The first time I heard about the volcano in Montserrat was during our first hurricane season we spent in Tobago, waiting until it was safe (from hurricanes) to go north. Every morning we listened to the "Caribbean Safety & Security Net" on the SSB radio, where we got our up-to-date weather reports. Yachts all over the Caribbean would report in about thefts or crimes against yachts in the region. It was mostly things like dinghy anchor's stolen or minor things like that, but they also talked about how much the Volcano on the island of Montserrat was erupting at any given time and if it was safe to go down the leeward side of the island. So we were fascinated enough about this volcano to want to go there and check it out. Check out this interesting presentation for the facts....
Of course, the first time we sailed to Montserrat we went down the side of the island we shouldn't have, because we needed to have a LOOK. My husband (the Captain, and person deemed responsible for all bad decisions ha ha) decided we would get by the volcano between the eruptions. Now this volcano is not a traditional lava flowing volcano, it is a volcano which spews great PLUMES of ash 100's of meters into the sky and then it depends on how strong the wind is blowing as to how far this ash cloud travels.
So this photo shows the great plume of ash that rained down on us as we sailed by. It was impressive, but not really dangerous. We had to throw buckets of water on the deck to clean it off, and we had to squint for about 1/2 hour or you would get grit in your eyes. In the foreground of this giant ash cloud you can see what is left of the old capital city of Montserrat. All the buildings are buried up to their roof line in ash.
The next time we visited we stayed away from the ash. Here is a photo of my then 2 year old daughter pretending to sail the boat as we sailed towards Montserrat. The plume of ash seen trailing off. You can see how the southern part of the island is like a barren wasteland and the northern part of the island is LUSH.
The volcano first came to life in 1995 and I recall speaking to someone who was living there at the time, and the island was in complete darkness, day & night. Anyone who had homes and businesses in the exclusion zone lost everything. Faced with a natural disaster crime went crazy & looting was widespread. A lot of people moved to other Caribbean islands or to Britain. The people who remain in Montserrat all live in the northern part of the island, and the southern part is completely off limits.
Nowadays the island is a normal quiet Caribbean island with brightly colored cars and houses, and afternoon street cricket, with loud reggae music blasting.
We hiked up into one suburb which was like a ghost town. There were hundreds of once beautiful homes all abandoned. It was like the people had just dropped what they were doing and left. The gardens were overgrown, everything was covered in a fine spray of grey ash, and the swimming pools were empty with a layer of ash and slime in the bottom. Google "abandoned suburb in Montserrat" and scroll through the images... it's fascinating.
I saw an amazing feature this week about AIR Sound Studio's which was the most prolific recording studio of the 80's, and located in Montserrat. Big bands such as The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, The Police to name a few, recorded some of our most favorite songs here. The studio is now lying in ruin in the ash. Check out some of the photos of the ruin here. or here.
Montserrat, a fascinating island in the Caribbean, with a rich history and a constantly changing coastline.
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