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Thu Mar 26, 2020, 08:29 PM

How A Volcanic Eruption In 1902 Can Serve As A Metaphor For Our Current Situation

Having never been there, I can only take the word of visitors to Martinique that it's a beautiful. At the time Mt. Pelee rumbled to life, the capital city, St. Pierre, was known as "The Paris of the Caribbean" and though it wasn't the island's capital, it was far and away Martinique's most important commercial center.

Signs of things to come began in April of 1902, when small earthquakes rattled the area, interspersed with small clouds of volcanic gases. The telegraph cable to Dominica was cut, probably by a submarine earthquake, and by May 2nd, the city's inhabitants were awestruck as the mountain roared to life, lighting the night skies with the red of incandescent rock. Inhabitants of the mountain's slopes, assured by government officials that the city was safe, began to move into St. Pierre.

On May 5th, a lahar - a scorching mudflow - blew out of the side of Pelee. Speeding down the Riviere Blanche at about 60 miles an hour, the flood destroyed a sugar factory, killing more than 20 people. As things kept heating up, residents of St. Pierre had to deal with enormous numbers of animals driven from the slopes by heat and gas, including 6-foot pit vipers and 20-inch venomous centipedes, kept at bay by parties of armed soldiers.

On May 6th, blue flames rose from the peak, and a lava dome became visible as it rose above the rim of the crater. Continuous eruptions marked the next few days, and all the while, the governor of the island, who had moved to St. Pierre to show his confidence that there would be no major problems, insisted that residents remain in the city. There was an election coming up on May 10th, and he wanted to be certain that he would be reelected, and so set up roadblocks to keep people from leaving. There was no threat from the volcano - his top scientific advisor, a high school science teacher, assured him of that.

The election never took place. On the morning on May 8th, an enormous nuee ardente exploded from the side of Mt. Pelee and wiped out the entire city in less than two minutes. The speed of the cloud was estimated at 100 meters per second, with temperatures of 350-400C. Ships in the harbor caught on fire, and only walls parallel to the direction of the blast remained intact. One survivor from the city proper escaped, out of more than 30,000 residents, since he'd been in a basement jail cell, and even he was badly burned.

Sound familiar?

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Reply How A Volcanic Eruption In 1902 Can Serve As A Metaphor For Our Current Situation (Original post)
hatrack Mar 26 OP
smirkymonkey Mar 26 #1

Response to hatrack (Original post)

Thu Mar 26, 2020, 09:01 PM

1. K&R

It's tragic how one man's ego can destroy so many lives. We have seen this over and over again. We are watching it now in real time.

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