Port Royal is a city located at the end of a 18-mile sandy beach known as Palisadoes, in south-east Jamaica. It was founded in 1518, and it became the most important trading post in the Caribbean Sea, because of its strategic location. When Britain officially appointed pirates to face the raid enemy ships in the Caribbean, as part of its defense strategy, pirates were gathered in Port Royal to legitimize their trade. Soon the city became a notorious hub for pirate activity.
On June 7th, 1692, a massive earthquake hit Jamaica. The sea literally swallowed up the city, killing 2,000 people and injuring 3,000 others.
Today, the area is a shadow of its former self with a population of less than 2,000 with little to no commercial or political importance.
In 1692, the city had a population of 6,500 inhabitants and 2,000 buildings, concentrated in just 51 acres. Port Royal faced an abrupt end on June 7, 1692 when a massive earthquake and tsunami hit the area, causing more than half of the city to be overwhelmed by water and sank beneath the sea. After a series of fires and hurricanes, the city was never able to restore its former glory. Part of the city that is at the bottom of the shallow sea, is considered as the most important underwater archaeological site in the western hemisphere, with many objects from the 16th and 17th century.
The island of Jamaica is located between the Caribbean Plate and the Gonâve microplate. The earthquake of 1692 occurred at about 11:43 a.m. Gonâve microplate is believed to have been sheared off the Caribbean plate and is expected to accrete onto the North American plate (Mann et al., 1994). The estimated magnitude of the event was 7,5R.
According to Mulcahy, “Scientists and underwater archaeologists now believe that the earthquake was a powerful one and that much of the damage at Port Royal resulted from a process known as liquefaction.”