On 8 February 1843, a large earthquake struck the islands of the Lesser Antilles. Like the volcanism that built the islands, this earthquake was related to the subduction of the Atlantic tectonic plate beneath the Caribbean plate. Its epicentre was beneath Montserrat’s southern neighbour island Guadeloupe and had an estimated magnitude of 8.5. The earthquake caused severe damage and six fatalities on Montserrat.
The despatch of Edward Baynes (Chancellor and Vice-Admiral of Montserrat) describes the earthquake and the extent of damage on island:
“The roads, which were in disgracefully bad condition before this calamity, are now, in many quarters, entirely destroyed, and communication cut off, in various instances, altogether. This has been occasioned by land slips, and the falling of cliffs impending over them. The disruption of these immense masses […] raised a dense cloud of dust, resembling smoke, which overspread the whole country, elevating itself above the summits of the mountains, and must have presented an alarming appearance from the sea. […]
The shock commenced at 10 A.M., proceeding with an undulatory motion, apparently from east to west: its duration was about two minutes; an unusual space of time for a single shock, which this seemed to be.”