From 1897 to 1900, a series of volcano-tectonic earthquakes rocked Montserrat island, which destroyed several buildings and were accompanied by gas emissions. This unrest was likely related to magma moving in the shallow subsurface and almost reaching the surface.
An article in the Montserrat Herald on 20 October 1900 describes one of the earthquakes:
“But on the night of the sixteenth the strongest nerve relaxed as the teeming earth….People fled from their houses, cattle bellowed, and dogs yelled. At 4:20 A. M. two heavy shocks followed within a few seconds of each other. No injury to life and limb. The injuries to properties have been mostly the same that suffered in 1898. The windmill tower at Gage’s is rent at the base; Paradise chimney cut; Tar River boiling-house wall, windmill tower, and chimney wrecked; the wall of St. George’s Church which is being restored is rent in all
directions, and the belfry, which was a beauty, cut off.” (from Perret, 1939)
A letter from Professor John Milne (a renowned seismologist) to Edward Wingfield (the responsible administrator at the time) described the “seismic disturbances” as follows:
“Sir, I beg to thank Secretary Chamberlain for his kindness in sending the document[ation] in relation to the seismic disturbances on Montserrat. These I now return. I am not aware that effects due to these shocks reached Europe and am therefore inclined to the opinion that they were small and of local origin.”
It then goes on to detail ways in which earthquakes may affect the Caribbean and talks about communication cable. There are several of these letters in the Archive around the times of the ‘seismic disturbances’.
Similar unrest periods occurred at conspicuous 30-year intervals in 1933-1937, 1966-1967 and 1992-1995, before Soufrière Hills started erupting in 1995.