Saved by the “Cachot”

Cachot is the French word for “dungeon”

Le Cachot of Louis Cyparis
On that fateful morning in May 1902 in the North of Martinique,  Mt. Pelee, meaning “bald mountain”, erupted into thick dark clouds raining hot ashes and spewing deadly fumes onto the bustling town  of Saint Pierre,  at the time the largest town in Martinique and popularly known as the Paris of the Caribbean. 

Volcanic activity had been occurring several months previously,  but some the burgesses did not begin to voluntary evacuate until two days previous.  Most felt a sense of comfort remained to witness the “pyrotechnics”   

There were other signs such as insects and snakes leaving their natural habitats and animals behaving in very unusual manners.  

It is also reported that the population were requested to stay to vote in the impending elections carded for May 11, within 3 days.     The police were called out to repel “refugees” who who fleeing to neighboring villages.   

Mount Pelee on a cloudy day.
About 30,000 of  Saint Pierre’s remaining inhabitants perished except for two persons , one who was a prisoner, Louis Cyparis, aka “Samson”.    

Image of Louis Cyparis at the ruined prison site

Cyparis pictured above was being held in solitary confinement in a dungeon.    It was believed that the thick walls of the dungeon is what saved his life.  

The other survivor was Havivra Da Ifrile, a young girl who reportedly escaped with injuries during the eruption by taking a small boat to a cave down shore and was later found adrift, unconscious.   

What was even more tragic was that Cyparis’ destiny led him to be presented as such as a part of the American Barnum Circus.  

Now today , Saint Pierre is small relatively quiet tourist and fishing village with black sand beaches.   Much of the ruins remain intact.    

Black sand “sable” beach

Rue Victor Hugo

Since then Mount Pelee hasn’t made a peep.    

2 Replies to “Saved by the “Cachot””

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: