Thursday, January 16, 2014

Saint-Pierre, Martinique:Risen from the Ashes

View of Sainte-Pierre and Mount Pelee from our anchorage
Pillar in the church ruins

On the northwest coast of Martinique, at the base of cloud-shrouded Mount PelĂ©e, lies the town of Saint-Pierre. The view as we approached from sea was spectacular. Colorful buildings line the shore and climb the nearby hills. Behind them stretch cultivated fields edged by forest. And finally, up the long, green slope, is the cloud-shrouded peak. Utterly beautiful…and utterly deadly. For those of you familiar with Jaws or similar natural-disaster films, you will recognize the bad guys in the Saint-Pierre story. Apparently, though the volcano had started to rumble and spew ash nearly two weeks before the eruption, the good business-folks of the town convinced the new and uncertain mayor to hold off on an evacuation, claiming that they would suffer financially. So instead, nearly 30,000 died when the volcano erupted on May 8, 1902. Only two people in the town lived. Two out of thirty thousand! In addition, merchant ships on the dock and in the harbor sunk, only one managing to get away, albeit damaged. OK, I'm off my rant now. There’s a good day-by-day account here. Evidence of the catastrophe is all around. We walked all over town, uphill and down. The new town is build right around the ruins of the old town. Some new buildings have old stone walls, or are alongside the ruins. Along the waterfront are the stone ruins of the former warehouses. Very interesting, though sad that all those lives were lost for no good reason.

Old stone ruins incorporated in newer buildings
View of town from the hillside church
Interesting building on waterfront plaza

Chris trying to be saint-like as a head replacement

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