La Montagne Pelée and Saint Pierre - September 2005
All over the world towns are related to volcanoes, but very few by a tragedy during historical times, such as Pompeji and Vesuvius or Armero and Nevado del Ruiz. One of the more recent examples is Saint Pierre and Montagne Pelée in Martinique. This page shows the town and its volcano today, while another is focused on the tragedy of 1902.
The Volcano Observatory at Morne des Cadets was built just after the last eruption of 1929-1932, so no volcanic activity was ever observed from there. Venus shines in the pink twilight cloud.
The view from the Observatory is magnificent: La Montagne Pelée and the town of Saint Pierre on the coast on a rare clear early morning.
La Pelée East flank from Plateau des Palmistes. The car parking below center, reached by a road from Morne Rouge village at center-left. A path goes to L'Aileron peak (left, 1107m.a.s.l.).
After L'Aileron the path leads to Plateau des Pamistes below the imposing dome Pointe Savane (1174m.a.s.l., right). Lower left: Rivière des Pères reaches Saint Pierre on the Caribbean Sea (center).
L'Aileron (1107m.a.s.l.) offers the first views of the summit dome on the right, here partly in the fog: just below the dome, note the path reaching Plateau des Palmistes from L'Aileron. Dome Pointe Savane on the left.
Plateau des Palmistes is cut by the rim of the Caldera de L'Etang Sec (Dry Pond Caldera) filled by the summit domes. Roby (tiny figure in the enlarged inset) on top of the 1902 dome for scale.
About 15 meters of annual precipitation are recorded on Plateau des Palmistes. In half a century even the dome's solid lava has been colonized by a carpet of endemic plants. The Lycopodes have branches specialized in collecting fog droplets.
Saint Pierre and La Pelée are, in many ways, a counterpart of Naples and Vesuvius. After the 1902 eruption, St. Pierre was a ghost town. Only a few decades ago it was rebuilt, including Mouillage Cathedral. For long?
The area around the theater has been transformed into a museum showing the power of destruction by pyroclastic flows. Over the entrance to the theater still looms the volcano.
A pyroclastic flow destroys everything which is standing up. This becomes particularly evident when we enter the theater: only the rectangular pit of the orchestra has survived (on the right).
A close-up view of the of the theater orchestra. Note that the floor is inclined towards the director so that all the musicians could easily see him.
The theater had been built above a prison, protecting it from the terrible effects of pyroclastic flows. View from the theater terrace to the roof of the cell of prisoner Cyparis, one of the few survivors.