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Published: July 12th 2008
What an amazing site- anchored out at the base of Mt. Pelee.
We set sail at first light and got to St. Pierre on the northern tip of Martinique just before sunset, it was a long day. But now we are here, anchored in St. Pierre harbor at the base of Mt. Pelee- a totally amazing site! We are super excited to explore Martinique and are looking forward to visiting this famous town.
St. Pierre has a fascinating and very tragic history. It was once the capital of Martinique and the epi-center of the French West Indies, often called the Paris of the Caribbean, rich in culture, sophistication and the elite plantation society. It was also a major port town and an important stop along the trade routes for both Europe and America, the harbor was often full with large schooners and tall ships. That was until May 8th, 1902- the fateful day when Mt. Pelee erupted and destroyed the entire town and all the ships in the harbor in less than 2 minutes. Over 30,000 people were killed instantly, only 1 survived (a prisoner locked in his cell for murder). The explosion was like an atomic bomb, the volcano was spewing toxic gas, and lava was running down the mountainside at
The town of St. Pierre, rebuilt after the volcano eruption.
250 mph. It was total destruction and proves that volcanoes are indeed an incredible force of nature.
We had a great time walking around St. Pierre, the city has now been re-built amongst the ruins. Every single house or structure uses one of the damaged walls in the construction and there are reminders of the eruption everywhere. We even had to be careful of where we anchored because the harbor is littered with the wrecks of the ships that sank in 1902. We visited the ruins of the theater and the fort and the famous jail cell which protected the sole survivor. And we went to the Musee Vulcanologique, which has great photos of St. Pierre before and after the eruption as well as relics like molten glass, fused iron nails, petrified honey combs, and deformed clocks which stopped at 8 am (at the exact time of the eruption). It was fascinating and we learned a lot. We really enjoyed St. Pierre and spent most of our time just walking around town, although it was a bit eerie and we never could quite escape the feeling of what a tragedy it truly was.
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