and ashes.

The craters of Soufriere in 1892, from the south. Drawing by Dr. Hans Reusch. 1: The ‘Old Crater’.

St, Pierre. The population of the town was estimated by the official census to be 19,722.

St. Vincent. Earth tremors began throughout the northern end of the island.

May 5
At sea. The schooner Kate ran into a violent commotion of the sea 32 miles eastward of the south end of Martinique. There was no wind. The phenomenon lasted four hours.

Mont Pelee.
The summit crater lake had a small fume rising at one corner.

St. Pierre. A whiff of sulphurous gas was noticed.

March 23.
Mont Pelee.
The Etang Sec, or 'dry tarn', a small crater containing a dried-up lake, emitted sulphurous vapour from several points.

April 14
Night. St. Vincent. Eight earth tremors caused landslides.

April 23
Mont Pelee. 3 shocks in St. Pierre; a great smoke cloud from the summit crater.

St. Pierre. A slight fall of ash, and several earth tremors, enough to knock dishes from shelves.

April 25
Mont Pelee. A ‘cap of white vapours' on Mont Pelee. The Etang Sec was filling up with boiling water. The crater of L'Etang Sec near the summit opened, and Mont Pelee threw up a huge cloud of ash and rock fragments.

St, Pierre. Sulphurous vapours made breathing difficult.

April 26
Mont Pelee. A similar eruption to that of the 25th covered much of the landscape with grey-white powder.

Soufriere, St. Vincent. The Lower Soufriere was in eruption.

April 27
Mont Pelee. The Etang Sec contained a small lake, with a small volcanic cone emerging from the centre. Smoke rose from this in puffs.

April 29
St. Vincent. Three 'well-marked shocks'.

3 p.m. St. Pierre. Several earthquake shocks between 3 and 5 p.m.

May 2 Friday
Mont Pelee. An eruption of vapours and ashes, which covered Le Precheur.

11.30 pm. Mont Pelee. Terrifying detonations woke everyone in St Pierre. “Every few moments electric flames of blinding intensity were traversing the recesses of black and purple clouds”. Ash covered the country to Fort de France.

St, Pierre. Ash was so deep in the streets as to stop traffic.

May 3 Saturday
6 am. Outskirts of St. Pierre. The Roxelane River was in flood.

Fort de France. The garrison commander of St. Pierre reported to Fort de France, 'The crater is completely inactive'.

Noon. Fort de France. An earth tremor, which was also felt in St.Pierre.

Evening. Mont Pelee threw out dense masses of smoke.

Evening. Pont Basin, St. Pierre. An iron-girdered bridge over the Roxelane River fell in an earth tremor; 20 persons were killed.

Evening. Mont Pelee. “Frightful detonations...The glowing cone was soon hidden by an enormous column of black smoke traversed by flashes of lightning.”

May 4 Sunday
Dawn. Ajoupa-Bouillon, a village on the eastern foot of Pelee. Steam and boiling mud from a fissure killed 188 persons.

Morning. Off St. Pierre. A cloud rose an estimated 30,000 feet from Mont Pelee, then a shower of stones and mud fell on the cable steamer Pouyer-Quertier.

Mont Pelee. The sea breeze swept ashy fog away.

At sea . Ash fell so thickly that boats skirting the coast feared to navigate through it. The sea was covered with dead birds.

Evening. St. Pierre. Dust and scoria fell again. The ash fall on St Pierre was ¼ inch thick. The mountain was invisible.

Night. St. Pierre. A telegram was sent to the Minister of Colonies in Paris. 'An eruption of Mont Pelee has taken place...The eruption appears to be on the wane.'

The crater lake of Soufriere, shortly before 1902

May 5 Monday
Soufriere. There were signs of eruption. The lake in the old crater of the Soufriere became greatly disturbed. Fishermen crossing the lake noticed this.

Morning. Fort de France. Telegraphic communication with Dominica and St. Lucia was lost.

About noon. Mont Pelee. A stream of ‘lava’ rushed down the SW slope of the mountain, sweeping away buildings, plantations and people in a rush to the sea 5 miles away. The sea then receded 100 yards on the western coast, and returning invaded St. Pierre. The stream was of near-boiling water and mud a quarter of a mile wide and 100 feet deep. A mass of new hot rock forced its way up from the crater floor and displaced the water in L' Étang Sec, heating it to near boiling point. The flood rushed down the valley of the Riviere Blanche at a speed of about 90 km. an hour, carrying mud and boulders of up to 50 tons' weight. The sugar plant of Usine Guérin was overwhelmed; 30 persons were killed. The mudflow entered the sea and triggered a series of waves, one of which overwhelmed the yacht Precheur, moored off the river mouth, with the loss of all on board. Another yacht and eight lighters were sunk.

1.22 p.m. St. Pierre. The sea retreated a hundred feet and returned in a wave that flooded the docks.

St. Pierre. Scores of snakes invaded the streets. Over 50 persons and 200 animals died from their bites. Soldiers' rifle fire and cats killed over 100 fer-de-lances.

A committee appointed by the Governor of Martinique reported that 'there is nothing in the activity of Pelee that warrants a departure from St. Pierre'.

Evening. St. Pierre. Atmospheric disturbances caused the failure of the city's electrical system and lighting. 617 persons were killed in the eruption in 4 days.

May 6 Tuesday
Guadeloupe . Volcanic detonations were clearly heard here 100 miles south of Martinique.

Mont Pelee. The summit was hidden by thick clouds of steam. Ash fell incessantly up to a foot deep.

00.01 a.m. Mont Pelee. '...long tongues of flame shooting out of the crater's neck, the like of which none of us had seen before'.

2 a.m. Mont Pelee. Mutterings sounded in Pelee's depths louder than thunder and people ran out of their houses.

8 a.m. St. Pierre. “...since eight o'clock this morning the roaring of the volcano continued...St. Pierre had been left in almost night darkness. For many days the disturbed condition of the atmosphere had interfered with the electric illumination...brilliant flashes of lightning...The ashes and cinders now fall over a wide area”.

St. Pierre. The mayor issued a proclamation to the citizens; “The...eruption of Mont Pelee has thrown the whole island into consternation...we believe ourselves able to assure you that in view of the immense valleys which separate us from the crater, we have no immediate danger to fear. The lava will not reach as far as the town...”

2 p.m. Soufriere. The mountain 'began a series of volcanic efforts’. Severe earthquakes accompanied these.

3 p.m. Soufriere. An earthquake and terrible noise. Steam was emitted.

5 p.m. Soufriere. Louder and more frequent explosions occurred. A red glare was noticed in the summit cloud.

5 p.m. St. Pierre. Telegraphic communication was suddenly severed with the islands of St. Lucia and St. Vincent to the south.

7.30 p.m. Soufriere. Columns of steam issued from the old crater with terrific noise until midnight.

Midnight. Soufriere. The mountain top burst into 'flame', followed by an explosion.

May 7 Wednesday
2.30 a.m. Soufriere. Explosions.

4 a.m. Mont Pelee. Two red craters were visible on the flanks of Mont Pelee for half an hour. A prodigious roaring was heard, cloud filled with lightning.

7 a.m. Soufriere. Steam ascended for 3 hours, with explosions.

7. 45 a.m. Soufriere. Vapour columns rose to 30,000 ft in 1 minute.

10 a.m. Soufriere. A terrific explosion.

10.30 a.m. Soufriere. Enormous clouds were emitted from the 'Old Crater' of the volcano, with loud noises and much lightning. The inhabitants of the windward side of the island still doubted the reality of the eruption, and thought that the dark cloud over the mountain was a thunderstorm.

Noon. Soufriere. 3 craters opened and began to vomit lava. Detonations merged into a continuous roar. A huge dark cloud, 'charged with volcanic matter' rose 8 miles high. A darkness like midnight descended. The air was filled with fine dust. Scoria and stones fell, followed by black rain. The noise was heard throughout the Caribbean. Ashes fell on Kingstown, 12 miles distant.

Noon. Barbados. Just after mid-day, 'deep subterranean explosions' were heard, some single, others in volleys of five or six. Some made the earth vibrate. They continued for 2 or 3 hours.

Noon. Soufriere. The Rabaca Dry River and some of the streams on the windward side of the volcano were 'running boiling hot', cutting off the escape of many refugees.

1 p.m. Soufriere. “The roaring of the volcano was tremendous.” Showers of stones fell. Floods of boiling water (not mud or lava) poured down the valleys into the sea.

1.30 p.m. Soufriere. A violent explosion and a smoke cloud 2 miles high.

1.47 p.m. Bridgetown, Barbados. A ‘terrific explosion’ was heard, followed eight seconds later by another.

2 p.m. Soufriere. “'A terrific huge reddish and purplish curtain advanced to and over Richmond Estate. This was the strange black cloud which, laden with hot dust, swept with terrific velocity down the mountain-side, burying the country in hot sand, suffocating and burning all living creatures in its path”. The cloud rolled down onto the sea, flashing with lightning, which increased when it touched the water. “There was no fire...only the air was itself intensely hot and charged with hot dust”. A survivor said, “...a dark cloud came from the Soufriere...and a fine leaden powder...filled the air...People breathed it in, and it was so hot it burnt the flesh...They gasped, fainted, and died. All was over in three minutes. It is said that (the) hot blast killed most people, and wherever the powder touched people it burnt their flesh.” About 1,350 persons were killed.

2.06 p.m.
Bridgetown, Barbados. A ‘peculiar rumbling’ was heard, which seemed to be close to or beneath the ground.

2.15 p.m. About 700 miles off Cape Henlopen. The Danish steamer Nordby reported intense heat, an obscured Sun, lightning, and great sea disturbances.

3 p.m. Soufriere. Terrific detonations.

About 3 p.m. Barbados. A black cloud began to rise from the direction of St, Vincent. At 3.10 p.m. the sea rose and fell three times in 15 or 20 minutes.

3.15 p.m. Barbados. Volcanic ash fell at Barbados,100 miles to windward, becoming very heavy soon after sunset.

4 p.m. Barbados. The edge of the cloud from St. Vincent began to obscure the Sun, and dust fell.

6 p.m. Barbados. As dark as midnight. Incessant thunder and lightning from the direction of St. Vincent.

8 p.m. At sea. Dust fell 70 miles S. of Barbados, on the schooner Viola.

10 p.m. Soufriere. A very strong earthquake.

10 p.m. At sea. SS Talisman met dust 150 miles S.S.E. of Barbados.

11.16 p.m. Isle of Wight. A seismograph recorded an earth tremor originating at a distance of between 60º and 70º.

May 8 Thursday
Morning. St. Pierre. Hundreds of persons left the town for Fort-de-France, Martinique's second town. Hundreds more refugees from the countryside entered St. Pierre, increasing the population to about 30,000.

2.30 a.m.
At sea. The barque Jupiter met dust 830 miles E.S.E. of Barbados. So much dust fell that it discoloured the sea.

4 a.m. Fort de France. A violent thunderstorm with heavy rain.

4 a.m. Mont Pelee. Rumbling began again. A dark ash column, streaked with fiery cinders, drifted west over the sea.

6.30 a.m. St. Pierre. The passenger steamship Roraima dropped anchor in the roadstead.

6.30 a.m. St. Pierre. A sudden wind swept down from Mont Pelee. “The wind was warm and reeked of sulphur. When it had passed, the sun shone down on St. Pierre. Pelee fell silent and revealed nothing apart from a glow in the rock about 300 feet from the summit.”

7 a.m. St. Pierre. Mr Fernand Clerc observed violent pulsations of a barometer and fled the city to Mont Parnasse, a mile outside.

7.50 a.m. Mont Parnasse. Clerc saw a huge black cloud burst from a fissure 1,000 metres below the summit of the volcano, which travelled at the speed of a mile a minute downwards over the surface of the earth upon St. Pierre.
Roger Arnox, from a house also on Mont Parnasse, saw the same vast cloud burst out, rising to his zenith “with an almost inconceivably powerful ascensive force” and rushing down upon St. Pierre in less than three seconds. The cloud was filled with lightning and accompanied by a ‘frightful fracas’.

7.52 a.m. St. Pierre. The clock on the wall of the military hospital stopped.

St. Pierre. Captain Freeman, who was on deck in his ship Roddam, about three ships' lengths from the shore, said that there was one great eruption from the side of Mont Pelee. It was not accompanied by any sheet of flame, although a blast of intense heat struck ‘like a hammer.’ The force of the blast was so great that it caused the cable ship Grappler to turn turtle. There was no return blast, nor any absence of air; it was difficult to breathe because of a quantity of fine ash and fetid gases.

7.53 a.m. USA. Magnetic disturbances commenced at Cheltenham, near Washington, and at Baldwin, Kansas.

Mount Pelee. Torrential rain swept thousands of tons of volcanic ash down Pelee's slopes as a slide of soft pasty mud which swept into St. Pierre and buried many houses to the rooftops. Entering the sea, it produced a small tidal wave which was felt at Fort de France, about 12 miles away.

St. Philomene. This small town was destroyed even more completely than St. Pierre; not a wall was left standing.

8 a.m. St. Pierre. SS Roraima, 150 yards offshore. An explosion followed by darkness. 'White-hot sand' fell, which penetrated everywhere and killed everyone on deck. After about 1½ hours the fall ceased.

8 a.m. Mont Parnasse. Clerc experienced complete darkness but for the light of the burning city.

8 a.m. Fort de France. A huge explosion was heard,and an enormous column of black smoke was seen to dart up and up with incredible swiftness, mushroom out, and fill the whole sky, eating up the light. In absolute darkness people wailed in the streets.

About 8 a.m. Maracaibo, Venezuela. (800 miles from Martinique). About the time of the eruption, a sound was heard “as if immense explosives were fired high up in the clouds”.

8.20 a.m . Mont Parnasse. A strong wind blew ashes from Fernand Clerc.

8.45 a.m. St. Pierre. 7 ships in the roadstead had sunk and 6 were burning wrecks, with most of those on board dead or dying.

About 9.30 am. St. Pierre. The Roddam escaped from the roadstead. 26 of her crew died and Captain Freeman was badly burned.

Morning. Barbados. Grey dust fell so thickly that traffic in streets was interfered with. It was estimated that 22 tons per acre fell in 12 hours. The fall was up to half an inch deep, 'covering everything with a grey mantle of impalpable dust'.

About noon. St. Pierre. The rescue ship Marin from Fort de France arrived about 3 hours after the disaster. The heat from the still burning town prevented her from approaching the shore. Neither torrential rain or the mudslide had been sufficient to damp the fires.

Afternoon. About 130 miles from Martinique. The crew of the British steamer Horace, about 130 miles from Martinique, saw a ‘peculiar haze’ in the direction of the island, with a heavy oppressive atmosphere.

About 5.30 pm. St. Lucia. The Roddam arrived at St. Lucia with about 120 tons of fine ash on her decks.

8 p.m. Soufriere. An ‘ominous sound' from the crater, vivid lightning, a fall of ashes for some hours.

At night. About 130 miles from Martinique. Aboard the steamer Horace, a deep rumbling or roaring sound was occasionally heard. Flashes of light seemed to rise up from the horizon towards Martinique. Some flared over a large area; others appeared to ’spout skyward, funnel-shaped.’ They continued until dawn.

May 9 Friday
6.30 a.m. Soufriere. Detonations merged into a continuous roar that lasted all through the night of May 7 and up to 6.30 p.m. on May 9.

8 a.m. Soufriere. The volcano shot out an immense mass of material which was carried in a cloud over Georgetown.

9 a.m. 125 miles from Martinique. The steamer Horace encountered a suffocating ‘fog bank’ of impalpable ash.

2 p.m. Soufriere. The mountain was enveloped in dense gloom, but no eruptions since 8 a.m.

6 p.m. At sea. RMS La Plata observed a green sunset 100 miles W. of St Lucia.

10.30 p.m. At sea. The ship Amaurus experienced a severe submarine earthquake in 4º 38' N., 32º 28' W., which lasted 30 seconds. The sea was violently agitated.

Midnight. At sea. Dust fell on board La Plata.

London. The Times reported a telegram from St. Thomas: “St. Pierre and its inhabitants, with all the shipping, have been totally destroyed by a volcano.” The Times said; “St. Pierre, although it is not the capital, is the most important town in the French island of Martinique, with a population of some 20,000 souls, and a busy centre of trade and shipping, and it can only be hoped that the loss of life at least will prove less appalling than this first intimation of the catastrophe would convey.”

A nuee ardente descending the slopes of Mont Pelee

May 11
Dominica. The 'boiling lake'. 300 feet long and 200 feet wide disappeared.

St. Pierre. Auguste Ciparis was rescued from a cell in the town prison, badly burned. He was one of two survivors (the other was Leon Compere-Leandre).

5.30 to 6.45 p.m. Bridgetown, Barbados. The western sky showed a very brilliant orange glow, while the Moon was a ‘beautiful ultra-marine blue colour’.

May 13
Soufriere. Eruptions continued. “The reports of the explosions...can be heard to a distance of 100 miles.” Columns of steam rose miles high and huge luminous bombs were thrown out. “Lightning is playing fiercely in the upper sky.”

St. Vincent. The governor of the Windward Islands, Sir Robert Llewelyn, arrived on the island. He reported, “The country on the east coast...apparently was struck and devastated in a manner similar to that in which St. Pierre was destroyed, and I fear that practically all living things in that radius were killed.”

The ruins of St. Pierre on May 14th

May 14
Fort de France. 'A flow of lava 400 metres wide descended as far as White River, its foaming sound being audible at a great distance.'

May 15
Mont Pelee. The volcano continued in eruption, but the wind carried smoke and matter to the north, relieving workers at St. Pierre. From Fort de France, seven craters could be seen, 'which seem still active...A new crater is perceptible near the shore, pouring out blinding steam.' The sea was disturbed, and invaded Precheur, undermining several houses.

St. Vincent. The entire northern part of St. Vincent was covered with ashes averaging 18 inches in depth. At Georgetown the ash was 24 inches deep, encumbering the streets like snowdrifts. Several roofs collapsed. The activity on Soufriere had subsided, and the mountain was clear.

Kingston, Jamaica. For the past few days a very high temperatures and a hazy, sombre atmosphere prevailed. Volcanic ash fell on the hills.

St. Lucia. From 15th to 20th a light hazy mist enveloped St. Lucia.Traces of ash were seen on foliage.

New York. Seismographs detected a slight earth tremor coming from the south-east.

May 17
Soufriere. Another great eruption took place. 16 square miles were covered with lava.

May 18
8.30 p.m. Soufriere. An eruption with thundering noise and incessant electrical discharges until midnight.

May 19
Mont Pelee. A serious eruption of Mont Pelee, causing search parties in St. Pierre to leave at once. 'The volume of lava emitted surpassed that of May 8'. It overflowed Grande Riviere and destroyed buildings and cultivation.

Evening. Barbados. A fine light grey dust fell.

May 20
5 p.m. Mont Pelee ejected black clouds and hot mud and stones, covering the greater part of Martinique. A heavy pall hung over Fort de France, 'followed by flashes of light'. The blast was greater than that of May 8. Everything that had remained standing in St. Pierre was destroyed. Stones and ashes fell on Fort de France.

Caribbean. Very loud detonations were heard in Dominica, Guatemala, Antigua and St. Kitt's, and faintly in St. Thomas.

May 21.
Mont Pelee. A further eruption. Edmund Hovey observed a 'growing cone of volcanic debris' in the crater, 200 to 500 feet high.

Dawn. Martinique. The cruiser USS Dixie arrived with scientists Thomas Jaggar Jr., Tempest Anderson, John S. Flett and Alfred Lacroix.

May 22
London. Nature reported, “St. Pierre was within 10 minutes annihilated by a terrible volcanic torrent from Mont Pelee and by a combination of suffocating heat, noxious vapours, a shower of burning cinders, and a discharge of burning stones, which reached even to Fort de France...The eruption at Mont Pelee...has been, not only more destructive to life, but also, according to what has been published, more abnormal in its phenomena (than Soufriere). So contradictory are the reports that it is at present almost impossible to say what really has happened, beyond the one melancholy fact that a paroxysm in an eruption of unusual violence has caused unwonted destruction and fearful loss of life.”

Mont Pelee.
Lava flowed in a broad stream to the sea from a new crater.

May 24
Mont Pelee. A torrent of lava and mud rushed down the northern slope and swept away the remains of the town of Basse Pointe. Fissures opened in the side of the mountain.

Soufriere. Rumblings and vapour emissions from different points of the volcano. Lava was still flowing.

Hamburg, Germany. A fall of 'blood-rain'. “The phenomenon was due to the presence of numerous insects, Carabus coccinella, and it is suggested that they were driven with volcanic dust from Martinique.”

May 25
Mont Pelee was fairly quiet, but for eruptions of ashes.

Geneva, Switzerland. Grey snow fell in the canton of Lucerne, leaving a substance like ashes on the grass when it melted.

Jamaica. A red sunset.

May 26
7 p.m . Mont Pelee. Professor R.T. Hill, 5 miles from the volcano, observed “a frightful explosion”. Then, “gigantic mushroom-shaped columns of smoke and cinders ascended into the clear, starlit sky and then spread in a vast black sheet to the south...Through this sheet, which extended a distance of ten miles from the crater...lightning-like bolts flashed with alarming frequency. They followed distinct paths of ignition...This is indisputable evidence of the explosive oxidation of the gases after they left the crater...Nearly all the phenomena of these volcanic outbreaks are new to science, and many of them have not yet been explained.”

Slough, England . A red sunset afterglow.

Basseterre, St. Kitts. The entire coast “was lined with drifting wood, cane tops and canes, and rubbish of all descriptions, from Martinique.”

May 27
Mont Pelee. A new and violent eruption. Ashes and gravel fell over the north of the island. Electrically charged clouds.

May 28
8.45 a.m . Mont Pelee. A tremendous explosion followed by a cloud of black smoke.

May 29
Mont Pelee. Eruptions more frequent but less violent.

London. On May 29, John Milne, in Nature, said ; "On May 8, when Pelee, burst an opening on its flanks, a whirlwind of fire or a sheet of flame, followed by red-hot ashes, stones and boiling water, swept over St. Pierre...to sear and scald and fire all that it passed...If this flame really existed, what was its origin?” F.J.M. Page suggested that the phenomenon was due to the ignition of a 'water gas'' produced when the crater lake met hot lava; “...this is at present the only explanation we have for this unparalleled occurrence.”

Dominica. Dr. Nicholls wrote on this date, “The eruption (of Mont Pelee) came suddenly...and probably in a few minutes the 35,000 persons in the city of St. Pierre were corpses. It would appear that a sudden fissure was opened in the side of the mountain overlooking the city, and...a large vent belched out lava, superheated steam and acid gases...The flashing off into steam of the water imprisoned in the incandescent lava converted that lava into sand and dust before it reached the city, and the radiation of heat from molten rock at a temperature of above 1000º C. caused...a red-hot hurricane...that would kill people and animals instantly and that would cause all inflammable matter to burst into flame...I do not think that poisonous gases or electrical phenomena are responsible for the destruction of life.”

May 30
Morning . Soufriere. A fresh eruption. Volumes of vapour were emitted from the crater. The eruption lasted 1 hour.

2 p.m. Mont Pelee. A violent eruption, accompanied by thunderous noise and trembling of the earth. It was reported that the craters on the north side of the mountain were pouring out torrents of mud.

May 31
Jamaica. Magnificent sunsets were seen during the past week.

Morning. Mont Pelee. Detonations and volumes of smoke. The Riviere Blanche became again a torrent of steaming hot mud.

Mont Pelee. A cone of volcanic debris in the crater grew to 1,400 feet.

The main street of St. Pierre after the eruption.

June 1
5 a.m. Mont Pelee. Professor Angelo Helprin began an ascent to the summit of the volcano. Looking down into the crater, he saw a huge cinder cone in its centre. Several violent explosions of steam and cinder-laden vapour took place, and 'again and again his life was in danger'.

June 4
Soufriere. Clouds of steam with flashes of flame at night, since May 16.

At sea. Vessels leaving Martinique experienced sea upheavals between there and St. Lucia.

June 5
London . On June 5, Nature reported, “A message from the Acting Governor of Martinique states that...it would seem as if the southern portion of (St. Pierre) was destroyed by an as yet unexplained phenomenon which acted with lightning-like rapidity, and has left traces as of a violent storm sweeping from north to south...The northern part of St. Pierre is buried beneath a mass of mud."

June 6
Mont Pelee. A gigantic eruption cloud extended to the south, covering Fort de France with darkness, but no ashes fell.

Soufriere. Simultaneous with the Mont Pelee eruption, a heavy cloud of smoke belched out.

2 p.m. Kingstown (St. Vincent) was in pitch darkness.

June 7
10 a.m . Mont Pelee. A terrible eruption. Fort de France was in darkness from 10 am to 2 pm. The plains of the Morne Rouge were covered in hot mud.

June 10
Maderia. A red sunset.
St. Vincent. Royal Society investigators arrived on the island to study the eruption of Soufriere. They concluded that 'immense quantities of hot sand' had rushed down the mountain, 'in an avalanche which carried with it a terrific blast'. A considerably larger area of land was devastated in St. Vincent than in Martinique.

June 12
London. Professor A.E. Verrill, as quoted by Nature on June 12, said that volcanic heat caused the sudden dissociation of hydrogen and oxygen from the water in the crater lake of Mont Pelee. The gases were ejected with great violence and exploded in the air above the crater. “The people (of St. Pierre) were mostly killed by the sudden explosion of a vast volume of hydrogen and oxygen". John Milne said, in Nature of this date, "Apparently what burst from the volcano was highly heated gas carrying with it immense quantities of white-hot volcanic ash.”

A.S. Herschel observed the sunset. At about 8.55 pm, “a broad expanse of rich rose-coloured, lake-red light (pervaded) all the sky's north-western quarter with a fine wide blaze, against the purple glare of which tall trees and houses all looked sharply silhouetted”.

Zones of devastation in Martinique: map by Robert T. Hill. Solid line: the ‘zone of annihilation’. Dashed line: the ’singe zone’. Dot-and-dashed line: the ash zone.

June 19
Mont Pelee. A column of mud from Mont Pelee fell on Basse Pointe, destroying houses.

London. Nature published Dr. Robert T. Hill's preliminary observations in Martinique. “The zone of the catastrophe...forms an elongated oval, containing on land about eight square miles of destruction”. There was a “centre of annihilation, in which all life, vegetable and animal, was destroyed. The greater northern part of St. Pierre was in this zone.” Outside this, there was “a zone of...blistering flame, which also was fatal to all life, killing all men and animals”. Trees in this zone were scorched but not destroyed. Beyond there was a zone of ashes.

June 27
Mont Pelee. The cone of volcanic debris ('spine') rose above the rim of the crater.

July 5
Morges (Switzerland) Brilliant sunset effects. 40 minutes after sunset a purple circle 60 degrees in diameter appeared, and the whole sky was brightened by an afterglow. (July 17)

July 7
Slough. A.S. Herschel observed the sunset. At 8.50 pm, a “very fine display of orange-reddish streamers diverging in an open fan of six or seven stately light-beams from a similarly-coloured horizon glow” which converged at the point of sunset. Herschel estimated that “the layer of dusty air which was...lit up by the sun's departing rays, could not much exceed 5 miles above the earth's surface.”

GNP Nuee
A nuee ardente descending the slopes of Mont Pelee

July 9
7.30 p.m. Mont Pelee. A column of black smoke with lightning, followed by flame which set fire to the ruins of St. Pierre.

Dusk. Off Carbet, 1½ miles south of St. Pierre. Anderson and Flett observed a blast from Mont Pelee. A peculiar cloud appeared and rolled down the mountain directly towards them, 'not rising in the air, but only rolling over the surface of the ground'. It took several minutes to reach the sea. Then a red glare appeared on the mountain, and in 'an incredibly short space of time a red-hot avalanche swept down to the sea...the glowing cataract swept over (the lower parts of the mountain) right down to the shores of the bay'. A black cloud appeared above the avalanche, boiling and expanding, and rushed over the sea towards Anderson and Flett's boat. When about a mile away it began to slow down, rose and passed over the boat. Stones, pellets, and ash fell. 'The display of lightning was magnificent'.

Mont PelÄ—e. The crater 'spine' was destroyed in an eruption.

8 p.m Soufriere. Three loud detonations between 8 and 9 pm.

July 12
Midnight. Mont Pelee. Violent eruption. Stones and ash fell on Morne Rouge, Macouba and Ajouba Boullion.

July 20
1.30 pm. Baltimore, Maryland. During a violent squall or tornado, showers of pumice stones fell in south-east Baltimore. More than a bushel of pea-sized stones were picked up in one street. When crushed, the pumice had a sulphurous odour “and this has suggested the idea that it may have blown from some active volcano.”

August 17
At sea. A steamer 5 miles W of Mont Pelee met a heavy ash cloud, which rendered the day as dark as night.

August 25
Mont Pelee. Detonations.

August 26
Mont Pelee. Loud detonations, and a heavy ash cloud.

August 28
Evening. Mont Pelee. A magnificent lightning display from the volcano.

11 p.m. Mont Pelee. Lightning shot out from the mountain in all directions, accompanied by reddish globes, which ascended and exploded. Towards the south-west, at least 40 miles from the volcano, was another 'large focus of electric energy'. This electrical display was accompanied by glowing globes, which 'burst and shot out tongues of lightning'. Occasionally long searchlight-like rays shot out from Pelee towards the secondary electrical focus. When the rays reached it, the lightning there became more vivid and extensive.

August 30
7 p.m. Mont Pelee. Loud detonations.
Evening. Mont Pelee. The mountain was 'a mass of flame'. A blast killed 1,500 people in the village of Morne Rouge.

Mont Pelee. A second 'spine' rose from the crater of L’Etang Sec at up to 50 feet a day.

end of November.
Mont Pelee. The 'spine' reached a height of 800 feet.

Nuee ardente Pelee 1902 Heilprin II
December 16
Mont Pelee. Alfred Lacroix photographed a nuee ardente, or ‘burning cloud’ blast (above) rolling down the valley of the Riviere Blanche. The blast cloud rose to a height of 13,000 feet.

January 22
Soufriere. Noon. A ‘whirling incandescent cloud’ shot from the volcano, followed by a black cloud which rose to a great height. Sand fell at Chateau Blair.

March 22
Soufriere. A violent eruption. A dense black cloud covered Kingston. 3 inches of sand and rock fragments fell at Georgetown and Chateau Blair. A fall of dust and complete darkness at Barbados.

March 23
Another eruption. 3 inches of sand and stones fell at Georgetown.

The ‘Tower of Mont Pelee’ seen from the ruins of St. Pierre

Mont Pelee. The spine, or ‘Tower of Mont Pelee’ reached its maximum dimensions, 1,020 feet high and 500 feet thick at the base.

Mont Pelee. The 'spine' collapsed.


April 9 - 10
Mont Pelee. Frequent escapes of vapour.

April 10 - 11
Mont Pelee. A small lava flow into the White River valley.

April 13 - 14
Mont Pelee.
Frequent rumblings. Explosions expelled rock fragments and white clouds from the south side of the crater.

October 5
Mont Pelee. The eruption ended.

September 16
Mont Pelee. An eruption began.

April 15
Mont Pelée. Dusk. A hardened lava spine in the crater collapsed and released two nuee ardente blasts, whoch passed over F.A.Perret’s observing station. He was unharmed.

Mont Pelee. The eruption ended (approximate date).

A lava dome in the crater of Mont Pelée, April 30, 1934