Fig.1 - Author by remains of Catholic Church,
The Soufriere Hills volcano on the Caribbean
Island of Montserrat has been erupting since 1995. The most
severe destruction occurred in 1997, when pyroclastic flows
devastated large parts of the southern half of the island,
including parts of the capital Plymouth to the W and various
settlements to the SW, E and NE (including Bramble Airport). Many
areas have also been affected heavy ash fall and by lahars,
including the remains of the Capital Plymouth which are gradually
being buried in lahar deposits.
Eruptive activity continues, with the
volcano presently showing renewed dome growth.
to volcanic hazards, the south of the island is designated as an
exclusion zone. Unauthorized entry into this zone is illegal (see
Fig.2) and is not encouraged by the author of this report.
Garibaldi hill provides a good view of the
Volcano and Plymouth (Fig.3). The path of lahars through the
center of town is clearly visible. Fort Ghaut river which flowed
through the town has now been completely filled with deposits.
Lahar activity continues to bury the remains of Plymouth as can be
seen from comparable pictures of the town center from 2002 (Fig.4)
and 2006 (Fig.5). See most distant part of town in pictures.
The burial of Plymouth is further illustrated
by the following pictures of the Plymouth Court Building. The
picture shows the Court Building and the Methodist Church
(Fig.6 (picture from "Holiday Montserrat 1993/94 Brochure)). The
following pictures show the Court Building in 2002 (Fig.7) and in
following pictures show the Methodist Church (Fig.9) and the War
Memorial Clock Tower (Fig.10) in 2002. Both have now been
completely destroyed by Lahars following the major eruption in
2003. Fig.11 shows Letts Building (right) and Arrows Manstore in
2006 both of which are partially burried.
The dome is presently best observed from the W
side of the island. There is now a purpose built viewpoint on
Jack Boy Hill at the edge of the exclusion zone. Fig.12 shows the
older inofficial viewpoint on JBH in use in 2002 with the large
dome in the background. Fig.13 shows the massive dome in Sept.
2002. The current dome is growing in the crater left by the
destruction of the former dome in 2003 (Fig.14).
to the small size of the dome, it was possible to visit the old
Bramble Airport buildings (Fig.15). These currently provide a
good viewpoint for observing
pyroclastic flow activity in the Tar
River Valley. During a two day observation period during
unusually poor weather conditions, one PF was observed (Fig. 16
and 17). This flow occurred on 20.01.06 at approx. 16.45 local
time and extended over 1 km from the dome which was not visible
due to cloud cover.
witnesses of the buried city
Travellers to Montserrat should be aware that the only regular
form of transport to the island are Winair flights from Antigua to
the new Gerrards Airport (Situation in 2006). High winds and
heavy rain can lead to closure of the new airport which is located
in an exposed position on a hilltop. This can lead to missed
connections in Antigua, as I unfortunately experienced.
cloud is a more usual problem on Montserrat. Best viewing time
is probably March / April. However, even then a week on the
island can easily pass without getting clear views of the dome.
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