Phil May and Andrea Twigg
Mon 18 Jul 2016 23:24
In Martinique cruising yachts tend to congregate at Fort de France (the capital) and St Anne, bypassing the attractions of St Pierre. We like to stop at St Pierre because it it is right there on the west coast and all the facilities (supermarket, vegetable market, Digicel shop, customs/immigration) are a short walk from the dinghy dock.
What we hadn’t done on previous visits was explore the town or the volcano museum. This last visit we did some research and discovered that there is a veritable Pompeii of ruins just along the back street. St Pierre used to be the capital of Martinique until 1902, when Mount Pelee erupted and destroyed the town. The town’s 30,000 inhabitants were not evacuated because it was thought the lava would not reach the town. The volcano exploded and a ball of superheated gas destroyed all the buildings and killed all but one of the inhabitants. The sole survivor was a prisoner held in the town’s dungeon, who was found four days after the disaster. The town has been rebuilt in a fairly haphazard manner but there are significant parts of the ruins preserved for tourists. The museum doesn’t have a lot of exhibits, but it really highlights the effects of 1000 degrees of heat on everyday objects.
There is a lot of construction work going on right now (with a grant from the EU) and this place will probably be a chic tourist resort in five years time. Right now it lacks the cafes and restaurants that would make it an ideal stopover, but still worth a visit on your way through.
Andrea likes it because, like many of these historic old towns, there is a wealth of sea glass on the beaches. Also she saw a fish she has never seen before, a Caribbean Electric Ray. No photo of that I am afraid.
The ruins of the town right after the volcano erupted.
The view of the town from the anchorage, Mt Pelee in the background
The anchorage looks really exposed on the chart, but the sea is silky smooth at night