Memories of the Historic Eruption of Mount Pelée, Martinique
She sits quietly today towering over northern Martinique, her steep slopes stretching more than 4,000 feet into the clouds – as beautiful, awe-inspiring, and iconic a sight as found anywhere in the Caribbean. The emotions she stirred on this day 116 years ago, though, were very much different. May 8th, 1902 – La Catastrophe. In a flash, the stratovolcano unleashed a devastating pyroclastic cloud of hot ash, steam, poisonous gas, and rocks en route to the city of Saint-Pierre below. The speed of the cloud: 400+ miles per hour. The temperature inside it: 1,830-degrees Fahrenheit. The 30,000 residents of Saint-Pierre (save one or two) never had a chance; the city literally turning from The Paris of the Caribbean into the region’s Pompeii in less than two minutes. It’s impossible to avoid feeling the history here – as you cruise through the harbor filled with the wrecks of ships felled during the eruption, or walk the streets of Saint-Pierre exploring the new city still emerging atop centuries-old ruins – Mount Pelée always looming just over your shoulder.