Skipper and First Mate Millard (Big Bear and Pepe)
Tue 18 Jan 2011 19:31
Mount Pelée - "Bald Mountain" is the active volcano at the northern end of the island of Martinique. It is among the deadliest stratovolcanoes on Earth. Its volcanic cone is composed of layers of volcanic ash and hardened lava. The volcano is famous for its eruption in 1902 and the destruction that resulted, dubbed the worst volcanic disaster of the 20th century. The eruption killed about thirty thousand people. Most deaths were caused by pyroclastic flows and occurred in the city of Saint-Pierre, which was, at that time, the largest city as well as being the capital of the island.
Pyroclastic flows completely destroyed St. Pierre within minutes of the eruption. The eruption left only three survivors in the direct path of the volcano: Louis-Auguste Cyparis survived because he was in a poorly ventilated, dungeon-like jail cell; Leon Compere-Leandre, living on the edge of the city, escaped with severe burns. Havivra Da Ifrile, a young girl, escaped with injuries during the eruption by taking a small boat to a cave down shore, and was later found adrift two miles from the island, unconscious. The event marked the only major volcanic disaster in the history of France and its overseas territories.
Current status: As of last year, the volcano lies quiescent above Saint-Pierre and Martinique. Before the 1902 eruption - as early as the summer of 1900 - signs of increased fumarole activity were present in the Étang Sec crater. Relatively minor phreatic (steam) eruptions that occurred in 1792 and 1851 were evidence that the volcano was active. Signs of unrest will almost certainly precede any future eruptive activity from Mount Pelée, and its past activity (including the violent eruptions uncovered by carbon dating) is an extremely important factor for hazard assessment.
The city of Saint-Pierre was never restored, though some villages were built in its place. The estimated population of Commune of Saint-Pierre in 2004 was 4,544.
Volcanologic Museum: We went into the Volcanologic Museum, it seems on a daily basis to avoid rain. This small exhibition was created in 1932 by the American volcanologist Franck-A.Perret, we saw a collection of photographs of Saint-Pierre before and after the eruption, as well as some amazing objects exhumed of ashes (burnt foodstuffs, melted glass, a fused box of nails, scissors etc). The old bell (the bumblebee) of the cathedral, broken by the explosion and deformed by heat was a stark reminder of the power of nature.
ALL IN ALL INDEED A STARK REMINDER.