Saturday, February 13, 2010

Feb 2010 Martinique - Ash Wednesday does follow Mardi Gras, after all

Hey- it could be considered something significant. I just think it's pretty interesting stuff.... Check out the cool satellite photo. Montserrat is the little island covered in a cloud of ash, then, toward the south, Guadeloupe, Dominica, and Martinique in the lower right. Weather reports are saying the clouds went primarily east, and not toward other islands, but the dustlayer coating EVerything here, almost 400 miles away, says otherwise.

At least it is not our local volcano, Mt Pelée - which, you may have heard, had it's last crippling effect in 1902 - May 8th, in fact (hmn.) The eruption is considered the most devasting of the modern era, claiming nearly 30,000 lives.

From about Pelée. It's always about the politics:
If this had happened in modern times then evacuation and close monitoring would have been organised but in 1902 the Martinique government had more pressing matters to attend to. The elections to decide who controlled the island. The ruling Progressive party wanted to maintain white control of the island and were being rivalled by a black candidate from the Radical party. In St.Pierre a the Progressive Party had won but not by a clear enough majority so another vote had to be organised for May 11.

On May 2 the volcano rumbled and showered the countryside with ash a glow was seen at the summit. People came to St.Pierre to escape the worst of the ash. A Martinique newspaper assured residents that there was no real danger and even organised a boat excursion to see the volcano on May 4.

On May 3 and 4 people watched the fireworks from the volcano. Food and fresh water were running low but the residents stayed on because of the election and reassurances that all was well! A mudflow engulfed a sugar mill and killed 23 people . When it entered the sea it caused a Tsunami which inundated the water front area killing 68 people. Soldiers were now brought in to prevent people leaving the city! The local population turned to Voodoo rituals for help.

On Wednesay the 7th, Nuee Ardent clouds flowed down the mountain but injured no one as the villages were by now empty. The Italian ship Orsalina sailed a day early leaving passengers behind.

On the Morning of May 8 at 7.50am, as people were going to the Ascension Day services, a black cloud raced down the volcano at an estimated speed of 600km/hour and engulfed St.Pierre. A giant eruption cloud covered the sky for a 50 mile radius. The city was probably destroyed by a thin and rapidly moving Pyroclastic surge which came out laterally from the volcano. The blast was composed of gas,steam and dust and was probably around 1000 C.

Toasty food for thought. or to put in pipe and smoke it.

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