Diamond Rock (French: rocher du Diamant) is a 175-metre-high (574 ft) island located south of “Grande Anse du Diamant” in Martinique. The uninhabited island is about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) from Pointe Diamant.
The island gets its name from the reflections that its sides cast at certain hours of the day, which evoke images of a precious stone. Its claim to fame is the role that it played in the Napoleonic Wars.
Callaloo grew abundantly on this island and back in the day when boiled and served daily kept the crews of ships in the surrounding waters from scurvy and was a nice addition to a menu too long dominated by salt beef.
It served as a fort and armament for the Britis. The guns on the rock completely dominated the channel between it and the main island, and because of their elevation, were able to fire far out to sea and forced vessels to give it a wide berth, with the result that the currents and strong winds would make it impossible for them to fetch in Port Royal. During this time the French troops on Martinique made several unsuccessful attempts to retake the rock.
When Admiral Villeneuve embarked on his 1805 voyage to Martinique, he was under orders from Napoleon to recapture Diamond Rock.
In the end the French were victorious and the English prisoners were taken to Barbados.
The British Royal Navy still regards “HMS Diamond Rock” as being in commission (as a “stone frigate”). Therefore, Royal Navy ships are required, when passing the island, to show due respect, personnel on the upper deck to stand at attention and face the rock whilst the bridge salutes.
The rock is a volcanic plug, a remnant of the strong volcanic activity that affected the region some one million years ago. However, a Captain Hansen of the Norwegian steamship Talisman reported that on 13 May 1902, he observed what he took to be a volcanic eruption from a hole in the rock. This was at the time of the devastating volcanic eruption of Mount Pelée that destroyed Saint Pierre. Hansen did not investigate further.
Like the other 47 islets that circle Martinique, the rock has its own ecological characteristics. It is sunnier than the main island, drier, and subject to a long seasonal dry period. Today it is covered in undergrowth and cacti.
Relatively inaccessible and inhospitable, the island is uninhabited, which has permitted it to remain a sanctuary for a species that had been believed to be extinct. A nature survey has suggested that Diamond Rock is probably the last refuge for a species of reptile once endemic to Martinique, the couresse grass snake. This snake was last seen on Martinique in 1962 and has not been encountered since then. It is now considered to be extinct.
Below water, the Diamond Rock cavern, a deep triangular cave, is a popular attraction for scuba divers. The cave is said to contain prolific quantities of beautiful sea fans and corals, though strong currents make diving the island a risky venture.
The author John Fine reports that while diving he found one of the rock’s cannon that the French had toppled from the summit.
Credits for most of the narrative: Wikipedia.