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The Daily Volcano Quote: the day changed into dark night, 1773 22 September 2010

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Letters from Batavia, of the 21st of October last, received by way of England, advise, that the Vlissingue, a Dutch East Indiaman, was arrived there from Ternatte, and brought the melancholy news, that on the 25th of October, 1773, the volcano Gamma Courra, in that island, had emitted a great quantity of stones and cinders; that the summit of that volcano had been covered with a thick black cloud, which had changed the day into a dark night, whilst dreadful claps of thunder were heard. After the cloud was dissipated, a number of small lights were seen, which were discovered to be the remains of trees and other plants that had been burnt. The shocks of earthquake had been so frequent and violent, that 80 of them had been felt in 24 hours; and during three hours the Volcano never ceased throwing up stones and cinders, so that the whole island seemed threatened with total destruction. What is most afflicting is, that these islanders, seized with dread, and being apprehensive of being consumed by the lightning or swallowed up by the earth, thought to escape in their canoes, but having flung themselves into them in great crowds, most of these slight vessels sunk, and a great number of the Indians perished.

From The London Evening Post, 20 April 1775, p. 4. Gamma Courra is the volcano now known to the Global Volcanism Program as Gamalama, situated on the island of Ternate, and the eruption described in this account lasted from 21 October 1773 to 22 January 1774. The key role of Ternate in the East Indies spice trade means that this volcano’s activity has been recorded in detail for several centuries. Merchants and investors in far-off European capitals were naturally interested in events such as volcanic eruptions that could have an effect on their businesses, although they could not expect to hear about them quickly: eighteen months elapsed between the October 1773 eruption on Ternate and reports of it such as the one quoted above appearing in the London press in the spring of 1775.

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