Diamond Rock (Le Rocher du Diamant)
The Diamond Rock is small – but with its own history. This rock stack is interesting geologically and visually, it has been used as a fortress in Napoleonic wars and it may serve as the last refuge for snake species.
Name in French
Map of the site
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This basaltic rock rises 175 m tall above the sea. It is a volcanic stack that, possibly, formed approximately one million years ago.
It is not clear whether this volcano is extinct. In 1902, when an eruption on Mount Pelée took place nearby, captain Hansen of Norwegian steamship observed something like an eruption from the hole in Diamond Rock. This event was overshadowed with the dramatic events in the northern part of Martinique where tens of thousands died during the Mount Pelée eruption.
Today here are not seen any traces of recent eruption.
Diamond Rock is located near the shores of Martinique – important French colony in Caribbean.
During the Napoleonic wars this rock suddenly became strategically important. Englishmen unexpectedly erected cannons on the top of rock stack in 1803 and located a small garrison on the island. Soldiers lived in the caves at the base of island, there was even a hospital in one cave.
This garrison created much problems to the French and the rock was taken in a severe battle in 1805.
Last refuge of snake
Such small rock stack can not sustain much life – climate here is rather dry and there is no groundwater. Nevertheless here might live unique organisms.
This 0.06 km² large land was (or – still is?) the last refuge of Couress grass snake or Lacépède’s Ground Snake (Liophis cursor). This snake evolved on Martinique island and lived there until white people introduced mongoose on the island.
Soon this ground dwelling snake was hunted out by mongooses and went extinct on the main island.
Last time when it was found alive, was in 1962 on Diamond Rock. Unfortunately there are no new sightings of this shy reptile and for some decades it is considered to be extinct.
Rich life is found around the island below the sea level, especially in one underwater cave. Although access to this cave is dangerous due to the sea currents, the cave is beloved destination for divers who enjoy the spectacular display of sea fans and corals.
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