In the Caribbean archipelago, Martinique is well known for its destructive volcano, the Mount Pelée.
In the Southern region of the island, opposite the village of Diamant, another indicator of the explosive volcanism comes straight ahead: a rocky peak 175m high and 300m in diameter: The Diamond Rock.
It owes its name to the bevelled shape of its peak, and to the lights reflecting on its sides at certain times of the day, recalling a gemstone.
Covered with bushes and cacti, this small hardly accessible rock has yet played an essential strategic part during the Anglo-French wars, before being turned into a protected natural site, and one of the most beautiful spots for scuba diving in Martinique.
But let us dive into its military history…
In 1992, Raymond Cottrell unveiled the English perspective on this historical episode.
He is a descendant of Joseph Cottrell, commander of the square of Fort de France when Martinique was still own by the English from 1794 to 1802, and of army officer Boyer who was the leader of June 1805 battle during the Napoleonic wars. He would often say that the Diamond Rock was a member of his family.
He has organized a number of expeditions, hence climbing the rock on a regular basis in order to explore each of its corners, and its full history, from both French and English sides, as the latter was rarely mentioned…
In the early 19th century, France and England waged war over the control of the Caribbean archipelago and the St Lucia channel. From January 1804 to June 1805, the Diamond Rock was occupied by the English. Under their authority, it was turned into a genuine vantage point useful to intercept the entire French navigation of this colony, and willingly report each of its moves.
Expectedly, the seizure of the rock soon became Napoleon’s top priority. The French considered this insulting occupation as unacceptable, and Governor Villaret-Joyeuse thus decided to terminate it. Eventually, the fleet of Admiral Villeneuve will be the one to fight the battle and recapture the Diamond Rock.
A funny story about it: « The English thought of the rock as a Royal Navy yard. Therefore, every time an English vessel would pass by, it would fulfil the tradition of a single cannon-shot in order to greet the rock, which was named “His Majesty’s Sloop-of-War Diamond Rock". The rock has remained French up to now. Of this military epic, the sole remnants are the ruins of a hospital.
Flora and wildlife on the Rock
Vegetation on the rock consists essentially of cactus candles, because this soil is stony and very shallow, almost unable to retain water.
To conserve resources, many plants have adopted a shrub form.
Some species develop real strategies to store water, so the cactus. They manage to soak their water tissue, but also the stem is designed to swell and shrink depending on the quality of liquid they store.
1) Vegetation wall.
For vegetation wall, one aditional constraint arises to find a way to fix the floor. Some plants have solved the problem by developing small spikes on their roots.
2) The influence of sea breezes.
The vegetation was beautiful successfully adapt to a variety of factors that may affect its morphology. The sea winds often cause plants to grow on one side because the salt spray inhibits the growth of buds into the wind.
Four species of dry, sunny environments more candles cactus predominate on the islet:
- The Pear (Tabebula heterophylla) with pale pink flowers
- A vine called: Wood Snake (Capparis Flexuosa) and sparsely, cursed fig trees (Ficus citrifolia), which also cling to walls with their strong roots.
Because of its isolation, it is possible that the rock shelters plants still unknown.
Very specific conditions there may indeed have brought Flora to evolve to give rise to new species.
Cacti have found an even more radical technique to stop sweating: they are simply leafless: there is a regression to become thorns.
- White Frangipani (plumerie alba) with its fragrant white flowers.
- Cactus candles have found an even more radical technique to stop sweating: they are simply leafless: there is a regression to become thorns.
A multitude of animals people the Rock. Some are very rare as crab Gecarcinus ruricola, it is found that very area dryer.
- Gecarcinus ruricolas
As against other are much more familiar.
There are a variety of lizards: The anoles pug, brownish color, they blend perfectly with stones and branches, allowing them to escape the Rock protected predator birds.
- Anolie Roquet
Formerly it was called couresses harmless snakes.
The caves of the Rock, home to a bat cave called Brachyphylle, existing as the Lesser Antilles, it has a snout-shaped snout which earned them the nickname of bat-headed Cohon.
- Brachyphylle des cavernes
They feed on nectar and fruit and play a very important role in pollination of dry forest trees (in particular the cheese and locust) in releases seeds.
Avian Wildlife Diamond Rock
By its inaccessibility, the Diamond Rock is a particularly suitable breeding seabirds (Brown noddy, bridled tern, red-billed phaeton) site.
And even some species do not nest directly on the Rock, they can come to rest. For example, the islet is a major site for grouping Martinique brown boobies.
In all, an estimated one thousand seabirds frequent the Rock, including more than 300 breeding pairs!
Diamond Rock hosts 1% of the Caribbean population Noddies
The birds: threatened heritage
Once seabirds nesting on the Caribbean coast were numerous. But now their population is declining because they are under pressure:
- Disturbance of colonies by human presence (nest abandonment and increased predation);
- Habitat degradation by human activities;
- Collection of eggs or poaching;
- Introduction of predators. In particular, we discovered the presence of rats that could destroy the brood.
It is important to protect them so they do not disappear from our shores. This islet, instead of temporarily fixing migratory deserves full protection.
Limiting the number of vistors is essential to ensure the protection of wild birds.
Since 1994, "an Order of Protection Biotope" regulates human activities on the islet and not particularly between January 1 and August 31 (except for specific purposes), so as not to disturb the
birds during nesting.
These measures have helped to limit the threats to birds, but a total ban on land might be considered in the future.