Изображения страниц


yet interesting spectacle I ever beheld. To the person who had formerly known them it might possibly have been still more impressive; for the ruins were so mingled together, and the whole scene possessed so little the air of a habitable place, that it was scarcely possible to imagine its former condition. The earthquake commenced at half-past eleven o'clock in the forenoon. If it had happened in the middle of the night the greater number of the inhabitants (which in this one province amounts to many thousands) must have perished, instead of less than a hundred: as it was, the invariable practice of running out of doors at the first trembling of the ground, alone saved them. In Concepcion each house, or row of houses, stood by itself, a heap or line of ruins; - but in Talcahuano, owing to the great wave, little more than one layer of bricks, tiles, and timber, with here and there part of a wall left standing, could be distinguished. From this circumstance Concepcion, although not so completely desolated, was a more terrible, and, if I may so call it, picturesque sight. The first shock was very sudden. The mayor-domo at Quiriquina told me that the first notice he received of it was finding both the horse he rode and himself rolling together on the ground. Rising up, he was again thrown down. He also told me that some cows which were standing on the steep side of the island were rolled into the

The great wave caused the destruction of many cattle; on one low island, near the head of the bay, seventy animals were washed off and drowned. Innumerable small tremblings followed the great earthquake, and within the first twelve days no less than three hundred were counted.



After viewing Concepcion, I cannot understand how the greater number of inhabitants escaped unhurt. The houses in many parts fell outward, thus forming in the middle of the streets little hillocks of brickwork and rubbish. Mr. Rouse, the English consul, told us that he was at breakfast when the first movement warned him to run out. He had scarcely reached the middle of the court-yard when one side of his house came thundering down. He had presence of mind to remember that if he once got on the top of that part which had already fallen, he would be safe. Not being able, from the motion of the ground, to stand, he crawled upon his hands and knees; and no sooner had be ascended this little eminence than the other side of the house fell in, the great beams sweeping close in front of his head. With his eyes blinded, and his mouth choked with the cloud of dust which darkened the sky, at last he gained the street. As shock followed shock, at the interval of a few minutes, no one dared approach the shattered ruins, and no one knew whether his dearest friends and relations were not perishing from the want of help. Those who had saved any property

obliged to keep a constant watch, for thieves prowled about, and, at each little trembling of the ground, with one hand they beat their breasts and cried mercy (misericordia), and then with the other filched what they could from the ruins! The thatched roofs fell over the fires, and flames burst forth in all parts. Hundreds knew themselves ruined, and few had the means of providing food for the day. Generally speaking, arched door ways or windows stood much better than any other parts of buildings. Nevertheless, a poor lame



old man, who had been in the habit, during trifling shocks, of crawling to a certain door-way, was this time crushed to pieces.

Shortly after the shock a great wave was seen from the distance of three or four miles, approaching in the middle of the bay with a smooth outline; but along the shore it tore up cottages and trees as it swept onward with irresistible force. At the head of the bay it broke in a fearful line of white breakers, which rushed up to a height of twenty-three vertical feet above the highest spring.tides. Their force must have been prodigious, for at the fort a cannon with its carriage, estimated at four tons in weight, was moved fifteen feet inward. A schooner was left in the midst of the ruins, two hundred yards from the beach. The first wave was fol. lowed by two others, which in their retreat carried away a vast wreck of floating objects. In one part of the bay a ship Was pitched high and dry on shore, was carried off, again driven on shore, and again carried off. In another part, two large vessels anchored near together were whirled about, and their cables were thrice wound round each other: though anchored at a depth of thirty-six feet, they were for some minutes aground. The great wave must have travelled slowly, for the inhabitants of Talcahuano had time to run up the hills behind the town; and some sailors pulled out seaward, trusting successfully to their boat riding securely over the swell if they could reach it before it broke. One old woman, with a little boy four or five years old, ran into a boat, but there was nobody to row it out—the boat was consequently dashed against an anchor and cut in twain; the


old woman was drowned, but the child was picked up some hours afterward clinging to the wreck. Pools of salt-water were still standing amidst the ruins of the houses; and chil. dren, making boats with old tables and chairs, appeared as happy as their parents were miserable. It was, however, exceedingly interesting to observe how much more active and cheerful all appeared than could have been expected. Mr. Rouse, and a large party whom he kindly took under his protection, lived for the first week in a garden beneath some apple trees. At first they were as merry as if it had been a picnic; but soon afterward heavy rain caused much discomfort, for they were absolutely without shelter.

The cominon people in Talcahuano thought that the earthquake was caused by some old Indian women who, two years ago, being offended, stopped the volcano of Antuco. This silly belief is curious, because it shows that experience has taught them to observe that there exists a relation between the suppressed action of the volcanoes and the trembling of the ground; and particularly because in this in. stance, according to Captain Fitz Roy, there is reason to believe that Antuco was noway affected. The island of Juan Fernandez, three hundred and sixty miles to the north-west, was, at the time of the great shock of the 20th, violently shaken, so that the trees beat against each other, and a volcano burst forth under water close to the shore. These facts are remarkable, because this island, during the earthquake of 1751, was then also affected more violently than other places at an equal distance from Concepcion, and this seems to show some subterranean connection between these two points.


Chiloe, about three hundred and forty miles southward of Concepcion, appears to have been shaken more strongly than

[graphic][merged small]

the intermediate district of Valdivia, where the volcano of Villarica was noway affected, while in the Cordillera in front of Chiloe two of the volcanoes burst forth at the same instant in violent action. These two volcanoes and some neighboring ones continued for a long time in eruption, and ten months afterward were again influenced by an earthquake at Concepcion. Some men, cutting wood near the base of one of these volcanoes, did not perceive the shock of the 20th, although the whole surrounding province was then

[graphic][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][merged small]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »