Pigeon Island National Park
This strategic point played a pivotal role in Caribbean history.
Pigeon Island is one of St. Lucia's must-see attraction. It features:
* Ruins of military buildings used during the battles between the French and the British for the island of St. Lucia.
Once the stronghold of the first European settler, the pirate “Wooden Leg” le Clerc, Pigeon Island contains the remnants of an 18th century British naval garrison and Fort Rodney, a fortified hilltop.
The former officer's mess now houses the Museum and Interpretive
Centre with Amerindian artifacts, period furniture and historically-themed
videos. With two beaches, this is a popular recreation area.
The park's most noticeable natural features are the 2 peaks joined by a saddle
ridge. Climbing the path on these peaks to Fort Rodney takes
about an hour and requires a little bit of stamina.
Pigeon Point's most important role was to serve as a strategic British observation post in the early 1780s. At the time, the French fleet at Martinique was planning to join the Spanish Armada off Haiti for a combined attack against Jamaica.
The intent was to expel the British from the Caribbean once and for all. Martinique was so clearly visible from the Pigeon Island lookout the British were able to observe the French fleet build-up on a constant basis.
Indeed, Admiral Rodney had a sailcloth awning made to shelter him in his patient vigil, waiting for the signal that the French fleet had set sail. When it did, with 10,000 men and 150 ships on April 8, Rodney and his fleet of 100 ships were in pursuit within two hours.
For 3 days the French avoided engaging battle. Rodney at last found himself in an ideal position to break through the French line and opened fire. Some of the ships under his command were carrying up to 74 cannon. The battle raged until the evening of April 12th, when the French surrendered.
Pigeon Island would never again play such an important role in history. A hurricane in 1817 did severe damage to the buildings, which were only partly restored.
Following an outbreak of yellow fever in 1834, only 35 soldiers remained garrisoned on the island. It was abandoned in 1861 and the guns sold. From 1909 to 1926 Pigeon Island was a whaling station.
The United States became interested in Pigeon Island even before WWII. After the fall of France in June, 1940, and the increased threat of German submarine traffic, the U.S. leased the island, establishing a base to help protect the Panama Canal and keep watch on Martinique.
Pigeon Island was also a communications station, code-named "Peter Item." It was deactivated in 1947. More information, click here.