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The Daily Volcano Quote: reflecting on Mont Pelée 7 July 2011

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The latest Vulcanian throes have caught the attention of the reading world. Measured by volume of material cast out, or by force of explosions, the recent Antillean outbreaks rank below many others on record — far below the stupendous outbursts of later geologic periods; yet measured by mortality, the eruption of Mont Pelee on the morning of May 8, 1902, ranks among the most appalling catastrophes of history. And never before was news of disaster so quickly spread; quick thinkers jotted the details, and cables and swift ships carried them to every country within a few hours — yet not so speedily but that history’s brightest example of practical sympathy overtook the echoes of calamity. The prompt charity was not emotional merely, but a material outpouring of national assistance; and it was no less rational, as attested by the presence on the relief ships of a corps of scientific students whose aim was to dispense knowledge with food and apparel, and to acquire better knowledge against future emergencies. Measured merely by mortality, Mont Pelee marks one of the darkest chapters of human history; measured by the upwelling of human sympathy, it stands for one of the brightest chapters; and measured by the prompt and effective inauguration of research, it must be said to open a new chapter in vulcanology.

Dr W. J. McGee, ‘The Antillean volcanoes’, Popular Science Monthly, July 1902, pp. 272-3.

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