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Slumbering Killer

Slumbering Killer
Photo Information
Copyright: James Parker (Jamesp) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1369 W: 9 N: 6334] (18906)
Genre: Landscapes
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2004-01
Categories: Mountain
Exposure: f/4, 1/1000 seconds
More Photo Info: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version
Date Submitted: 2007-10-28 14:28
Viewed: 6002
Points: 34
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
I took this picture with a Power Shot in 2004 on my second visit to Martinique in the French Caribbean. My first was as a student in 1977 - my French penfriend's family were living there at the time - an amazing place to do an exchange visit!!

Mount Pelée (French: Montagne Pelée, "Bald Mountain") is an active volcano on the northern tip of the French overseas department of Martinique in the Caribbean. It is a stratovolcano, its volcanic cone composed of layers of volcanic ash and hardened lava.

Mount Pelée is infamous for its eruption in 1902 and the destruction that resulted, the worst volcanic disaster of the 20th Century. The eruption caused about 26,000 to 36,000 casualties and destroyed Saint-Pierre, at that time the largest city in Martinque along with the island's governor.

The main eruption, on May 8, 1902, on the Ascension Day, destroyed the town of Saint-Pierre, about 4 miles south of the peak.

In the morning, people were observing the fireworks the mountain was showing off. The night shift telegraph operator was sending the reports of the volcano's activity, to the operator at Fort-de-France, claiming no significant new developments; his last transmission was "Allez", handing over the line to the remote operator. It was 7:52; the next second the telegraph line went dead. A cable repair ship had the city in direct view; the upper mountainside ripped open and a dense black cloud shot out horizontally. A second black cloud rolled upwards, forming a gigantic mushroom cloud and darkening the sky in 50 miles radius. The initial speed of both clouds was later calculated to over 670 kilometers per hour.

The horizontal pyroclastic cloud was hugging the ground, speeding down towards the city of Saint Pierre, appearing black and heavy, glowing hot from the inside. In under a minute it reached the city, instantly igniting everything combustible it came in contact with, covering the entire city.

A rush of wind followed, this time towards the mountain. Then came a half-hour downpour of muddy rain mixed with ashes. For the next several hours, all communication with the city was severed. Nobody knew what was happening, nor who had authority over the island, as the governor was unreachable and his status unknown. Some survivors were picked from the sea; mostly badly burned sailors, who had been blown into the sea by the blast and then clung for hours to floating debris.

A warship arrived towards the shore at about 12:30, but the heat prevented landing until about 3 PM. The city burned for several more days.

The area devastated by the pyroclastic cloud covered about 8 square miles, with the city of St. Pierre taking its brunt.

The cloud consisted of superheated steam and volcanic gases and dust, with temperatures reaching over 1000 °C.

Saint Pierre had a population of some ~30,000, which was swelled by refugees from the minor explosions and mud flows first emitted by the volcano. There were pitifully few survivors: Ludger Sylbaris, a prisoner held in an underground cell in the town's jail (later pardoned), and Léon Compere-Léandre, a man who lived at the edge of the city. Some sources also list Havivra Da Ifrile, a little girl. One woman, a housemaid, also survived the pyroclastic flow but perished soon after; the only thing she remembered from the event was sudden heat. She died very shortly after being discovered. Included among the victims were the passengers and crews of several ships docked at Saint Pierre.

One passenger steamship, the Roraima, which went missing on April 26, was believed to have been engulfed by ash from a preliminary explosion. However, it reached the port of Saint Pierre at 6:30 AM, shortly before the eruption, and was set aflame by the nuée ardente. It later sank; its wreck is still present offshore of Saint Pierre; 28 of her crew and all the passengers except two were killed by the cloud.

The word pyroclast is derived from the Greek πυρος, meaning fire, and κλαστός, meaning broken. An old name for small pyroclastic flows was nuée ardente (French for "burning cloud"); this was first used to describe the disastrous 1902 eruption of Mount Pelée on Martinique.[1] These pyroclastic flows glowed red in the dark.

Pyroclastic flows that contain a much higher proportion of gas to rock are known as 'fully dilute pyroclastic density currents' or pyroclastic surges. The lower density sometimes allows them to flow over higher topographic features such as ridges and hills. They may also be "cold," containing steam, water and rock at less than 250 degrees Celsius. Cold pyroclastic surges can occur when the eruption is from a vent under a shallow lake or the sea. Fronts of some pyroclastic density currents are fully dilute, for example during the eruption of Mount Pelée in 1902 a fully dilute current overwhelmed the city of Saint-Pierre and killed nearly 30,000 people.

A pyroclastic flow is a type of gravity current; in scientific literature they are sometimes abbreviated to PDC (pyroclastic density current).

angybone, gracious, ramthakur, Evelynn, jcoowanitwong, uleko, joey, Argus, Alex99, peter_stoeckl has marked this note useful
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ThreadThread Starter Messages Updated
Volcanoeswinterpalace 1 12-20 06:28
To Evelynn: VolcanoesJamesp 2 10-29 09:39
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Critiques [Translate]

Perfectly composed...love the curves and division of page into thirds
The colors are wonderful. The whole scene is relaxing...a very calming effect.

And look at that quiet little haven of a beach with blue waters lapping at its fringes gently! Who could imagine there lurked the monster in that peak across?
James, volcano or no volcano, I would love to stroll across that lovely beach.
Your note draws a graphic picture of the disaster this volcano created.
Thanks for sharing the beautiful picture and the nasty facts that go with it in the form of that still dangerous mountain.

And now how many people live at the base of this killer mountain?! I do not like volcanos. I know some people are fascinated by them. I live surrounded by them in Oregon. On a clear day I can see Mount St. Helens from my town. I had never read the account of the 1902 eruption of Mount Pelée. You won't see me anywhere near there!. It is a deceptively serene photo you present here. I like the curve of the shoreline and the wonderful blue of the sea. Thanks for sharing... I think. (St. Helens is still rumbling, steaming and growing every day!!! AGGGGGHHHHHH!")

Evelynn : )

  • Great 
  • Mariol Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 160 W: 15 N: 1654] (8221)
  • [2007-10-28 20:42]

Hi James,
Very nice picture with beautiful saturated colors. Martinique seems to be a very interesting place. Amazing haw many beautiful countries you saw!
I’m steel using a non SLR camera when I travel (Panasonic FZ30) – it takes good pictures of landscapes and static subjects in good light.
My postings from Greece are all done with it.
Regards, Mario

  • Great 
  • demeve Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 586 W: 12 N: 1682] (6165)
  • [2007-10-28 21:26]

Hello James,
Very beautiful beach, it must be awesome to be there
just wonderful.. congratulations


Hello James,
A lovely beach scenery!
Good point of view along the beach, resulting in this fine composition...
Attractive colours, and the volcano is a natural eye-catcher!
Pablo -

:-) OK-

Hello dear James,
Oh!! This is really a stunning landscape photo well captured from you!
Excellent pov which include everything what a landscape element require, the sky, mountain, sea, beach etc., just like paradise and wish I am there with you with the camera in hand!
Perfect clarity, beautiful colour and details
well done and thanks for the wonderful notes

Hi James,
Beautiful Mount Pelée and shoreline at the foot of this mountain. A relaxing scene with gentle waves and bright sunshine. Very nice color clarity. POV and composition are great.

  • Great 
  • PaulH Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1137 W: 26 N: 3879] (13882)
  • [2007-10-29 2:39]

Hi James,
a slumbering Killer indeed, and long may it remain so..at least until i can get there to watch it go off again ;o) I like the colours here and you POV too showing the whole of the bay with Pelee as a backdrop. Nicely done.

  • Great 
  • uleko Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3396 W: 172 N: 3310] (10940)
  • [2007-10-29 3:07]

Hello James,
It's hard to imagine the danger lurking inside that mountain top as the slopes are so green and beautiful and the costline so serene! A vulcanic eruption must be one of the most horrific events to experience. At least today they have some means of predicting the next eruption.
TFS and regards,Ulla

  • Great 
  • joey Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1739 W: 224 N: 6872] (24909)
  • [2007-10-29 3:15]

Great notes to accompany this awesome shot of this infamous volcano.
+++ Perfectly composed with a good POV. Sharp with crisp edges.
The detail is excellent... we can see all the little houses that have been built on the graveyard of the destroyed buildings from 1902!! People just don't learn do they! ;D
Nice lighting and natural colours.
--- I can't find anything wrong with it :D
Well done and TFS,

  • Great 
  • Argus Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5038 W: 260 N: 15594] (50626)
  • [2007-10-29 4:38]

Hello James,
Lovely view in a fine composition showing Mt Pelée, a very benign-looking mountain in this shot. In fact the whole scene is the type that attract a lot of people to spend a holiday there. But your fine note describes in some detail the sinister side of this beautiful island.
Thanks for sharing this fine shot and the story behind it,

  • arfer Gold Star Critiquer [C: 2731 W: 0 N: 0] (0)
  • [2007-10-29 9:53]

Hello James

A wonderul natural history post.
The focus is sharp with very good details.
Wonderful exposure and lighting makes this place look like a tropical paradise.
Well composed in the frame.
Excellent POV and DOF.
This is both a visually pleasing and very informative post.Makes one wonder if history will ever repeat.TFS


  • Great 
  • Alex99 Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 4072 W: 133 N: 7096] (23735)
  • [2007-10-29 11:10]

Hi James.
I like your lovely landscape shot so much. It is composed perfectly, Subject and pictured moment are selected very well. Colours are delicate and very pleasant, cloudy sky is nice decoration of this charming place. Well done and best wishes.

Hi James,beautiful place,nice photo.Best regards,Ralf

  • Great 
  • Mana Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1772 W: 36 N: 5597] (18598)
  • [2007-10-30 0:30]

Hi James,
Wonderful shot of this beautiful place. You really have shown us some amazing places around the globe and probably you are one among the very few who have travelled to every nook and corner of the earth. Needless to say that your portfolio is of much educational value to me. Great lighting, colours, POV and composition here. Kudos.

Hello James,
peacefully pleasant kind of postcard coming with absolutely terrific notes!
Many thanks for the most impressing description of what happened there in 1902, I did not know all those details. Excellent.
And, my goodness, looking at your map of visited contries, not many places on Earth that seem to be still missing there!
Thank you. My best regards,

Hi James
There does not seem to be an end to your experiences, knowledge and interesting contributions to TrekNature.



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