Lynn & Mike ..around the world
Mike Drinkrow & Lynn v/d Hoven
Tue 27 Jan 2009 23:36
16:48.12N 62:12.47W Little Bay, Montserrat
Yesterday we sailed from Jolly Harbour, Antigua (pronounced Anteega) down to Montserrat. We averaged a little over 8 knots in a fresh easterly wind. Mike had some success on the lines, landing a small black fin tuna (delicious dinner!) and a large barracuda (thrown back due to the threat of ciguatera)
We anchored off the north east shore at Little Bay. Montserrat was severely damaged by the eruptions of the Soufriere Hills volcano - which started to erupt in 1995, and as recently as December 2008, continues to be an active volcano. In mid 1995, Plymouth (the capital) was blanketed in a thick ash cloud and put into total darkness for 15 minutes with a major eruption. Fortunately, unlike St Pierre in Martinique, there was no superheated gas or lava flow at that time, and no one was killed. The Governor had the town and surrounding area (entire southern half of the island) evacuated, where it remains a deserted "no go" area till today. Since then there have been a number of explosions, lava flows and resultant fires, that have destroyed the town completely. Sadly some farmers who had ventured back into the "exclusion zone" illegally, died in subsequent eruptions.
The closest anyone can get to the area, is a tour of an overlooking hill and a visit to the volcanic observatory. All that remains of Plymouth are skeletons of some buildings and large lava flows (like glaciers) that completely cover the middle of the town. The golf course that was in a valley was covered by another of these lava glaciers. It is a very eerie picture, with colours more akin to a moon landscape than a tropical island. The shoreline has been extended into the sea, and the dock that once welcomed massive cruise liners is now in shallow water, while the old yacht anchorage is now 400m into the land.
Our photographs do not do the tragedy or visual drama any justice. We have however bought a DVD that shows before and after footage of Plymouth as well as very dramatic footage of the eruptions - that we will bring home to show those interested.
Although few lives were lost, the impact on the people has been enormous. The country was originally centred in the south, where thousands of houses stand empty and decaying in the massive exclusion zone. Many of the people lost everything and over 50% left the island for the UK or other Caribbean islands to try to re-build their lives. There is a fair bit of re-building and development in the north, where a new small airport is now also operational. The locals are very keen to attract tourism back to their country and what a pleasure it was to hear the police (immigration) saying "thank you for choosing Montserrat as a destination". One day when I have a little more energy I can bore and baffle you all with the frustrating, unfriendly and quite bizarre customs & immigration procedures of some of the islands.
Tomorrow we head north to the twin islands of Nevis (Pronounced neevis) and St Kitts.