31 Oct 2017 francophone fun
Time to stop treating la France Hexagonale like it is the only part of France that matters. Let’s travel to Les Caraïbes and explore La Martinique.
Now, if your interest is sparked by the past and adventure, then you are like me and Martinique is the place for you. I don’t know about you all, but reading only cold hard facts about La Martinique sounds a little boring. Although, it is important to know that La Martinique is very much a part of la République Française, is on the euro, was known (economically and culturally) as the Paris of Les Caraïbes in its heyday*,* and that the majority of people there speak Créole Martiniquais. No, I am looking for the spooky, and eerie… you know, in the wake of Halloween and all.
Now that you followed me all the way to Martinique, you might as well continue on my adventure to the city of St. Pierre, on May 8, 1902. Imagine a city filled with tourists, merchants, the people of St. Pierre of course, all happily going about their day. And then… BOOM! an earth-shattering and life-altering rumble from Mt. Pelée, the active volcano that looms over St. Pierre. Soon, fire fills the town and smoke surges through the city and reaches la bord de la mer, where many merchant and cargo ships were anchored. Not even the seafaring vessels were able to escape the fury unleashed by Mt. Pelée. Boats were being torn in half, pummeled by lava and debris. The cracking of wood and the cry of sailors were muddled only by the screeches of the volcano herself. However, the smoke finally cleared and revealed a once thriving city now demolished and left with few survivors. Close to 40,000 people died, according to The New York Times. One of the only survivors was a prisoner who was so well imprisoned that his cell protected him from the chaos of the volcano.
Okay, I get it, you’re thinking “Jane, what is this? I didn’t casually open up this blog to suddenly get so sad.” Well, dearest reader, out of all chaos and devastation must come something beautiful, right? To show you, let’s travel 115 years into the future, to Martinique aujourd’hui. Here, you find a town who never truly recovered from the catastrophe that was the eruption of Mt. Pelée. Even though St. Pierre never reverted back to being the “Paris of the Carribean”, it is now a quaint town known for history and the arts.
You could say that both history and art drew me to St. Pierre. Even after 115 years, evidence of the catastrophic volcanic eruption remains… in shipwrecks. Many many shipwrecks. Both haunting and inviting, these shipwrecks drew me in like fishermen lure in fish. I was hooked. More than 10 serene ships lie beneath the calm waters of St. Pierre teaming with wildlife and history. While you might have to look harder onshore to see the effects of Mt. Pelée’s eruption in 1902, its memory lives on in vivid beautiful blues and rusted reds below the waterline in a ship graveyard.
The RORAIMA DIAMANT GRAPPLER TERESA LOVICO GABRIELLE CLEMENTINA ANNA MORSE TAMAYA KORONA SACRO CUORE NORTH AMERICAN RAISINIER were all casualties of the eruption. They all lie right off the coast of St. Pierre as relics and reminders of what happened on May 8, 1902. They lie anywhere between 50 and 200 feet underwater. While they have all been scoured for treasure and swept for trinkets, they are still beauties to behold. Buried under the sea, these ships hold wonder and capture the attention of the adventurer and detective inside us all.
So, dearest lecteur and fellow adventurer, I will leave you with this task: pick up your scuba gear and don’t just read about this legendary ship graveyard. Go visit these shipwrecks for yourself. Swim with the wreckage, explore the vessels and then report back. I’ll be waiting.
Sources: http://www.numa.net/2013/04/shipwrecks-of-the-french-west-indies/ http://www.shipwreckexpo.com/tsmartiniqueshipwrecks.htm https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint-Pierre,_Martinique