National Geographic : 1941 Jan
The National Geographic Magazine French Sailors in Pompon Caps Handle Hoes Instead of Gunsst French Sailors in Pompon Caps Handle Hoes Instead of Guns The old fort, long out of use, had been con verted into a barracks, with bunks for the offi cers and hammocks for the men. A part of the crew of the Bertin lives here and works the farm for a week, then gives way to another detachment from the cruiser. "The purpose of the farm is to keep up morale," Commandant Battet said. "If it were just to raise food, we would have selected a more fertile spot where the soil was not so heavy. Here we are close to the ship, which gets very hot under the sun when she is not traveling. Here we have a breeze, a place to swim, and no cafes to distract us. Some of the men are from farming Normandy and Brit tany." The Commandant offered me a glass of red wine from a keg. He said the warship supply would last for about three months. In the city of Fort-de-France, the prospect was not so good. There cafe habitues were saying that soon they might have to look to California for their wine. On my first afternoon I strolled along the Rue de la Liberte and over to La Savane, Fort de-France's public square. There stands the statue of Napoleon's Empress Josephine, who was born on Martinique. Apparently I was the first person to stand before the statue for some time; the islanders, lolling in the park, regarded me with curiosity. Martinique misses keenly American travel ers who came before the war and spent money on perfumes, rum, and souvenirs. Even more serious has been the British blockade. Before last June, the island sent nearly all of its rum, sugar, and bananas to France. British warships cut off that business. I discovered for myself that the gasoline shortage was acute. I wanted to go across the island to St. Pierre, victim of the ter rible eruption of Mount Pelee in 1902. Vet eran members of the National Geographic Society will recall the full story of that stark tragedy, in which more than 40,000 lives were snuffed out (page 52). The Society spon sored an expedition of scientists to Martinique, and their reports were printed in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE (June, July, 1902). I wanted to visit the Musee Volcanologique at St. Pierre, presided over by Dr. Frank A. Perret. I had hoped to examine the many relics excavated from that American Pompeii. But after all arrangements had been made, even to engaging an auto, I discovered that no gasoline was available. My visit to Martinique ended, I boarded the baby Clipper. As we flew back toward United States shores, I kept pondering the fate of the lonely, worried island I just had left. In the midst of world turmoil, what is in store for this dot in the Caribbean?