The Eruption of Pelee

[The following excerpts from George Kennan's animated description of his late experiences, are taken by special permission of the publishers from a copyrighted article in a late number of The Outlook.]

It was a little after eight o'clock in the evening when we were startled by three or four dull, heavy explosions—boom! boom-boom! boom!—like the sound of cannonading at a distance of two or three miles. Mr. Clerc shouted excitedly. "Le volcan! Le volcan!" and, springing from his seat, rushed out of doors, with all the rest of us at his heels. There were a lot of mango-trees just in front of the house, and we had to run twenty or thirty yards before we could see the volcano at all. When we got out into the open, it burst suddenly upon our startled eyes, and a more splendid and at the same time terrifying object I had never seen or imagined. The whole mountain, from base to summit, was ablaze with volcanic lightning, and the air trembled with short, heavy, thunderous explosions, like the firing of thirteen-inch guns from half a dozen battleships in action. Straight up from the crater, clearly outlined against the starry sky, rose a column of inky-black vapor, a thousand feet in height, which looked like a shaft of solid ebony. Before I had time to breathe twice it had reached a height of two thousand feet; in thirty seconds it had grown three thousand feet more, without the least increase in width; and in less than two minutes it stood ten thousand feet above the crater and was still going up. In every part of this ascending column of black vapor there were bursting huge electric stars of volcanic lightning, which illuminated the whole mountain, while the accompanying roar of thunderous explosions sounded like a great naval battle at sea.

The Fall of the Campanile
July 31, 1902

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