Saturday, 17 October 2009

Update, Montserrat is Still Growing!

The people living and working on the island of Montserrat must be very determined folk. Of the almost 12,000 inhabitants on the island before the first of the devastating volcanic eruptions beginning 1995, less than 5,000 remain today. When a choice is presented, it is a special kind of person who chooses to stay and work to rebuild both home and community alongside an unpredictible volcano.

The inhabitants live with ash clouds on and off these days, and boats sailing in the area are warned to stay away from restricted areas when the activity warnings are high, if they want to avoid tiny holes in their sails (or maybe worse?).

This month there are reports of renewed volcanic activity in the Soufriere Hills, thought to be the result of the collapse of the old lava dome. There are new pyroclastic flows and rain has caused more mud flows. The sight of the ash clouds rising to 20,000 ft and blowing towards inhabited areas must be startling.

In late May 2009, we sailed from the anchorage at Little Bay at the northwestern tip of the island, around the top and down the eastern side, past the destroyed Bramble Airport and on to Guadeloupe. For a look back, click on the June 2009 archive. On our visit we enjoyed a tour with Wendy and Jim, Merengue, led by Joe Phillip, our very informative tour guide. From the Observatory outlook, Joe showed us his old home in the now restricted area. For the sake of Joe and his fellow countrymen, let's hope the activity calms down soon.

When I was looking at news from Montserrat this morning I found a site by Dickinson College in PA, Geology of Disasters, Spring 2005. This site has some of the best images of Montserrat both before and after 1995. The view from Plymouth "into the mouth of the volcano" is especially chilling. During the course of their research, this group of students from Dickinson were able to get into restricted areas that we could not see in 2009.

For reports from the Montserrat Volcano Observatory click here MVO.

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