Travel Pics Theme: Fort-de-France

Saint Pierre, Martinique

Saint Pierre, Martinique

This week, our Travel pics series is F for Fort de France.

Well, strictly speaking this isn’t Fort-de-France – its the previous capital of Martinique, Saint Pierre.

Or what’s left of it.

Saint Pierre was the first European settlement on Martinique.

It seemed like an ideal location – but then The Great Hurricane of 1780 produced a storm surge which killed nine thousand people. That eight-metre surge inundated the whole town, as you can imagine – and destroyed virtually every structure.

Then, after it was rebuilt, the city became known as “the Paris of the Caribbean” with its arts, and literature, and grand homes and genteel lifestyle (unless you were a slave, of course…)

But that all came to a shuddering halt in 1902 when nearby Mont Pelee erupted and killed 30-thousand people – the entire population of the city, and of many surrounding villages.

There’d been rumbling and activity from the volcano for some days, but the belief was that the lava, if it erupted, would get trapped in nearby valleys.

Of course, NOW we know that the danger from volcanoes isn’t lava, but Pyroclastic Flow – the hot gasses and ashes and rocks that come from an eruption – but the residents of Saint Pierre didn’t know that. Then.

In fact, the French term for a Pyroclastic Flow is “Nuee Ardente” or “Burning Cloud” … and the term was first coined after the 1902 eruption of Mont Pelee.

As I say, the entire city was destroyed – but in its stead, a century later, there are once again settlements where the city stood.

In our Travel Pic today, you can’t see Mont Pelee – it rises above, to the left of our shot.

But what you CAN see is its legacy – the black, volcanic beaches that make up the landscape here in the northwest of the island – compared to the golden sandy beaches of La Salines in the south-east.

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