We sailed from Carriacou in the Grenadines to the beautiful island of St. Lucia. This small island of approximately 200 square miles and a population of 180,000 is the birthplace of two Nobel Laureates, Arthur Lewis in economics and Derek Walcott in literature. This is a real testimony to the quality of the educational system. If you do not know Walcott’s epic poem Omeros, I highly recommend it as it is a Caribbean remaking of Homer’s the Odyssey. Lewis and Walcott both attended the same island schools, and the literacy rate on the island is over 90%.
We anchored in Soufriere Bay at 77 meters depth, just to the north and east of the great Pitons. A deep trench in the bay makes anchoring difficult, and one can easily lose an anchor if it is not dropped precisely. The physical setting is very dramatic, as Soufriere is situated at the west end of an ancient caldera. The volcano blew away the western ridge of the mountain chain about 39,000 years ago. Today, the setting is picture-perfect.
After breakfast, we boarded tenders and came into Soufriere. We boarded mini vans for a short ride to the interior of the caldera, where hot gasses, molten mud, water, and rock bubble. For the very first time, we were able to see and smell the seismic activity that created these Lesser Antilles. The sulfuric gases (hydrogen sulfide) leave a strong smell in the air. Except for Barbados, all the islands that we plan to visit are the product of volcanic activity. We watched a short video on the volcanology of St. Lucia and then walked down to the heart of the caldera. Our volcano guide was well-versed in geology, and we stopped at an overlook to observe the face of the bubbling and sulfurous mud as it hissed and exploded.
Our next stop was Diamond Botanical Gardens, one of the unsung gems of the Caribbean. Plants of every sort abound here, and our guide Paddia pointed out the most interesting varieties. I was especially taken by the bamboo, which is the national plant of St. Lucia. This plant can grow eight inches a day and reach 50 feet tall and six inches in diameter. We spent about an hour in these wonderful gardens and then returned to our vans for a very short drive to the center of Soufriere. Soufriere’s public square is home to the handsome Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church. In the center of the public square, we observed a powerful sculpture of a slave raising his arms against slavery. In the mid-1790s, radicals of the French Revolution sent a militia here. They executed a number of the cruel planters, thus ridding the island of the planter aristocracy.
We returned to Sea Cloud for the ship’s famous pasta dish which is swirled inside a great wheel of parmesan cheese. We sailed by the Pitons on our way towards Barbados.
We had a special treat tonight as hotel manager Simon had procured the most delectable fresh lobster for us to enjoy. After dinner, we adjourned to the Lido where Aaron presented a wonderful slideshow featuring images we had taken during the voyage. Many of us are very accomplished photographers.
And now we are off to bed as we sail into the wind for our return to Bridgetown, Barbados.