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Two Years in the French West Indies By Lafcadio Hearn Characters: 3417

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02

We must be very sure of the weather before undertaking the ascent of Pelée; for if one merely selects some particular leisure day in advance, one's chances of seeing anything from the summit are considerably less than an astronomer's chances of being able to make a satisfactory observation of the next transit of Venus. Moreover, if the heights remain even partly clouded, it may not be safe to ascend the Morne de la Croix,-a cone-point above the crater itself, and ordinarily invisible from below. And a cloudless afternoon can never be predicted from the aspect of deceitful Pelée: when the crater edges are quite clearly cut against the sky at dawn, you may be tolerably certain there will be bad weather during the day; and when they are all bare at sundown, you have no good reason to believe they will not be hidden next morning. Hundreds of tourists, deluded by such appearances, have made the weary trip in vain,-found themselves obliged to return without having seen anything but a thick white cold fog. The sky may remain perfectly blue for weeks in every other direction, and Pelée's head remain always hidden. In order to make a successful ascent, one must not wait for a period of dry weather,-one might thus wait for years! What one must look for is a certain periodicity in the diurnal rains,-a regular alternation of sun and cloud; such as characterizes a certain portion of the hivernage, or rainy summer season, when mornings and evenings are perfectly limpid, with very heavy sudden rains in the middle of the day. It is of no use to rely on the prospect of a dry spell. There is no really dry weather, notwithstanding there recurs-in books-a Saison de la Sécheresse. In fact, there are

no distinctly marked seasons in Martinique:-a little less heat and rain from October to July, a little more rain and heat from July to October: that is about all the notable difference! Perhaps the official notification by cannon-shot that the hivernage, the season of heavy rains and hurricanes, begins on July 15th, is no more trustworthy than the contradictory declarations of Martinique authors who have attempted to define the vague and illusive limits of the tropic seasons. Still, the Government report on the subject is more satisfactory than any: according to the "Annuaire," there are these seasons:-1. Saison fra?che. December to March. Rainfall, about 475 millimetres. 2. Saison chaude et sèche. April to July. Rainfall, about 140 millimetres. 3. Saison chaude et pluvieuse. July to November. Rainfall average, 121 millimetres.

Other authorities divide the saison chaude et sèche into two periods, of which the latter, beginning about May, is called the Renouveau; and it is at least true that at the time indicated there is a great burst of vegetal luxuriance. But there is always rain, there are almost always clouds, there is no possibility of marking and dating the beginnings and the endings of weather in this country where the barometer is almost useless, and the thermometer mounts in the sun to twice the figure it reaches in the shade. Long and patient observation has, however, established the fact that during the hivernage, if the heavy showers have a certain fixed periodicity,-falling at midday or in the heated part of the afternoon,-Pelée is likely to be clear early in the morning; and by starting before daylight one can then have good chances of a fine view from the summit.

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