1692: The Port Royal Earthquake


Old Pt. Royal.
London: Gentleman’s Magazine, 1785.
21 x 33 cm.
Historical Museum of Southern Florida, 2005-270-1.

This map shows the shorelines of Port Royal before and after the 1692 earthquake.


candle stand


Pewter candle stand (bent).
17th century.
22.1 x 16.0 cm.
Institute of Jamaica, 1997/1113.

It was about 11:42 am on Wednesday, June 7, 1692. The residents of Port Royal were retiring home, or to a tavern, for a drink and their main meal when a roar came from the hills across the harbour. Shockwaves had the land suddenly ‘rowling and moving’ and, within minutes, three tremors tore through the ground. The sea swept in from all sides. The earthquake had struck.

An anonymous eyewitness stated: ‘The sand in the street rose like the waves of the sea, lifting up all persons that stood upon it, and immediately dropping down into pits; and at the same instant a flood of water rushed in, throwing down all who were in its way; some were seen catching hold of beams and rafters of houses, others were found in the sand that appeared when the water was drained away, with their legs and arms out’.

By the end, only 25 of Port Royal’s original 60 acres remained. The earthquake claimed approximately 2,000 lives instantly. A further 3,000 succumbed to injury, fever and vandals who fell upon the suffering and dying. One Port Royal resident, a Frenchman named Lewis Galdy, was swallowed up by the earth and subsequently spewed out alive. Most, however, did not have his good fortune.

To many, the calamity was a sign of God’s wrath, His retribution upon this ‘Sodom of the Indies’ with its hosts of reckless filibusters, harlots and moneylenders. Following the earthquake, survivors established Kingston across the harbour but did not abandon Port Royal. The community rebuilt itself, though it continued to be devastated by fires, hurricanes and earthquakes.

chamber pot

Pewter chamber pot (crushed).
17th century.
13.4 cm.
Institute of Jamaica, 1997/1273.

wine glass



Wineglass (broken).
17th century.
9.5 x 4.4 cm.
Institute of Jamaica, 2006.1.64 (R ).

Next: The Port Royal Naval Station

© 2007 Historical Museum of Southern Florida and the Institute of Jamaica. All rights reserved.