Plymouth – the Caribbean’s modern day Pompeii

Plymouth was the capital of Montserrat, with a population of approximately 4000 people. The town and the island’s main source of income was residential tourism, an offshore medical school and Sir George Martin’s famous recording facility, Air Studios. But in July of 1995, the Soufriere Hills Volcano awoke from its 400 year slumber, erupting fresh lava. By August 1995, the first evacuation of local residents occurred due to volcanic ash, and by June 25, 1997, the town was fully evacuated. On this date, pyroclastic flows occurred in all directions, and the main business centre in the town of Plymouth was completely destroyed. 

Eighty percent of Plymouth is now buried under 30ft (10m) of ash, and with the only airport and the two major hotels in the new exclusion zone completely destroyed, tourism died. 

On Tuesday June 7, 2016, I was given a tour of Plymouth by Sun Lea, of Sun’s Montserrat Island Tours. Sun grew up on Montserrat.  His first hand personal account of his life and those of local Montserrations, before and after the eruption is both fascinating and tragic. 

Sun started the tour with a visit to the  Montserrat Volcano Observatory where we viewed a  documentary that described the history and impact of the eruption. The film was created by his father David Lea, a videographer who has lived with his wife and family on Montserrat for 36 years. David produced the film Price of Paradise which documents the story of the eruption of the Soufriere Hills Volcano. The film contains powerful images of the eruption and the town of Plymouth before and after the pyroclastic flows. 

With the images of the volcanic eruption fresh in our minds, our visit into Plymouth afterwards felt even more surreal. The devastation caused by the pyroclastic lava flows was all around us as Sun took us to view parts of the town. Steel frames that once supported buildings had bent due to the heat, boulders wedged themselves under structures, and buildings laid buried under layers of lava flows and mud.


 We toured what was left of Montserrat Springs Hotel. What I saw reminded me of life abandoned, but also frozen in time.


Sun’s personal account of places he grew up around as a child and adult, which has since been destroyed makes this tour of Plymouth a must do trip to appreciate and understand the very recent history of Montserrat and the people who live here. 

For more information, please visit Montserrat Island Tours

And for a place to stay while visiting Montserrat, check out Gingerbread Hill Montserrat

Life as a Coral Cay Reef marine diver – Week 2

Lime Kiln Bay, Montserrat

My second week here on Montserrat with Coral Cay Conservation has focused on the skills development program, specifically the science training. We completed lectures on fish, invertebrates and impacts, and substrates. We’ve also been diving to identify all the different specifies under each category, as well as sitting theory tests with 90% pass rates. It’s been a heavy week of study and learning, but I’m so pleased with all the knowledge I have gained. Diving feels so much more enriching now I can identify what I’m seeing. The pictures below have been taken with my Go Pro, and reveal the marine reef world at Lime Kiln Bay, Montserrat.

The elusive lion fish who have become an invasive species in the Caribbean
Soldier/Squirrel fish are characterised by their big eyes and a really tall second dorsal fin.

 

The blue tang is a type of surgeon fish but characterised by the electric blue colour on the edge of their dorsal and anal fins, and a yellow scapel on their cordal peduncle.

 

A single grunt, characterised by a smiley mouth and a pelvic fin that is right angle in shape.
File fish are diamond shaped and have a file above its head that is sometimes upright.
A sea fan that has been diseased with aspergillosis, charactersised by the purple blotches.
A gorgonian with two flamingo tongues on its branches.
Sponges are benthic feeding animals with large openings at the top.

There have been so many other amazing things sighted here on Lime Kiln’s reef including barracuda, trumpet fish, squid, an octopus, lobsters, shrimps, pencil and long spined sea urchins. The marine world continues to be amazing and must be protected and preserved above profit and money.
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