Geological studies and eyewitness accounts of volcanic activity show the likelihood that the massive destruction reported in 3 Nephi was caused by an explosive volcanic eruption.
About three hundred years ago, a cataclysmic volcanic eruption occurred off of the northeastern coast of Papua New Guinea. No written history of this eruption exists, but local legends abound concerning the event. In 1970, Russell Blong began collecting many of these legends and piecing together the effects of the eruption. The native legends refer to this period as the "time of darkness": "I am going to tell the story of darkness. I am going to tell the story of the great darkness which appeared on this ground/area. I did not see it. People told me and so I know it. It was while they were asleep, in the night, that it was so dark on this earth, and they slept/lay for about three nights. And when they took flares and went up the hills and made signs, going with flares in the pitch blackness, they said: Can you see my flare? But the flares did not light up the place! So they said: No!"