General Information Mt. Pelee is located at Martinique in the west Indies at14.82N and 61.17W. Mt. Pelee is a Stratovolcano. Summit elevation 1,397m. Mt. Pelee has a deadly pyroclastic flow. Sense Mt. Pelee is not that large, it has also been called a lava dome.
Recent Eruptions Eruptions of Mt Pelee 929-32, 1902-05, 1851-52, 1792, 1635 In 1902 Mt. Pelee killed 29,000 people About 4 miles down slope to the south, a city was demolished and nearly 30,000 inhabitants were killed almost instantly.
The Eruption of 1902 Mt. Pelee erupted a about 7:50 am May 8, 1902 in St.Pierre. But before that Pelee had been showing signs of increase in fumarole activity. And on April 23 minor eruptions began at the summit of the volcano. Frightened animals fled for safety from the volcano, an estimated 50 humans and 200 other animals were killed by snake bites in the process.
Survivors of 1902 Eruption Survivors of the 1902 eruption and destruction of the city of St. Pierre include a young shoemaker by the name of Leon Compere-Leandre. A 25 year old convicted felon by the name of Louis-Auguste Cyparis. And a little girl by the name of Haviyra Da lfrile.
Young Shoemaker A young shoemaker, Léon Compere-Léandre, was sitting on his doorstep when the nuée ardente hit. Although he was severely burnt he survived, partly because of his good health, but also because his house was near the edge of the pyroclastic flow. Here is his experience, in his own words: "I felt a terrible wind blowing, the earth began to tremble, and the sky suddenly became dark. I turned to go into the house, with great difficultuy climbed the three or four steps that separated me from my room, and felt my arms and legs burning, also my body. I dropped upon a table. At this moment four others sought refuge in my room, crying and writhing with pain, although their garmets showed no sign of having been touched by flame. At the end of 10 minutes one of these, the young Delavaud girl, aged about 10 years, fell dead; the others left. I got up and went to another room, where I found the father Delavaud, still clothed and lying on the bed, dead. He was purple and inflated, but the clothing was intact. Crazed and almost overcome, I threw myself on a bed, inert and awaiting death. My senses returned to me in perhaps an hour, when I beheld the roof burning. With sufficient strength left, my legs bleeding and covered with burns, I ran to Fonds-Sait-Denis, six kilometers from St. Pierre."
THE CONVICTED FELON The only other known survivor in St. Pierre became a minor celebrity. He was a husky 25-year-old roustabout named Louis-Auguste Cyparis, locally known simply as "Samson". In early April, Samson was put in jail for wounding one of his friends with a cutlass. Towards the end of his sentence, he escaped from a labouring job in town, danced all night, and then turned himself into the authorities the following morning. For this, he was sentenced to solitary confinement for a week in the prison's dungeon. On May 8, he was alone in his dungeon with only a small grated opening cut into the wall above the door. While waiting for his breakfast, his cell became dark and he was overcome by intense gusts of hot air mixed with ash that had entered through the grated opening. He held his breathe while experiencing intense pain. After a few moments, the heat subsided. He was severally burned, but managed to survive for four days before he was rescued by people exploring the ruins of St. Pierre. After he recovered, he received a pardon and eventually joined the Barnum & Bailey Circus, where he toured the world billed as the "Lone Survivor of St. Pierre."
The Little Girl One of the most incredible escapes from Mt. Pelée was that of a young girl named Havivra Da Ifrile. Very early in the morning of May 8, Havivra was on her way to services at the catherdral in St. Pierre when her mother sent her on an errand. She was to walk to her aunt's pastry shop near a local tourist attraction known as the Corkscrew. The "Corkscrew" was named after a tourist trail that wound down into an ancient crater, or parasitic cone, located halfway up the flank of the volcano. As Havivra approached the Corkscrew, she noticed smoke rising from the crater. After looking into the crater, she described it in this manner: "There I saw the bottom of the pit all red, like boiling, with little blue flames coming from it." She apparently saw three people trying to run up the Corkscrew before they were engulfed in ". . . a puff of blue smoke . . " and ". . . fell as if killed." She fled toward St. Pierre. "Just as I got to the main street I saw this boiling stuff burst from the top of the Corkscrew and run down the side of the hill. It followed the road first, but then as the stream got bigger, it ate up the houses on both sides of the road. Then I saw that a boiling red river was coming from another part of the hill and cutting off the escape of the people who were running from their houses." Frightened, Havivra ran to the shore and jumped into her brother's small boat and headed along the shore to a cave that she used to play pirate in with her friends.
STRANGE BUT TRUE Did you know that in October of that year, a lava dome began to rise out of the crater floor. It grew for a solid year into a gigantic shaft in the form of an obelisk. It has been described by many as the most spectacular lava dome produced in historic times. It was 350 to 500 feet thick at its base and it soared to over 1000 feet above the base of the crater floor. It sometimes rose at a remarkable rate, up to 50 ft/day. The huge spine of lava became known as the "Tower of Pelée." At night the sides of this magnificent monolith was marked by traces of red incandescent cracks from the still hot lava in its interior. At its maximum size, the Tower of Pelée was twice the height of the Washington Monument and equal in volume to the Great Pyramid (Cheops) of Egypt. It finally became unstable and collapsed into a pile of rubble in March 1903, after 11 months of growth. No geologist had ever witnessed the emergence of such an object before.
Bibliography 1.http://www.msu.edu/~carpen87/WebQuest/index.html 2.www.volcanolive.com/pelee.html 3. http://volcano.und.nodak.edu/vwdocs/volc_images/img_mt_pelee.html