From the beach, its green and mossy exterior provides it with the softness of a cradle of velvet that collects the heat of the sun at its centre. Nonetheless, the warm waters of its western flank remind Martiniquais that ‘La Pelée' is indeed a volcano, and one with a dramatic past. One morning in May 1902, a powerful blast of air escaped and a pyroclastic flow, a gigantic toxic cloud, carried the dome of the volcano called Etang sec to the Rivère Blanche at more than 500 kilometres per hour. The crater then flared up. Within just a few minutes, the city of Saint-Pierre was destroyed and its 30,000 inhabitants succumbed to the wave of atmospheric shock, the inhalation of hot gases, the fall of volcanic blocks and the collapse of buildings.
Inactive since 1929 but monitored by the volcanic and seismological observatory of the island, Mount Pelée is now a place for hiking. On a clear day, you can plan a trip up to the summit accompanied by a guide and climb several hours from Prêcheur, the refuge of Aileron or through Beauséjour.