Update: July 11th: Winair flight WM323 will be the first scheduled flight to Montserrat for a decade. The flight will land at a new airport which has been built on the N of the island. A return flight from Antigua costs £44, and lasts about 20 minutes. There is also a helicopter service, and a ferry service.
A reporter was sent to the island and wrote up the visit in 'The Mail on Sunday'.
UPDATE: NEW activity in January 2007 - thanks to LittleMiss for mentioning this - http://www.mvo.ms/
The best page for getting the latest Montserrat information is that of BILL INNANEN which was unavailable for a while, but the wonderful miscellany of stuff is now back! Thanks to Bill for very promptly replying to an e-mail I sent him asking about the latest news on the situation at the Soufriere Hills volcano. There's a good animation showing the changing position of the various zones on the island.
The Soufriere Hills volcano began to erupt in 1995 following a long period of inactivity (hadn't erupted for 350 years). Until the eruptions it was 'The Emerald Isle' of the Caribbean. The eruptions forced the evacuation of the capital Plymouth and the part of the island that was actually the most densely population - and for good reason as it had the best advantages for settlement. Pyroclastic flows killed some of the people who returned against advice, and have also created an area of new land as the debris has been deposited off the coast. In some places, the flows travelled out over the ocean for some distance before stopping. I have an excellent video from Discovery Channel which I use with my 'AS' groups which shows some of the activity.
For the latest on the activity, try VOLCANO WORLD's page on the volcano. They offer individual pages on all the world's major active volcanoes.
The newspaper on the island is the MONTSERRAT REPORTER.
A good report, and lots of other Geology based articles can be found HERE.
As I mentioned earlier on this page, there are companion sites for the video we watched which is produced by NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC. Recommended.
The Government has an out-of-date index (for the present) but useful for looking at the early period of the eruption 1995-9 which is HERE. It does at least have several maps showing the RISK AREA. Many people are now living in the northern part of the island, an area which previously was not the favoured part.
People started to be evacuated in 1997, a REPORT ON THE EVACUATION from CNN is here. This would be useful for a case study on the effect of eruptions on human activity.
One with links from ABC is here too.
A report in 'The Times' in March 2002 said that tourists were now starting to return to the island (apparently 14 000 people visited during 2001). Although the airport remains closed (it was destroyed by the eruptions), 2 high speed ferries bring people across from Antigua, to which the first evacuees were taken. The TOURIST BOARD site gives more information on the possibilities. The volcano is at least attracting people back who can now begin to spend money on the island again.
There is a picture packed site here looking at the ECOLOGICAL IMPACTS of the eruption, particularly on coral reefs.
Already listed elsewhere is the VOLCANO LIVE site of John Seach.
An interesting site produced by Wheeling Jesuit University, which has something called OPERATION MONTSERRAT. The idea is that various teams explore hazards facing the island including the volcano and an approaching hurricane.
Some fantastic pictures of the PYROCLASTIC FLOWS on Montserrat, and other features of the volcano, along with views of the destruction of PLYMOUTH are HERE. If you then look at the tabs at the top of the page, you will be able to link through to lots of other resources relating to the eruption, including short videos. The page is the work of Roberto Carniel and Marco Fuller. Recommended.
The Montserrat Volcano Observatory can now be found HERE. This site has also recently undergone a lot of improvement and updates. It now includes some excellent images, a CHRONOLOGY (from 1992 to 2004) - so you can see how the sequence of the eruption has progressed, and the chance to buy a resource pack which supports the children on the island. Recommended. (Thanks to Mr. Ames for pointing out that the Observatory's old site has now become a source of Viagra and Vitamins etc...)
The late Pete McCarthy, best selling author visited Montserrat as part of his book: 'The Road to McCarthy'. He described the response of a taxi driver.
"You going to Montserrat ?..."
"....Now you remember - in Montserrat always stays to the left."
"What, when I'm driving ?"
"No, man - so the volcano don't get you."
Later on he describes the sight of Plymouth: the island's abandoned capital from a boat tour around the island.
"It's a scene of biblical devastation, a monochrome swathe of ash and rubble sweeping down the mountainside, entombing the town.....the Tar river valley which still experiences daily rock and mud flows, is a post apocalyptic moonscape. When the pyroclastic flow hit the sea here, the waters boiled."
He later describes the morning after an evening rainstorm has washed out the ash from a small eruption.
"Next morning, everything looks like it hasn't been dusted for 5 years...When the sun's at the right angle you can see the particles (of ash) hanging in the air...my shirt is covered in a grey film, and my pen is crunching on the page....the air tastes like emptying the ash pan the morning after you've had a coal fire."
The book is well worth reading, and should be available in most libraries and bookshops.
Pete McCarthy: "The Road to McCarthy" (Hodder and Stoughton, 2002) ISBN: 0 340 76606 9
New GCSE LESSON PLAN / QUESTION SHEET
MONTSERRAT VOLCANO ERUPTIONS 1995-1998
These questions are designed to be answered using a copy of GEOFILE ONLINE. The particular article is Issue 401 which was produced in April 2001 by Lucy Newstead. This can be downloaded (a Subscription service) from Nelson Thornes publishers. There is also a useful GeoActive resource available (no. 215)
1. Describe the location of Montserrat (2 marks)
2. Explain why Montserrat is a volcanic island (3 marks)
3. List the Primary and Secondary hazards of the Soufriere Hills volcano (6 marks)
4. Which part of the island was evacuated first, and when did this take place ? (2 marks)
5. What is a pyroclastic flow ? Describe how this hazard has affected the people of Montserrat (4 marks)
6. How is the hazard of the volcanic activity 'managed' ? (4 marks)
7. How is risk calculated ? (2 marks)
8. Why is the fact that the south of the island has been most badly hit a particular problem for the people of Montserrat ? (4 marks)
9. What role did the British have to play in the evacuation of the island ? (3 marks)
10. What is the current situation ? (Go to VOLCANO LIVE and find out...) (0 marks) - we'll be doing this in a future lesson
TOTAL: 30 marks
Try to get hold of the book: "Fire from the Mountain" - Polly Pattullo (Constable, 2000)
The main case study we have used is the eruption of the SOUFRIERE HILLS volcano on MONTSERRAT.
For latest eruption news, try VOLCANO WORLD.
Currently unavailable as the site is being updated is the SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTE site, which publishes bulletins of volcanic activity and has some mentioned in September 2000 inside a massively detailed ERUPTION INDEX for the whole period of the eruption.
Try VOLCANOLIVE.COM (John Seach's site) for more information on recent activity.
Noel Jenkins has linked GOOGLE EARTH with Montserrat and created an overlay based on the hazard map provided by the observatory.
This has now been developed into a full set of LESSON PLANS and RESOURCES which is an essential visit.
Visit the sites which are linked to above, and answer the following questions:
1. What is the approximate current population of Montserrat, and what was it in 1995 ? What help did the evacuees get ? (see here)
2. Explain how the island was zoned in order to reduce the risk to the population (for useful maps and details, see here)
3. Find an image to show the area of the island which has been affected by pyroclastic flows from the volcano.
4. What have been the effects of the eruption on the shape of the island of Montserrat ?
5. What activity has taken place on the volcano within the last month ?
6. Summarise with bullet points the effects of the eruption on the population, using a series of headings, e.g education, healthcare, housing, water supply
7. How many volcanoes are there on the island of Montserrat ?
Marked out of 20
KEY FACTS (think of these as 'bullet points' - a useful REVISION technique is to try to reduce any topic down to just 10 bullet points which contain the main aspects of what it is you want to get across....)
Montserrat is a British colony, part of the Antilles Island Arc of the Caribbean. It is at the border of the North and South American plates with the Caribbean plate
On 18th July 1995, the Soufriere Hills volcano came back to life and started erupting, threatening everyone on the 12km x 8km island
Pyroclastic flows and ash falls started to threaten the capital city of Plymouth, and the surrounding area. The southern half of the island (previously the most populated area) had to be evacuated - over 8000 people left the island.
The eruptions occur because the area is a place where 3 plates meet. The North American plate is subducted beneath the Caribbean plate. The molten rock rises to the surface. Domes formed in the crater of the Chance's Peak volcano, and when these collapsed, pyroclastic flows flowed down the Tar River valley.
Hazards from the volcano included pyroclastic flows, lahars (rapidly moving slurry of ash and water from volcanic debris), ash and tephra fall, earthquakes and volcanic gases (including carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide)
The capital was abandoned and the airport had to be closed. The tourist trade declined.
The theoretical risk from the volcano can be expressed as:
RISK = PEOPLE, PROPERTY x HAZARD x VULNERABILITY
Instruments were put in place around the volcano to give advance warning of earth movements, and tiltmeters were put in place to check for pressure building inside the volcano; gas detectors were put in place
People were evacuated from the highest risk area: the Exclusion Zone
There were devastating effects on the population: the evacuation of the capital city meant the island lost all the main services, such as schools, hospitals and government offices, tourists stopped coming, the rice processing industry collapsed, unemployment rose from less than 10% to 50%, people suffered psychological problems, skills shortage as people left
A pupil of mine visited a few years ago - I got excited and asked if they had any pictures of the island as it is now...and they'd apparently forgotten to take their camera....
Tom Mangold visited the island in July 2005 & wrote up visit for 'Mail on Sunday' article: "Pompeii of the Caribbean that's rising from the ashes'
Several useful points made in the article:
Capital of Plymouth out of bounds to visitors without an official escort
Volcano came to life on August 3rd 1997
Mud, ash and lava is hardening to 'concrete'
Pear shaped island is 12 miles long and 7 miles wide.
Only 2 hotels on the island
Vue Pointe hotel (overlooks the volcano) - the website of the hotel is HERE
Everyone has a volcano story to tell
The Centre Hills project aims to turn the central area of rainforest into a protected National park
Using various resources: GeoActive no. 215 by Ann Bowen & Videos: "Volcano Stories: Montserrat" (BBC2 programme)
Provide the following:
Tectonic Background: Why is there an active volcano on Montserrat - how does the island fit into a larger chain of islands ? Which plates meet at this point, and which processes are active ?
What are the specific volcanic hazards on the island, and what has been the response / management of these ?
What have been the economic and social consequences of the activity at Soufriere Hills.
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