Historic Earthquakes

Jamaica
1692 June 07 UTC

On June 7, the great Port Royal earthquake occurred. Port Royal was then the chief city in Jamaica, famous for its riches. The House of Assembly met there. The buccaneers took their prizes there. The houses were substantially built of stone. The inhabitants lived a wild, reckless life, and Port Royal was described as one of the wickedest places on earth.

At about 20 minutes to 12, on the forenoon of June, the 7, the inhabitants of the town were startled by a noise like thunder, which seemed to come from the north. Immediately the earth began to shake, and then the walls of the houses fell on every side. There were three shocks. The first was not very severe; the last was the worst. A considerable portion of the city sank beneath the sea. The sea receded, then rushed back with terrible force, sweeping over the land and drowning hundreds of persons. Thousands perished. Minor shocks occurred all that day and for several days afterwards. The earthquake was felt all over the island; great landslides occurred and some springs disappeared. The dead bodies of the people floated in harbour and rotted on the land. Port Royal was almost completely ruined. Its surviving inhabitants endeavored to restore what was left of it to its former importance, but in 1704, a fire broke out in one of its warehouses and destroyed every building except the forts.
From Geography & History of Jamaica published by Gleaner.


Everything was about to come to a sudden and frightful end. Shortly before noon on June 7, 1693, 33 acres (66%) of the "storehouse and treasury of the West Indies" sank into Kingston Harbor in a disastrous earthquake. Interestingly, a pocket watch made circa 1686 by Paul Blondel, a Frenchman living in the Netherlands, was recovered in underwater excavations near Fort James by Edwin Link. The hands of the watch were frozen at 11:43 a.m., recording the time of the earthquake-- a first for archaeology. Of course there are numerous eye witness accounts that survive in the archives that verify the time of the disaster. An estimated 2000 persons were killed immediately by the earthquake and the seismic sea waves that followed. An additional 3000 citizens died of injuries and disease in the following days (Pawson and Buisseret 1975: 121). Salvage and outright looting began almost immediately and continued off and on for years.
From The Port Royal Project Texas A&M University - Institute of Nautical Archaeology.


1692, June 7 [11:43 LT]: An earthquake at Port Royal, Jamaica, caused a landslide within the harbor, generated a tsunami, and destroyed ninety percent of the buildings in the city. Portions of the city slipped into the water. A 1.8 m wave crossed the bay. Ships overturned. Along the coast of Liganee (possibly Liguanea Plain, site of present-day Kingston) the sea withdrew 274 m exposing the bottom. The returning water overflowed most of the shore. The sea withdrew 1.6 km at Yallhouse (possibly Yallahs). A large wave was reported at Saint Annís Bay. Approximately 2,000 were killed in the earthquake and tsunami. Beminghausen, 1968; Heck, 1947; Mallet, 1853; Milne, 1912; Myles, 1985; Perrey, 1847, Rubio, 1982; Sloane, 1809; Taber, 1920. V4
From: A Brief History of Tsunamis in the Caribbean Sea, Science of Tsunami Hazards, the International Journal of the Tsunami Society, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA, Vol. 20, No. 2, p. 57-94, 2002.