Ash cloud above Mt. Pelee. Photograph of Mt. Pelee by Heilprin, August 30, 1902.
Block of andesite ejected from Mt. Pelee during the eruption of August 30, 1902.
Mt. Pelee has also erupted basaltic andesite and dacite. Photograph by Heilprin.
Mt. Pelee is also notable for the growth of volcanic spines, rigid columns of solidified lava pushed above the throat of the
volcano. This view from the south section of St. Pierre looking up to
Mt. Pelee. Note the volcanic spine at the summit of the volcano.
Photograph by Heilprin.
A volcanic spine at the summit of the Mt. Pelee. Photograph by Heilprin.
The spine began growing in November 1902. It reached a maximum height of about 1,000 feet (305 m) before it collapsed in mid-1903. Photograph by Lacroix.
View of Mt. Pelee after the collapse of the volcanic spine. Photograph by Heilprin.
The most recent eruption of Mt. Pelee was from 1929 to 1932. Frank Perret established an observatory at the volcano to study the eruption. His observations contributed greatly to the understanding of pyroclastic flows and the growth of volcanic domes. The following quote is from Catalogue of Active Volcanoes of the World - Part XX, West Indies, by GR Robson & JF Tomblin; 1966 (p. 36-7):
"In March 1929 the activity of the fumaroles on the 1902 dome began to increase...On September 16, the first explosions blew out lava blocks from the summit of the 1902-05 dome. ...By the middle of November, pyroclast flows began to be erupted, and these attained their maximum intensity by the middle of December....The growth of the new dome was first observed on February 3, 1930, small spines began to rise from the summit of the dome; the largest spine of this eruption, observed on November 22, 1931, being 45 meters tall. Activity continued on a diminishing scale until 1932."
The Pelean-style of eruption, characterized by the growth and collapse of volcanic domes, is named for Mt. Pelee where this style of eruption was first studied in detail. Plinian eruptions are also common at Mt. Pelee.
Sources of Information:
Fisher, R.V., and Heiken, G., 1982, Mt. Pelee, Martinique; May 8 and 20, 1902, pyroclastic flows and surges: Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, v. 13, p. 339-371.
Fisher, R.V., Smith, A.L., and Roobol, M.J., 1980, Destruction of St. Pierre, Martinique by ash-cloud surges, May 8 and 20, 1902: Geology, v. 8, p. 472-476.
Heilprin, A., 1908, The eruption of Pelee: Philadelphia Geographic Society, 72 p.
Hirn, A., Girardin, N., Viode, J.-P., and Eschenbrenner, S., 1987, Shallow seismicity at Montagne Pelee volcano, Martinique, Lesser Antilles: Bulletin of Volcanology, v. 49, p. 723-728.
Lacroix, A., 1904, La Montagne Pelee et ses eruptions: Paris, Masson et Cie, 622 p.
Perret, F.A., 1937, The eruption of Mt. Pelee, 1929-1932: Carnegie Institute of Washington Publication, v. 458, 126 p.
Robson, G.R., and Tomlin, J.F., 1966, Catalogue of the active volcanoes of the world, including Solfatara fields; Part 20, West Indies: Rome, International Association of Volcanology, 56 p.
Smith, A.L., and Roobol, M.J., 1990, Mt. Pelee, Martinique; A study of an active island-arc volcano: Boulder, Colorado, Geological Society of America Memoir 175, 105 p.
Westercamp, D., and Traineau, H., 1983, The past 5,000 years of volcanic activity at M. Pelee, Martinique (F.W.I.); Implications for assessment of volcanic hazards: Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, v. 17, p.159-185.