Tuesday, 3 October 2017


The National Maritime Museum of Australia has a very nice webpage dealing with Pliny the Elder's death. He got too close to the erupting Vesuvius in 79AD. It was a heroic death that you can read about at the webpage. Follow the links to see the Olympias original model, a ram ornament, and much more.
Click picture to visit ANM - can be slow to load...
Pliny the Younger's letters to Tacitus about his uncle's death are  HERE.

Pliny the Elder's knowledge of the natural history of volcanoes is HERE. (Chapters 57-59).

In 1902 the volcano Mont. Pelee on Martinique erupted. It delivered a similar kind of eruption as killed Pliny the Elder and wiped Pompeii off the map. Mont Pelee wiped the town of Saint Pierre off the map.

The Idyl before Vulcan sneezed

There were also ships hit by the eruption at Saint Pierre. SS Roraima was anchored a kilometre offshore and a survivor left this account ...

'James Taylor, a cooper employed on the Roraima, gives the following account of his experience of the disaster: "Hearing a tremendous report and seeing the ashes falling thicker, I dived into a room, dragging with me Samuel Thomas, a gangway man and fellow countryman, shutting the door tightly. Shortly after I heard a voice, which I recognized as that of the chief mate, Mr. Scott. Opening the door with great caution, I drew him in. The nose of Thomas was burned by the intense heat.

"We three and Thompson, the assistant purser, out of sixty-eight souls on board, were the only persons who escaped practically uninjured. The heat being unbearable, I emerged in a few moments, and the scene that presented itself to my eyes baffles description. All around on the deck were the dead and dying covered with boiling mud. There they lay, men, women and little children, and the appeals of the latter for water were heart-rending. When water was given them they could not swallow it, owing to their throats being filled with ashes or burnt with the heated air.

"The ship was burning aft, and I jumped overboard, the sea being intensely hot. I was at once swept seaward by a tidal wave, but, the sea receding a considerable distance, the return wave washed me against an upturned sloop to which I clung. I was joined by a man so dreadfully burned and disfigured as to be unrecognizable. Afterwards I found he was the captain of the Roraima, Captain Muggah. He was in dreadful agony, begging piteously to be put on board his ship.

"Picking up some wreckage which contained bedding and a tool chest, I, with the help of five others who had joined me on the wreck, constructed a rude raft, on which we placed the captain. Then, seeing an upturned boat, I asked one of the five, a native of Martinique, to swim and fetch it. Instead of returning to us, he picked up two of his countrymen and went away in the direction of Fort de France. Seeing the Roddam, which arrived in port shortly after we anchored, making for the Roraima, I said good-bye to the captain and swam back to the Roraima.

Read some gobbledygook white-bashing  'interpretation' of this photo where I got it from HERE
"The Roddam, however, burst into flames and put to sea. I reached the Roraima at about half-past 2, and was afterwards taken off by a boat from the French warship Suchet. Twenty-four others with myself were taken on to Fort de France. Three of these died before reaching port. A number of others have since died."

Samuel Thomas, the gangway man, whose life was saved by the forethought of Taylor, says that the scene on the burning ship was awful. The groans and cries of the dying, for whom nothing could be done, were horrible. He describes a woman as being burned to death with a living babe in her arms. He says that it seemed as if the whole world was afire.'
 The Roraima burnt and sank. Today it is a tourist diving wreck.

Saint Pierre after the twenty minute eruption

One of three  survivors was a prisoner in the town jail - Ludger Sylbaris. You can read about him HERE.

A full version of the piece from Cosmoplitan July 1902 HERE

Anyway, ships and volcanoes don't mix, not 2000 years ago and not now.

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