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April 1, 1822, Courier, London, Middlesex, United Kingdom

Eruption of Mount Vesuvius

Mount Vesuvius, which had been for several months in a state of total inaction, on Friday, the 22d February, showed signs of renewed vigour; on the following night it was in a very great activity, and on Sunday night (the 24th Feb.), the volcano exhibited a very grand eruption.

Naples with Mt. Vesuvius in the Background
Antonio Joli

Naples from the Bay with Mt. Vesuvius in the Background. Antonio Joli A broad stream of lava descended the cone, and seemed to turn off in an angle, and run down the mountain towards Rosina and Portici; the flames above the crater were lofty and continued; an unremitting discharge of fiery masses, which were thrown up in the air to a great height, issued from the mouth, and the groans of the mountain were heard in Naples, like distant thunder. About ten o'clock on that evening the view from the city was particularly striking the wide river of fire ran on in majestic slowness; innumerable pale torches were seen coasting its sides, on which some bold and curious persons seemed every now and then to be treading ; the flames were reflected across the bay, and threw a strong glare on the buildings and on the faces of thousands of spectators, who had gathered on the Molo, Santa Lucia, and other open places, to gaze at the magnificent conflagration.

On Monday, the eruption was much less considerable; in the evening, the Princess of Partano, the King's wife, ascended to the hermitage of San Salvattore. On Tuesday (26th) loud rumbling noises were heard in Naples, at very short intervals, during all the day.

The quantity of smoke which issued from the volcano was so great that the sun was quite discoloured; its reflex was of a murky red tint, and the atmosphere was heavily clouded. Religious processions were made in the little towns at the foot of the mountain, which have so often suffered from their dangerous neighbour. Towards evening, as appearances promised a good night's work, we sat off from Naples to view the operations nearer; the road to Resina was covered with people going and returning, like a fair; when we reached the spot where strangers are, on common occasions surrounded by guides, and asses and mules, to conduct them up the mountain, we found that no animals were to be procured, and it was with difficulty we could get a stupid old man for a cicerone, who rendered us no other service than carrying a torch. The ascent was thronged with people, some pushing on eagerly to the objects of their curiosity, and others returning and discussing what they had seen; far below San Salvatore we saw the stream of fire rolling along a wide hollow, and approaching the path by which we were going up : it was then, however, at a considerable distance, and its course was very slow.

Bay of Naples. 1800s.

On reaching the hermitage we refreshed ourselves as well as the crowd there assembled could permit; we then continued, and for shortness traversed the lava chiefly formed by the eruption of January, 1821; we reached the foot of the cone just where the stream was descending; we found it about thirty feet wide; it was not liquid lava, but composed of ashes, ignited stones, and old masses of volcanic ejections, swept away in its course and heated again; these lumps rolled over each other, producing a strange clinking noise; some of them were of very great size, and the whole stream, though descending a steep cone, moved but slowly.

Beyond this principal stream, midway u up the cone, was an opening, whence very large stones and other burning matter were continually thrust out ; this mouth fed a scattered stream, beyond which was another narrow stream, proceeding (like the principal one) from the crater; they both united with the main body in the deep hollow below, and rolled on towards the road which leads from Silesia up to the hermitage. The quantity of spectators standing by the sides of this burning river was astonishing: we, with great many of the more adventurous, determined to ascend the cone; we therefore passed a little to the left of the great stream, and began to scramble through the deep loose cinders and ashes which cover this part of the mountain, and render it at all times a most fatiguing climb. A little path or tract formerly existed, in which the guides hud laid masses of lava to facilitate the mounting, but it was just in that line that the present eruption descended, and we were in consequence obliged to go up over the sand and cinders in which we stuck up to our knees, and at every three steps lost one on an average. After a most breathing toil of an hour and a half, we found ourselves, with a few others, on the edge of the grand crater; hence the coup-d 'ail was terrifically sublime; the flames rushed out of the mouth and threw themselves in the air in a broad body to the elevation of at least a hundred feet, whilst many of the fiery stones flew up twice that height; the flames fell back into the mouth and then burst out again, as though impelled by a fresh impulse, like the blast of a bellows; in the descent some of the stones and lumps of cinder returned into the mouth, but the greater part fell outside of the flames like the jets of a fountain.

While we were standing on the exposed side of the crater, very intent in observation, all of a sudden the volcano gave a tremendous roar; it was like the crash of a long line of artillery, and was instantly succeeded by such a discharge of stones as we had never before seen, at the same moment the wind, which was very high, gave an irregular gust, which directed a good part of the stones towards where we were posted; our situation was for a minute or two very perilous, but there was no shelter near, and we stood still, looking at the descending shower which fell around us; we, however, happily sustained no other injury than a short alarm, and having some ashes dashed in our faces by stones which fell near us. Two or three gentlemen who were ascending the cone after us, were not quite so fortunate, for many of the stones failing outside of the ridge, rolled down the side with great velocity, loosening and carrying with them lumps of cold lava, & c , some of which struck those persons on the legs with great violence, and nearly precipitated one of them headlong to the foot of the cone.

After this, we thought we had seen enough, and turned to go down; the descent is as easy as the ascent is difficult; the cinders and ashes slide away beneath the feet; nothing is necessary but to step out (the quicker the better) to keep one's equilibrium and to avoid the fixed or large stones and pieces of lava we were not more than ten minutes in reaching the point, whence it had taken us an hour and a half to mount. In coming down we were struck with the strange appearance of the torches of companies ascending and descending; they formed a pale wavering line from Resina to the hermitage, and thence to the cone they were scattered about in thick and fantastic groups. On reaching the hermitage we found it so crowded that we could not enter; the large flat around was covered like a crowded fair by people of all nations and of all ranks from the beautiful and accomplished Countess of Fiquelmont, wife of the Austrian Ambassador, to the Austrian sergeant and his wife who bad come to see the blasting mountain; numbers of people had come from the towns and villages below with bread and wine, and fruit and aqua-vita, all of which articles seemed in very great demand. The motley scene was light by the bright silvery moon, and the red towering flames at the summit of the volcano.

Mt. Vesuvius.

We took some slight refreshment, and repaired homewards in the midst of as gay groups as ever returned from scenes of festivity and joy. When we got lower down, we found that the lava had approached very near to the road, and had already seized upon a fine vineyard, which was blazing very brilliantly. After our retreat, we learned that the lava traversed the road. On Wednesday, the 27th, the eruption was in a great measure; tranquillized; still, however, crowds of people continued going up the mountain, and an Austrian Officer, who bad come from Capua to see it, was unfortunately killed on the ridge of the cone, by a large stone striking him on his head. On Thursday scarcely anything but smoke issued from the crater, and it has continued in this peaceful state ever since.

The news of the eruption reaching Rome, induced crowds of Englishmen to set off immediately for Naples; on Saturday and Sunday above 20 carriages arrived here, where, to the no small mortification of the travellers, all the business was finished.

1899. World's Fleet. Boston Daily Globe

Lloyds Register of Shipping gives the entire fleet of the world as 28,180 steamers and sailing vessels, with a total tonnage of 27,673,628, of which 39 perent are British.

Great Britain10,990 vessels, total tonnage of 10,792,714
United States 3,010 vessels, total tonnage of 2,405,887
Norway 2,528 vessels, tonnage of 1,604,230
Germany 1,676 vessels, with a tonnage of 2,453,334, in which are included her particularly large ships.
Sweden 1,408 vessels with a tonnage of 643, 527
Italy1,150 vessels
France 1,182 vessels

For Historical Comparison
Top 10 Maritime Nations Ranked by Value (2017)

  Country # of Vessels







1 Greece 4,453 206.47 $88.0
2 Japan 4,317 150.26 $79.8
3 China 4,938 159.71 $71.7
4 USA 2,399 55.92 $46.5
5 Singapore 2,662 64.03 $41.7
6 Norway 1,668 39.68 $41.1
7 Germany 2,923 81.17 $30.3
8 UK 883 28.78 $24.3
9 Denmark 1,040 36.17 $23.4
10 South Korea 1,484 49.88 $20.1
Total 26,767 87.21 $466.9

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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