Terror, Destruction and Death

A word of warning before we get to today's pictures. Some of the images below depict dead bodies.

From what I can gather, these pictures were taken, or at least collected, by Mr. Ross, the author of the book they were found in. The envelope bears his name, and the handwriting on the photos seems to match up with the inscription in the book (it was signed, dated 1947).

Ross might have been part of a relief effort that took place in May 1902 in Martinique, and in particular St. Pierre. Mount Pelée, a stratovolcano, erupted in early May, and eventually killed 30,000 people. It is considered the worst volcanic disaster of the 20th century.

First picture is the envelope the pictures were found in, and the book "Historical Background of the Panama Canal" by Walter G. Ross, 1947:

Blueprint of the relief ship, the S.S. Dixie. You can read Ross' name at the lower left.
On the reverse:

Supplies on Martinique Relief Expedition
Commissary supplies 990 tons
Quartermaster " 200 "
Medical " 60 "

1250 tons

The still-smoldering Mount Pelée.


Mt. Pelée
4200 ft
May 8th 1902
May 20th 1902

The ship


U.S.S. Dixie
about 620 ft
Sailed from Pier 13 - ER Brooklyn
May 14th 1902

Empress Josephine

Burning dead bodies

25,000 lives lost

"Not one stone shall be left upon another"

St. Pierre, Martinique
May 21st 1902

Lava. Mud. Dust.

Plaza Victor Hugo

Terror Destruction and Death

-Click to enlarge photos-


  1. Absolutely fascinating.
    Thanks for posting.

  2. I agree, absolutely fascinating! That is a brilliant collection of photos. Thanks for sharing them.


  3. Talk about a treasure! This is amazing to me. Kudos :)

  4. These are stunning; perhaps there is a historical society in Martinique that would like to have them.
    Given how irascible Ma Nature has been this year - in Haiti, Chile, China, and now, Iceland - this is also a very timely find.

  5. This is one of the best finds, in my opinion. A look into the life of someone who was actually there during such a tragic disaster, over 100 years ago. Absolutely amazing.

    Thanks for showing them. :)

  6. What a great find! A personalized account of a rather historical event. Those don't pop up often. And I'm glad they found their way to you (who will share them) rather than someone who would just discard them without seeing their historical value.

  7. this piqued my curiosity and I looked up the book and Mr. Ross. He was an engineer on the Panama Canal, a soldier in the Philippines during the Spanish American War who later established a foundation to promote improvements in medical research and health care. His overall goal was to "alleviate human suffering".