Click here for the introduction to the Round and Square series "The Accidental Ethnographer." (Coming Soon)
Click below for other posts from Ocean and Isle:
|[a] Burning bush RF|
|[b] Fault-finding RF|
He wrote about it all, and he took pictures. The former is not without problem; the latter is easily his legacy. It is all a fascinating picture of an American abroad in a peculiarly resonant time in American history—from the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 to the end of World War I. This series will grow as my research does, but let's get started with Geil's own words—a little from each of his published books.
|[c] Tinder RF|
Ocean and Isle—Earthquake on Nina Foov
William Edgar Geil (1902)
|[d] Burning RF|
Anyhow it is a volcanic island nearly circular in form, measuring three and one-half miles from north to south, and three miles from east to west, and is well wooded to the loftiest summit, maybe a thousand feet above the tide. I say "maybe" for the height is constantly changing. In the centre of the island is an old crater filled with a lake of brackish water, in which are hot springs, and traces of volcanic action are everywhere to be seen. A very severe eruption occurred in 1853, when a village was destroyed and many lives lost.
|[e] Free-flow RF|
At midnight many sprang terror stricken to their feet as another convulsive throw, more dreadful than the first, shook the whole island, and at the same instant the subterranean thunder rolled up again deeper and louder than ever, but passed away without visible damage. It was well past midnight when a universal terror seized even those accustomed to the displays of the savage forces of nature. This third terrific convulsion was ushered in by a roll of thunder growling along underneath the feet of the assembling natives, gathering in force, growing more and more threatening, until with one appalling and stupendous crash the earth was rent open and a fiery wind, like a hot blast from the Inferno itself, swept roaring out of the mouth of the opening.
|[f] Upshooting RF|
Showers of volcanic ashes fell about, while over the new-born crater a dark cloud was fast forming. Ever broadening, it hung like a pall of sable. At times this inky cloud was rent in twain by the upshooting fires until there was one frightful mass of leaping, seething tossing billows of flame and inky soot, and the walls of the crater upwashed within by liquid fire burst with the awful crash of a thousand pent up thunders, and out through the gap in the black crater wall rolled an avalanche of fierce red glare, licking up the foliage with the withering heat of blazing fluid rock.
Before the sun could shine through the murky vapor which hung suspended over the entire island, as if waiting to complete the doom, miles of country now hidden by the richest tropical growth, lay buried—encoffined in hot porous rock a fathom or two deep. Vast quantities of mud, ashes, and lava were belched forth during the death-dealing eruption.
|[g] Swallowed RF|
The chiefs decided to hold a religious service as near as possible to the site of the destroyed and swallowed village. Courageously, yet solemnly, a large gathering of people met close to the larges and still active volcano.
On that most impressive occasion a native preacher John Latu, delivered a sympathetic and powerful sermon on the words of Scripture: "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." During this and other services, hundreds of the cocoanut-colored natives professed conversion, and their after lives proved it was no idle word spoken in the hour and circumstance of dreadful harbingers of disaster.
|[h] Cooled RF|