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strongly impregnated with nitre and ferrugineous particles, does not admit of a doubt, if examined through a good microscope; and that it has come from the eastward may be supposed, from its involving in its mass the men-of-war birds, which are generally found about sixty miles to the east end of the island, seldom approaching nearer. From one P.M. to six, the fall of the ashes began to decrease; at six P.M., ceased altogether. At no period of the day did the light amount to more than a dull twilight; and at five P.M. the day closed altogether, and darkness succeeded until the morning."
In consequence of the report that an action had taken place between ships at sea, the Commander of the Forces, Sir George Beckwith, made personally every arrangement at the garrison of St. Ann's, to act as circumstances should require. They did not experience any of the darkness or fall of the volcanic substance in Dominica; but a little after midnight, in the morning of the 1st of May, not only the inhabitants of the town of Roseau, but of the island in general, were alarmed by repeated sounds from the southward resembling the distant discharge of heavy cannon, from which the general opinion was concluded that an enemy's squadron had been engaged on the coast; this caused an alarm to be fired, the regulars were placed under arms, the militia called out upon duty, and a vessel despatched to Barbados with letters to the Commander-in-Chief of the army and navy on the station, with the intelligence.
The army-ship Emma was thirty miles to the eastward of Point Saline at Martinique, when, early in the morning of the 1st of May, a dreadful explosion was heard, and the vessel was shortly afterwards enveloped in clouds of dust.
His Majesty's ship Dragon, when bearing up for Martinique, observed a thick cloud following the vessel at the rate of seven knots; and in the morning, at two o'clock, a drizzling shower of a sandy dust fell in such masses upon the deck, that during its continuation fifteen buckets were swept off the decks. The Diamond rock assumed the appearance of a souffrière emitting smoke in several places.
The excitement was kept up in Barbados, and almost every arrival rendered the late phænomenon more astonishing and of course additionally inexplicable. The captain of the ship Neptune stated that on the 3rd of May, when from 500 to 600 miles to windward of Barbados, there was a partial fall of the same kind of dust as fell in Barbados; and most of the American vessels that arrived reported as to having observed it, some of them 200 miles distant from the island, the clouds of it going in a contrary direction to that of the wind.
The mystery was cleared up by the arrival of the sloop Hunter on the 6th of May, which brought the information of the eruption of Mount Souffrière or Morne Garon in St. Vincent.
This volcano, which forms the most northern peak of the lofty chain. which runs through the centre of that island, and had been inactive or dor
mant for nearly a century, burst forth on the 27th of April 1812. dreadful explosion from the mountain, with a severe concussion and tremulous noise in the air, was followed by a vast column of thick smoke, mounting in the air to a great height and showering down sand with gritty calcined particles of earth and favillæ. This continued with an increased rapidity, and was driven before the wind towards Wallibou and Morne Ronde. It darkened the air, and covered the ridges, woods and cane-pieces with light gray-coloured ashes. On Thursday the 30th of April, about nightfall, the flame burst pyramidically from the crater through the mass of smoke, and shortly after seven o'clock the lava broke out on the north-west side. Earthquake followed upon earthquake, accompanied by the thundering noise of the mountain; indeed the whole of that part of the island was in a state of continued oscillation. The morning of the 1st of May rendered the mountain only visible at eight o'clock; it was then enveloped in a dark gloom, and a thick haze hung over the sea with black sluggish clouds of a sulphureous cast. The whole island was covered with favillæ, cinders, scoria and broken masses of volcanic matter. The loss of life and property was comparatively inconsiderable, but it is asserted that about fifty souls perished in consequence of it.
The theory of the existence of upper currents in the air contrary to those on the surface of the earth, was effectively established by the rain of ashes in Barbados, and as far as 500 miles to the eastward of it, as asserted by the master of the Neptune.'
A similar phænomenon took place on the 20th of January 1835, when the whole isthmus of Central America was shaken by the eruption of the Cosiguina. The violence of the eruption was so great that it was heard at Santa Fé de Bogota, a distance of about 900 English miles; and Union, a harbour on the western coast of the Bay of Conchagua, was for fortythree hours enveloped in absolute darkness by the clouds of falling ashes. The detonations were heard in Kingston in Jamaica, and the ashes which fell subsequently proved to the inhabitants that the sound of the explosion did not arise from cannon, as had been supposed. As in the instance of Barbados, the ashes could only have been carried by the upper current of air, as Jamaica is situated to the north-east of Nicaragua. The ashes from the Souffrière in St. Vincent are still found to cover various places in the parish of St. Thomas and elsewhere in Barbados. They are called Maydust; and it was afterwards proved that they imparted fertility to the soil upon which they were lying. It was asserted in a Barbados newspaper of that time, that Sir Humphry Davy had subjected these ashes to an analysis, and found it to contain silex, alumina, oxide of iron, and oxide of manganese, and he considered that it would fertilize the soil.
Professor Ehrenberg of Berlin, to whom I sent some of the ashes, informs me that it resembles strikingly that of the Lipari Isles, and contains Phytolithariæ, organic bodies of terrestrial and freshwater formation.
Influence of the Climate on the Human Health.-Barbados is justly considered one of the healthiest islands in the West Indian Archipelago. It is open to the sea breezes, and being cultivated throughout, injurious miasmata are unknown. The peculiarity of its soil may add to its salubrity; and the natural drainage is so good, that it possesses no accumulations of stagnant waters, if we except artificial ponds; consequently that vegetable decomposition does not take place, which in some of the less cultivated and richer islands produces poisonous miasmata, which render the residence of the European injurious to his health, and even fatal to his life.
The preceding remarks have shown that there prevails a uniformity of temperature, which may be considered as one of the chief sources of the salubrity of the island. It is not the absolute degree of temperature which determines the healthfulness of a country, but the presence or absence of sudden changes of heat and cold. Tubercular consumption is almost unknown; the distressing intermitting fevers which prevail along the coast-regions in Demerara, and in some of the adjacent islands, and which sometimes baffle the physician's skill, are not met with among the natives of Barbados; on the contrary, those who suffer from such causes are advised to resort to Barbados for the restoration of their health.
Dr. Evans, in his Treatise on the endemic fevers of the West Indies, describes the effect which the tropical climate exercises upon a person newly-arrived from Europe, or from another temperate climate, in the following words:"The arterial system is excited; the blood is determined to the surface of the body; the skin is either preternaturally warm and dry, or covered with profuse perspiration. There is a desire for cool drink, which, when taken into the stomach, increases the perspiration until the clothes become saturated with moisture. The skin then becomes irritable, and covered with a lichenous eruption, known by the name of prickly heat.1"
There is another eruption to which newly-arrived strangers are sometimes subjected in Barbados. It consists of large hard lumps, which commonly rise on the hands, arms, legs, neck and face. They are of an irregular figure, and cause a good deal of irritation; and if the patient does not refrain from scratching, little blisters rise, filled with a yellowish serum, which oozes out and causes a smarting pain. They disappear after a few days, but are soon succeeded by others in or near to the same place, and so continue successively for several weeks. These eruptions are erroneously ascribed to the stinging or biting of the mosquitos; Dr. Hillary however considers that they are efflorescences cast out by nature, and proceed from the great increased heat of the climate.
Barbados is not entirely free from yellow fever; cases of this dangerous disease have occurred from time to time, but in a less frightful degree
1 Lichen tropicus.
than in the neighbouring islands. Dr. Evans's description of the sensation which the climate in St. Lucia produces on a European is very graphic, and may with equal justness be applied to other tropical countries.
"A European, or a native after a long residence in a temperate and healthy climate, arriving in St. Lucia, complains of a feeling of weight in the atmosphere-a something which resists the wish for exertion or exercise. Both his mind and body are oppressed; his intellect is clouded; his spirits are low and desponding, and all pre-existing love of enterprise vanishes. If his residence be protracted, he has slight febrile movements, which come on regularly or irregularly, not sufficiently severe to prevent his pursuing his usual avocations, but which, nevertheless, are sufficient to induce him to throw himself upon a sofa and require a powerful effort of resolution to combat. In this manner his body may gradually accommodate itself to the climate, but he may consider himself fortunate if he escapes so easily. In general, if he be guilty of any imprudences, he feels restless at night, and can only sleep during the cool of the morning. He feels out of sorts; has pains in the back and extremities, as if from fatigue; he complains of headache, sickness and nausea; and if these symptoms are not attended to immediately, suffers what is vulgarly called an attack of seasoning fever."
It would be difficult to produce a greater proof of the salubrity of Barbados, than the following comparative table of the population and the number of deaths in the year 1844. Its correctness rests upon the returns from the rectors of the different parishes, the Superintendent of the Moravian Missions, and the Warden of the Jewish Congregation. My repeated applications for similar returns to the Wesleyan ministers were disregarded; and this omission may reduce the total result to 1 in 66, which is nevertheless a number seldom paralleled in any part of the world.
A Table of the Population and the number of Deaths in 1844 in Barbados.
The number of deaths amounted in England generally to 1 in 45; in the Isle of Wight to 1 in 58; in London to 1 in 39; in Bristol to 1 in 32; in Liverpool (parish) to 1 in 29; in the whole monarchy of Prussia in 1843 to 1 in 34-80, and in Pomerania, the healthiest province of that empire, to 1 in 44-10; in Naples the range of mortality was 1 in 34; in Wurtemberg 1 in 33; in Paris 1 in 32; in Nice 1 in 31; in Madrid 1 in 29; in Rome 1 in 25; in Amsterdam 1 in 24; in Vienna 1 in 22.5; and in Barbados it is no doubt underrated if merely assumed at 1 in 66.
I have compiled from the returns which I received through the kindness of the clergy, the following table, which exhibits the ages at which, in comparison to the whole number of deaths in the course of the year, 1000 individuals died during the years 1841 to 1845, respectively.
In a number of 1000 ̊ deaths which occurred in Barbados during the undermentioned years respectively, there died:
Under the age of 1
Between the age of 10 and 20 years.
Males. Females. Total. Males. Females. Total. Males. Females. Total.
Average. 152 105 257
Between the age of
1841 68 1842 70 1843 61 1844 71 1845 52
Average. 66 67
Between the age of
168 314 25
220 148 307
Between the age
It will be observed that the greater number of deaths occurs among children, from the time of birth to their tenth year; and this number is disproportionate that it points to a neglect which should be remedied by legislative means. In the year 1841, 596 cases in an aggregate of 1000 were deaths of children between the first and tenth year. This number struck me as so astonishing, that I made inquiries whether it was to be ascribed to an epidemic, but I was assured by several of the clergy that no epidemic raged that year, and that it could only be ascribed to the neglect of their offspring by mothers among the lower classes.