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She was originally a cargo ship, transporting sugar from the West Indies, cocoa, and coffee from Brazil and French Guiana to Nantes, France. By chance she escaped the eruption of the Mount Pelée in Saint-Pierre de la Martinique on 8 May 1902. All Saint Pierre roads were full of vessels, no place to anchor the ship. Captain Julien Chauvelon angrily decided to anchor some miles further on in a beach – sheltered from the exploding volcano.