Under the Volcano
15 June 2016
We bid adieu to Dominica and pointed the boat south to Martinique. Once again the weather forecast was understated, but we only had about 30 nautical miles to go, with about 25 of that open water, so it could have been worse.
Our friends were already in St Pierre, but we decided to anchor at a little beach we know immediately south of the town that is much easier anchoring, and far less stressful for our already rattled bodies. Bob had promised us a baguette when we arrived in St Pierre, and darned if he didn’t dinghy out to us to deliver it! Talk about a very considerate thing to do! We had a quiet night on the hook off by ourselves, then hauled anchor the next morning to find a spot closer to town.
There is, theoretically, a no anchor zone just off the main dock at St. Pierre. This happens to be some of the prime anchoring space, too. However, lately it doesn’t look like they have been enforcing this, as a number of boats, including us, were firmly planted in the area. Ostensibly, this is to protect wrecks, but they are sunk in about 100 feet of water, a depth we are highly unlikely to anchor in. Out of all the places putting in mooring balls, St. Pierre is a prime candidate. Even without the no anchoring area, it is still a little interesting to drop the hook and make her stick. However, we anchored and were fine. We were also close enough to forego the use of the outboard to get ashore.
On my morning run, I realised just how close the Earth Sciences Discovery Center was (okay, the name is in French, but that is a fair approximation). It was an easy walk from the dock, and it was definitely something Ken and I wanted to see. We had been there previously by car with Alex and David of ‘Banyan’, but had decided that spending a couple of hours indoors when we were renting a car didn’t seem like a great idea. Well, that wasn’t a concern this time!
The Discovery Center is mostly dedicated to Mount Pele. Pele is the volcano that looms over the north part of Martinique, and destroyed St. Pierre in 1902, along with about 3,000 people. Sadly, they had no idea of how to read the warning signs, and figured they were safe as any flow would follow the river valleys down the side of the mountain. They didn’t plan on hot gasses blowing out the side of the dome and essentially cooking all but two survivors. The studies after the eruption provided a great deal of information for the volcano experts after that. All of this is well documented at the Center, with numerous pictures of the destruction of the area. Seeing the town burned to the ground with a few ruins still standing, and the absolute wasteland of the surrounding area, was very sobering. And this volcano is not considered dormant at this time. It is part of a line of volcanos, almost equidistance apart, that follow the fault line between the Caribbean Plate and the North Atlantic Plate. From Kick `Em Jenny, the submarine volcano just north of Grenada, to Soufriere in St. Vincent, to St. Lucia’s Soufriere, Pele, Dominica and Montserrat, there is a line of volcanos that bear watching. Montserrat is still quite active, but it seems to be settling down a bit, and Kick `Em Jenny was making noises just last year. She’s expected to do something dramatic within a decade. The Center has an excellent video with English subtitles, while the displays are in French. Our French was good enough to get the important stuff.
After the Discovery Center, we walked up to the Depaz Rhummerie. Unfortunately, it wasn’t open on a Sunday, which we eventually figured out was Mother’s Day, but we could sit down for a second, refill our water, and enjoy the view. The poor Security guy wasn’t sure what to do with us, but he was busy enough dealing with the cars of the patrons for the restaurant there that was open. We snapped some pictures of the scenic grounds and wandered off again.
We enjoyed St. Pierre for a longer period of time than we ever have before. We had been there for about 2 or 3 days before, and our last couple of times through was just an overnighter at the beach before continuing on. However, we had an appointment to get our diesel looked at for its 2 year checkup, and it was time to move on.