For multiple reasons Party of Five debated a trip to Montserrat. First, although its only 28 nautical miles from Antigua, going there puts you on a beat when leaving (beating into the wind and waves, usually trying to make east). Second, the only thing to do is a guided tour of the island and volcano. Finally, the anchorage is notorious for being VERY ROLLY, leading to sleepless nights.
However, even with all those things stacked against it Rhonda and I felt the educational value would be worth it. For those who do not know, Montserrat is commonly called “The modern day Pompeii”. In 1995 the sleepy and small Souffie Hills volcano woke up. Initially it only started venting gas and slight tremors. However, that rapidly changed and only weeks later began erupting. This began a period of 15 years where the volcano erupted on and off. Every eruption spewed pyroclastic clouds into the sky and down the sides of the ever growing mountain. These eruptions and the resulting landslides completely buried the capital city of Plymouth, a city of 8000 people! However, unlike Pompeii, modern science came to the rescue and everyone was forewarned resulting in only a loss of life of 19.
Now that you know the story of Montserrat, here is a picture story of our trip.
Once again Party of Five watches Antigua fade into the background. Its always sad as Antigua feels like a home of sorts. This time was particularly sad as we do not know if we will return (anytime soon).
Sigh, looks like we are burning diesel. Purists would have thrown up sails and slogged at 2.5 – 3.0 knots. That’s not our idea of fun with kids.
The anchorage and “main port”. It looks calm in this picture, but it really wasn’t. There was a terrible roll moving through the anchorage making it quite uncomfortable. We have heard suggestions of moving closer or in front of the fishing fleet to make it better, but lately they have been making those boats move. They even made one move in the middle of the night while we were there. No fun trying to re-anchor in the dark.
However from the anchorage you have a great view of the fabled Kingdom of Redonda, with Nevis in the background, and looking close you can also see St. Kitts. If you are bored, do a wiki search on the Kingdom of Redonda. It has a interesting and rich history in folklore. Most recently, a pub in central London attempted to claim they were a Redondan Consulate and thus had diplomatic immunity from the countries smoking ban in public buildings. Unfortunately this failed, as Great Britain only recognizes Redonda as a territory of Antigua and Barbuda, requiring no consulate!
Once onshore and checked in, we went in search of a tour guide. Here is Party of Five (minus the camera holder) with our guide Sam.
One of the first stops on the tour is this natural spring on the side of a mountain. The fable is once you drink from this spring, you will forever yearn to return and drink from it again.
Our first close up view of the volcano. Luck was on our side as we picked a super clear day and had spectacular views. (I know you are wondering, we are about 5 miles from the base of the volcano)
A close up view. You can see that although the main crater smokes, there are tons of other smaller vents releasing gasses. Before the eruptions the mountain was quite a bit smaller than the one in the foreground. The dome keeps building, then collapsing.
Various rocks that are ejected by the eruptions.
Our guide then took us to the top of a hill on the other side of the island that overlooks %75 of the destruction. Here is the view of the volcano from there. Just to the right was the capital city of Plymouth (next pic is better)
The big brown patch circled in red was the city. About the only thing to survive was the brand new dock that was just built. This picture is deceiving as you can’t really get the scale. Understand that the dock is big enough to accommodate a large container ship. The black line the arrow is pointing at is a crevasse that is about 60ft wide. Any buildings that are visible in the picture are abandoned as the entire area is a controlled zone. The mining operation in the center of the picture has special permission to work there. The government has begun mining the sand and pumice to sell to other islands for concrete. Its now the islands only export.
In this picture I have walked to the other side of the hill we are on. The area directly below this side of the hill was “off limits” but reopened in 2014. The area I have circled in red used to be a stunning 18 hole golf course. Its now under a few feet of ash and pumice.
This picture was taken out the other side of the van and you can clearly see the old waterline. They put the white boat there for those who can’t see it. The building used to be the old fish market where the boats tied up in front.
Our tour guide. For those wondering, a tour for our family of five was $400EC (about $200CAD) including tip. A very significant expenditure on our budget.
A mean squall dumps rain on the volcano as we beat our way to Guadeloupe!