National Geographic : 1931 Jan
SKYPATHS THROUGH LATIN AMERICA here, on Antigua Island. Few new settlers come from England, and old families de part or die out. Most of its inhabitants now are the descendants of slaves. Again our big motors roared, and we waved to Anglo-Saxon friends of a day. They waved back, a bit wistfully, from a slightly shaky dock in this weather-beaten old outpost of empire where the white man is laying down his burden. PAST MONT PELEE AND THE BURIED CITY OF ST. PIERRE Thundering down the Carib sea lane, we skirted the west coasts of Guadeloupe and Dominica. Repeatedly, squalls engulfed us; nearing Martinique, afternoon sun broke through and rainbows chased us. A complete rainbow circle formed against the gray rain wall east of us, as we climbed high to picture the evil cone of Mont Pelee. Sinister and lava-burnt, Mont Pelee bulks above the buried city of St. Pierre, where more than 30,000 people perished when this volcano blew up, in 1902. Plainly we saw the great river of molten rock and ashes which, with the incalculable blast of poison gas let loose, wrought the appalling volcanic tragedy. Skillfully weaving his plane to give Gayer and Stevens just the right light and angle for air pictures, Hawkins brought us closer and closer to the scarred and abysmal slopes of the vol canic monster. From the air its every as pect reflects the cataclysm of Nature which years ago convulsed the island (p. 33). On the steep sides of Pelee you see deep, wicked trenches plowed by flowing fires. A long, white river of treeless ash and lava runs down into the sea. Under it, buried forever, is the once happy, pros perous French city of St. Pierre, only one of whose inhabitants lived to tell the story. Even many ships anchored offshore were set on fire by flaming volcanic gas. Diamond Rock loomed in our path now, on the way to St. Lucia Island. During a war with France the British 74-gun ship Centaurgarrisoned this rock with her crew. In 1803 Admiral Hood swung guns from his ship and hauled them to the top of the biscuit-shaped islet, and from this high perch doughty Englishmen for 18 months sniped at French ships which sought to attack St. Lucia from Martinique. The sun was setting behind us as we landed in the theatrical harbor of Port Cas- tries, on British-owned St. Lucia. Sharp pointed hills draped in jungly verdure rise above the snuggling city. Howling blacks fought to row us ashore and lug our bags up steep hills to where a lone English lady takes "paying guests." No man can sleep on St. Lucia till he gets used to the night song of bugs and frogs. One frog near my window ran a rhythmic do-re-mi-fa-sol-la! But his playmate had no ear for music. He did well as far as do-re-mi; then he broke on a sad, flat note and held it, like the squeak of a squeezed rubber doll. In a spacious old house, typical of Brit ish colonial officialdom, I lunched next day with the Governor. From his veranda on Morne Fortune, high above the scenic har bor of Castries, we could see faintly the evil peak of Pelee, miles to the west. It had been smoking lately, and people said the odd haze slightly visible was volcanic dust. I looked back at it, as we flew south for Trinidad, and thought of Pliny and his story of the destruction of Pompeii. TRINIDAD, IN THE WAKE OF SIR WALTER RALEIGH Trinidad, shaped like an oxhide, lies ten degrees north of the Equator. As we climbed its high cacao- and coffee-covered northwest hills, we got our first view of South America-the headlands of Vene zuela, a tip of the old Spanish Main, at our right. In the shallow harbor of Port of Spain, silted up by mud from the Orino co's mouths, we came to rest. Just as the blunt, metal nose of our fly ing boat rubbed the ramp, another Nyrba ship shot into view, a fast-flying "duck," or Sikorsky, from far-away Para, on the Amazon. In that one day this plane had flown more than 1,400 miles. A polyglot port this, where Hindus compete with Americans, and Scotchmen, somehow, with Chinese. In this warm, humid, noisy island, where night winds rattle the palms with the sound of crum pling paper, you see almost every well known race except Japanese. Stores sell everything, from cork sun-helmets, Paris lingerie, and cricket bats to East Indian jewelry, monkeys, parrots, snakes, and baby crocodiles stuffed and dried erect on their hind legs, with electric-light globes in their mouths-a Trinidad idea of an orna mental reading lamp.