St Pierre was our last stop in Martinique. It is in the north of the island and used to be the capital until in 1902, the volcano Mont Pelee erupted with devastating effect. The town was large then, about 30,000 inhabitants, and a very wealthy port, it was known as the 'Paris of the Caribbean'. The old photos of the town show large, ornate houses, theatres and cathedrals. Local folklore states that the original inhabitants of the island, the Caribs, were forced out by European settlers in the 17th Century and, before the last of the Caribs died, they uttered terrible curses against the settlers, asking the mountain to take its revenge. In true Caribbean fashion however, it was not until 1902 that the eruption happened. Prior to the main eruption, smaller rumblings were heard in April which showered the surrounding area with ash. These were ignored as was a small eruption on 5th May 1902, which killed some inhabitants. The people in the town refused to move as they were worried about the financial aspects of leaving the area. The volcano then erupted and a cloud of heavy smoke and super heated gas engulfed the town and basically melted everything in it's path. The 'after' photos resemble a 'moonscape' almost. All the people except one died, he was a prisoner in a cell under ground and escaped with just burns. He later went to the USA and made lots of money showing off his burns in Barnum's Circus - strange or what? There are loads of ruins around the town now, they have not been cleared presumably because, at the time, there was no-one left to clear them. Also, the town is now much smaller with only about 5,000 people living there. Apart from that aspect of town, the place itself is very small and there are only a few shops and restaurants. There was also a pleasant distillery making rum on the outside of the town, which was much more mechanised than the last one we visited, set in beautiful grounds, but aside from that not much.
John at the theatre ruins
The prison where the only survivor was being held
The oldest remaining street in the town - the only one to survive the eruption