Daily Event for May 8, 2005

On May 8, 1902 on the island of Martinique, Mt. Pelée had been erupting for several weeks. Ships continued to come to the harbor near the town of St. Pierre, mostly I guess to evacuate people on the island. About 35,000 of the islands inhabitants had left before May 8th. A number of ships, including the British steamships Roraima and Roddam, and a cable ship named Grappler, were in the harbor that morning, nobody was prepared for what was about to happen.

Between 7 and 8 a.m. the volcano exploded. A devastating pyroclastic flow of ash, rock and fire came down the mountain at about 100 mph. It eliminated the town of St. Pierre and killed an estimated 30,000 people. (There were only 2 survivors reported.) With nothing to slow it down the fireball crossed into the harbor. The Grappler capsized and sank immediately. The French sailing vessel Tamaya, the Italian sailing vessel Taresa Lovico and over a dozen other ships in the harbor were sunk immediately.

Roraima was picked up out of the water throwing all on board off their feet. The ship caught fire and sank stern first the next day. I don't know how many passengers were on board, but there were only two survivors. (A young girl and her nurse.) 19 of the 47 crew were killed.

The Roddam was the only ship to make it out of the harbor. Capt. Freeman, while badly burned, managed to find some of the crew and sailed the Roddam to St. Lucia. The Roddam is said to have lost 18 people. The eruption on Martinique leveled an area of eight square miles.
© 2005 Michael W. Pocock

"Fatal Voyage" portrait of Roraima at Quebec preparing to sail to Martinique Island.
(Image courtesy of Michel Guyot)
© 2021 Michel Guyot all rights reserved

"Sailing toward destiny" portrait of Roraima by Michel Guyot.
(Image courtesy of Michel Guyot)
© 2014 Michel Guyot all rights reserved

Portrait of the sailing vessel Tamaya passing Diamond Rock, Martinique.
(Image courtesy of Michel Guyot)
© 2014 Michel Guyot all rights reserved

Portrait of Roraima in St. Pierre harbor, Martinique just before the eruption.
(Image courtesy of Michel Guyot)
© 2013 Michel Guyot all rights reserved

May 8, 1902: The Eruption of Mt. Pelée.

"Last Moments of the Roraima" by Michel Guyot.
(Image courtesy of Michel Guyot)
© 2014 Michel Guyot all rights reserved

"Day After The Eruption" portrait by Michel Guyot.
(The day after the eruption of Mount Pelée (May 9, 1902,) the french cruiser Suchet arrives at the scene of the disaster; the canadian steamer Roraima is on fire, a mortal silence reigns on the bay of Saint-Pierre, there is no one left to save. The disaster claimed 30,000 lives, it is the deadliest volcanic eruption in human history. -Michael Guyot) (Suchet photo gallery.)
(Image courtesy of Michel Guyot
©2019 Michel Guyot all rights reserved

The burned out hulk of the Roraima.