St. Lucia

Mar 19, 2018 - Sea Cloud

The sun rose this morning over mountainous St. Lucia at 6:10 a.m. We were making 5.7 knots with a wind 18mph on our port beam. The temperature was a balmy 82˚. Captain Nemerzhitskiy brought us within an easy view of the lush green west side of the island of St. Lucia. St. Lucia is approximately 212 square miles and has a population of 182 thousand. The earliest inhabitants likely reached here sometime around 600AD and called this island Ioüanalao which means “Where the Iguanas are Found.” We motored past the Hess oil distribution center just inside Grand Cul de Sac Bay. The oil is brought here in large tankers from Venezuela and then distributed throughout the islands. By 9:15 a.m. I could see the majestic Pitons rising directly off the forward port side of Sea Cloud. The Pitons “Petit and Gros” are volcanic plugs and have now been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for exceptional natural beauty. St. Lucia is called the “Helen of the Caribbean,” reminding us that she is as beautiful as Helen of Troy. Sailors went to their stations and we were under sail by 9 a.m.

Tom Heffernan gave a talk on the Creole languages of the Caribbean before lunch and we took in the sails at 11:30. Immediately after lunch we boarded Zodiacs for the short cruise to the shore. There we boarded small vans at the quayside of the city of Soufrière (Sulphur in the Air). Soufrière was the first capital of St. Lucia and today has a population of about 12 thousand. On our ride to the caldera we first stopped at an overlook of the bay and had an opportunity to get some great photos of the Sea Cloud as she floated majestically in the bay. The locals were selling pure coco sticks, banana spice sauce, the local calico double dolls, cinnamon, nutmeg, and other spices.

On first entering the interior of the caldera the sulphur smell was quite strong—hot gasses, molten waters, mud, and rock bubbled and explosively broke the surface of the lava pools. The hydrogen-sulfide gas leaves a strong smell in the air, and for the very first time the seismic activity, which created these Lesser Antilles was evident to all of us. All of the islands which we will visit—with the single exception of Barbado—are the product of this volcanic activity. Today still Dominica has nine active volcanoes. Our volcano guide Michelle was well-versed in the geology and took us to an overlook where we could look into the face of the bubbling and sulphurus mud as it hissed and exploded.

We then returned to our vans and went to the Diamond Botanical Gardens that were begun during the reign of King Louis XIV of France, who was known as the “Sun King.” The flowers grow in such profusion everywhere, heliconnias of every color, bamboo that grows a foot a day, the turquoise colored jade vine, nutmeg trees, in short a lushness, which is hard to describe but must be seen to be believed. We then headed for Hummingbird Beach and a great swim and some fine snorkeling.

The island of St. Lucia and Soufrière, although distant from France also felt the effect of the French Revolution. The Empress Josephine, King Louis XIV’s wife, was from St. Lucia. On New Year’s Day 1791, slaves belonging to one Monsieur Viet on his plantation in the neighborhood of Soufrière, believing the slaves of Martinique had been freed, revolted and demanded their liberty. The revolt was savagely put down with the ringleaders executed, decapitated, and their heads hung on poles to rot. The planters were Royalists and thus the enemies of the French Revolutionaries. The Revolutionaries, who were in control in France, sent one Monsieur Victor Hughes in 1794 to destroy these Royalists who did not support their radical cause. Hughes was a butcher in the model of Robespierre and set up a guillotine in the square of Soufrière. He arrested many Royalist planters and summarily executed them.

Returning to the ship our captain managed to bring the Sea Cloud immediately below the spectacular Pitons. There aside from the magnificent views we enjoyed local St. Lucian beer and pigs in a blanket on the spanker deck. Dinner was on the Lido Deck. Another spectacular day in paradise.

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About the Author

Tom Heffernan


Tom, a native of New York City, who has had a life-long passion for travel and exploration, is the Kenneth Curry Professor of Humanities at the University of Tennessee and the founding Director of the university’s Humanities Center. His areas of interest are anthropology of religions and historical linguistics.

About the Photographer

Ian Strachan

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

One steady constant in Ian’s life has been the ocean. Born by the rocky shores of mid-coast Maine, his family repatriated to far north Queensland in Australia early on in his life where he became a dual-citizen and sparked his passion for exploring new environments. Living only an hour away from the Great Barrier Reef served to direct, if not focus, the exhilaration of discovery and set him on his current path. Returning to native soil for education, Ian was fascinated by altogether too many subjects, leaving him with a bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College in Psychobiology, focusing on animal behavior and perception, and with minors in Astronomy, History, and Environmental Science.

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