Skip Links

USGS - science for a changing world

Open-File Report 2011–1133

Accounts of Damage from Historical Earthquakes in the Northeastern Caribbean, to Aid in the Determination of their Location and Intensity Magnitudes

By Claudia H. Flores, Uri S. ten Brink, and William H. Bakun

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (1.68 MB)Abstract

Earthquakes have been documented in the northeastern Caribbean since the arrival of Columbus to the Americas; written accounts of these felt earthquakes exist in various parts of the world. To better understand the earthquake cycle in the Caribbean, the records of earthquakes in earlier catalogs and historical documents from various archives, which are now available online, were critically examined. This report updates previous catalogs of earthquakes, in particular earthquakes in Hispaniola, to give to the public the most comprehensive documentation of earthquake damage and to further the understanding of the earthquake cycle in the northeastern Caribbean.

Documentation of an event in the past depended on the population and political trends of the island, and the availability of historical documents is limited by the physical resource digitization schedule and by the copyright laws of each archive. Examples of documents accessed are governors’ letters, newspapers, and other circulars published within the Caribbean, North America, and Western Europe. Key words were used to search for publications that contain eyewitness accounts of various large earthquakes. Finally, this catalog provides descriptions of damage to buildings used in previous studies for the estimation of moment intensity (MI) and location of significantly damaging or felt earthquakes in Hispaniola and in the northeastern Caribbean, all of which have been described in other studies.

First posted February 1, 2012

For additional information contact:


U.S. Geological Survey

Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center

384 Woods Hole Road

Quissett Campus

(508) 548-8700

Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF); the latest version of Adobe Reader or similar software is required to view it. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge.

Suggested citation:

Flores, C.F., ten Brink, U.S., and Bakun, W.H., 2012, Accounts of damage from historical earthquakes in the northeastern Caribbean to aid in the determination of their location and intensity magnitudes: U.S. Geological Survey, Open-File Report 2011–1133, 237 p., at




Features of interest included in this catalog

Source Search Method

The Bulletins from the meteorological observatory in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Catalog of earthquakes with their descriptions

Earthquakes from 1500 to the end of the 17th Century

Earthquakes of the 18th Century

Earthquakes of the 19th Century

Selected Earthquakes of the 20th Century

Other Significant Earthquakes of the Caribbean

Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands

Lesser Antilles

List of Events Studied by the Authors

Maps of the Northern Caribbean

Historical events of interest on the island of Hispaniola

Index of Earthquakes by Island and by Year

References Cited

Additional Material

Quoted text extracted from de Utrera (1995, p. 17–18) explaining that the true date of the "1564" earthquake is actually December 2, 1562, based on evidence from contemporary source

Geographic locations used in the catalog for the Northern Caribbean

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
Page Contact Information: GS Pubs Web Contact
Page Last Modified: Thursday, 08-Dec-2016 00:10:40 EST