Sunday, March 28, 2010


I left the peace and quiet of Five Island Bay somewhat reluctantly but I needed a laundry and also wanted to find out if my official boat papers had arrived. So it was off to the fleshpots of Falmouth and Engish Harbour.
It had been a good clear sky last night and the horizon had been free of cloud so when I watched the sunset there was the merest hint of green as it slipped out of sight just to the left of Redonda.

So I was not surprised to get a good look at Montserrat as I sailed around the south west corner of Antigua and beat up Goat channel.

I want to sail over to Montserrat when my new crew arrives but the recent eruptions have been a bit off putting. It looks quite quiet from my pic unlike the towering clouds of ash spewing out recently just now.

It all started in 1992 when the sleeping monster started to move and mutter and belch just a little, by 1995 it was clear that a major eruption was coming and the area around the volcano was evacuated including the town of Plymouth. It was not until September the 17th 1996 that it really cut loose with 9 hours of dome collapses and pyroclastic flows. The eruption fired giant 1.5 m diameter ballistic blocks more than 2 km. The eruption plume reached 14 km into the stratoshere and about 600,000 tonnes of ash buried southern Montserrat.

These were mostly phreatic eruptions an event caused when water and heated volcanic rocks interact to produce a violent expulsion of steam and pulverized rocks.

Things rumbled on at a much lower level until 2003 when it blew it's top with lots of ash and some bombing and it did it again in 2006 but this time with enough sulpher dioxide to be smelt in other islands.

But after this things quietened down and the inhabitants started to drift back and tourists ventured to the island to view the sleeping monster.

However it is stirring again and the past six months have seen some of the most vigorous activity of the whole eruption. The northern part of the dome with a volume of 40-50 million cubic metres collapsed over a two-hour period, producing large pyroclastic flows and surges mainly to the north and northeast. The event generated a large ash column with extensive ash fall on Guadeloupe and other parts of the eastern Caribbean.

You probably saw this picture of the ash column snapped by a tourist on a commercial flight in the news.

However it has quietened down again. So the question is do we sail over to Montserrat and go have a look at it all. The tourist board says yes, “Come to lovely Montserrat”; well they would wouldn't they. The northern part of the Island has been safe throughout but I still think of the mayor of St Pierre under Mont Pelee saying “stay, everything is wonderful. You are quite safe.”


Antigua is the destination for the transatlantic rowers this year and they are starting to arrive in English harbour.

29 rowing boats are shown to be either on their way or here already. Some solo mostly pairs but a few fours are paddling the Atlantic.

80 days eh! No wonder they are looking a bit spaced out.

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