April 16, 1690

(The date of April 6 is from the Julian calendar. This would be April 16 on the Gregorian calendar which we use today.)

At around 5pm on Sunday April 16, 1690, a great earthquake of magnitude 8.0 or higher struck just southeast of the island of Barbuda in the Leeward Islands.

The earthquake severely affected all of the islands of the northeast Caribbean.

Reports indicate that the earth opened 9 feet in many places on St. Kitts, and buried solid timber, sugar mills, etc.


The earthquake resulted in the earliest record of a tsunami affecting any present U.S. territory.  A letter from the governor of St. Thomas in 1690 stated, "Last Sunday, which was April 6, this island has been hit by a terrible earthquake lasting one-half of a quarter-of-an-hour, so that people feared their houses would come down. Some hours after that the sea receded so much that one could walk about 9 to 10 fathoms into the sea and pick out fishes on dry land."

Landslides occurred on Nevis Peak and the sea withdrew an estimated 200m in Charlestown before returning 2 minutes later..

A witness in Nevis wrote "It began upon the sixth of April, about five of the Clock in the Afternoon. At what time we heard a rumbling noise, like that of distant thunder, which seemed to come from the bowels of the great mountain, seated in the very navil of the island. We heard it for a short while with great amazement; for it lasted not long before we felt the dire effects of those violent vapors strugling and contending in the womb of the Earth for passage forth. So strong was the motion, that within some few moments after the noise began, ensued a most amazing earthquake, which shook the whole island to that degree, that all the houses in Charles Town that were built of brick or stone, dropped of a sudden down from the top to the bottom in perfect ruines."

The earth opened in several places spewing sand and hot water (sand blows or sand volcanoes)

Terrified people took the the streets screaming, running up and down, not knowing where to flee for safety.