Events: Disaster


Port Royal's undoing was caused, in part, by what made it so attractive in the first place: Its location, according to Port Royal. The port was situated at the end of the Palisadoes spit, a long isthmus that connects what's left of Port Royal to the main land of Jamaica.

The foundation on which Port Royal sat was unstable because it was composed of limestone and only five miles away from the ocean shelf, a point where the Caribbean Sea's great depths begin. The ocean shelf is also known as a site where the probabilities of earthquakes happening are higher.

The Earthquake

It happened on June 7, 1692.

Foundation Breaking Down

Narrators said that disaster was in the air from daybreak. Buccaneer ships had just gotten back from a successful raid on St. Dominique, a French settlement and the.

When the quake began, eye witnesses said that the ground didn't shake, but it moved like waves under their feet. Others said that great pools of water began to open up on the ground and they swallowed up houses, inns, bars, and anything else that used them as a foundation.

During the earthquake, the limestone foundation of the port gave way. The western half of Port Royal literally broke off and sank into Kingston Harbor.

Western Drop-Off

To view pictures of what was the western half of Port Royal visit: Underwater.

As soon as things seemed to be calming down, a tsunami came hit the rest of the port and destroyed what the earthquake left behind, drowning people half buried under sand and rubble and it is estimated that approximately 2000 people died. Whole streets, the grave yard, and merchant ships laid underwater.

To further confuse the situation, looting started on the night after the earthquake.

"No man could call anything his own," wrote a minister from nearby Vere Parish.

Divine Retribution?

As rector wrote in his plea to England for help, "In the space of two minutes, all the churches, the dwelling houses and sugar works of the whole island were thrown down. Two thirds of Port Royal swallowed up by the sea... All its Forts and fortifications demolished and a great part of its inhabitants either knocked over the head or drowned... This is an instance of GOD Almighty's Severe Judgement....," taken from "Port Royal."

Religious ministers in the area said the events were acts of God, and recompense for the lifestyle that was lived at the port. As far away as New England, Cotton Mather, a famous Puritan minister, shared the same sentiment.

Visit the Jamaican Gleaner for a religious perspective.