Most of us are somewhat aware of the plight the
tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat, a colony of Britain.
Devastated by Hurricane Hugo a few years ago, the
island was just starting to recover when Mother
Nature let the other shoe drop.
Montserrat is now threatened by an increasingly
active volcano, which has killed dozens of people,
forced the evacuation of half the island, and may
result in it's complete abandonment. The capital
is an ash-covered ghost town, and the only airport
is buried under pyroclastic flows.
But you'd have to dig deep to get this info from
the Official Montserrat Tourist Board website, at
A chatty, well-designed site, it describes Montserrat
as 'the Emerald Island of the Caribbean", and certainly
makes me wish I was there.
The front page gives no hint of the current problems
whatsoever. Going to 'things to do' gets you a page
which mentions 'watching the new volcano'
Clicking on that gets a page about the volcano, which
"The island now attracts world wide fascination about its
active volcano. As a result of the volcanic activity,
parts of the island including Plymouth, the capital, and
villages in the southern and eastern areas, have been
relocated to the north of the island on the advice of the
scientists at the Montserrat Volcano Observatory.
Scientists have assured the Tourist Board that it is safe for
visitors to come to the designated safe area in Montserrat.
The majority of tourist accommodations are in the safe zone
and they are offering full services. Ancillary visitor
services are operating as usual. Tourist attractions such as
Chances Peak, Galways, Bamboo Forest and Great Alps Falls
are inaccessible during this period of volcanic activity.
However, visitors can engage in a variety of activities including
hiking, scuba diving/snorkeling, mountain biking, golfing,
sailing, tennis, historic tours, iguana feeding a
Trimaran sail to white-sanded Rendezvous Bay."
At the bottom of the page, there is a small link to
Michigan Tech, which turns out to host the site of the
Montserrat Volcano Observatory. Here, finally, you can
find out what desperate straits the island is actually in.
There are official press releases, frequent postings of
current volcano activity, and an image archive including
video clips of pyroclastic flows ravaging the countryside
and flowing into the sea, as well as maps showing the
evacuated areas, which comprise more than half of the
There are also current warnings such as:
"Further explosions are possible and these may be more intense
and longer lived than those already experienced. If explosions
do occur, the central zone should be evacuated immediately, and
people in the northern zone should seek shelter under a strong
roof as soon as possible. After an explosive event, small
rocks and ash can be expected to fall anywhere on the island.
Ash and falling rocks can make driving hazardous. Ash is
present in the atmosphere and dust masks should be worn
outdoors. The enhanced pyroclastic flow activity indicates
increasingly instability of the dome and further pyroclastic
flow activity is anticipated."
Other Montserrat links can be found at
http://www.gogsn.com/montserrat/ site of the
Montserrat Relief Fund.
I've heard about Montserrat several times over the years, and
until recently wished I could take an extended vacation there.
Adventure tourism anyone?