Island Portrait :: MONTSERRAT, BWI
Montserrat (pron.: /mɒntsəˈræt/) is a Caribbean island that is a British Overseas Territory. It is located in the Leeward Islands, part of the chain of islands known as the Lesser Antilles, in the West Indies. The island of Montserrat measures approximately 16 km (9.9 mi) long and 11 km (6.8 mi) wide, with approximately 40 kilometres (25 mi) of coastline. Montserrat is nicknamed The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean both for its resemblance to coastal Ireland and for the Irish ancestry of some of its inhabitants.
On 18 July 1995, the previously dormant Soufrière Hills volcano became active. Eruptions destroyed Montserrat’s Georgian eracapital city of Plymouth and two-thirds of the island’s population was forced to flee. The volcanic activity continues to the present, the affected areas currently being mostly in the vicinity of Plymouth, including its docking facilities, and also on the eastern side of the island in the area around the former W. H. Bramble Airport, the remnants of which were buried by flows from volcanic activity on 11 February 2010.
An “exclusion zone” extending from the south coast of the island north to parts of the Belham Valley has been imposed because of the size of the existing volcanic dome and the resulting potential for pyroclastic activity. Visitors are generally not permitted entry into the exclusion zone, but an impressive view of the destruction of Plymouth can be seen from the top of Garibaldi Hill in Isles Bay. Relatively quiet since early 2010, the volcano continues to be closely monitored by the Montserrat Volcano Observatory.
A new town and port is being developed at Little Bay in the northwest of the island. While construction proceeds, the center of government rests at Brades.
In July 1995, Montserrat’s Soufrière Hills volcano, dormant for centuries, erupted and soon buried the island’s capital, Plymouth, in more than 12 metres (39 ft) of mud, destroyed its airport and docking facilities, and rendered the southern part of the island (the “exclusion zone”) uninhabitable and not safe to travel in. The southern part of the island was evacuated and visits are severely restricted. The exclusion zone also includes two sea areas adjacent to the land areas that have seen the most volcanic activity.
After the destruction of Plymouth, more than half of the population left the island because of the economic disruption and lack of housing. There was a period of regular eruptive events during the late 1990s, including one on 25 June 1997 in which nineteen people died when they were overtaken by a pyroclastic flow. For a number of years in the early 2000s, the volcano’s activity consisted mostly of infrequent ventings of ash into the uninhabited areas in the south. The ash falls occasionally extended into the northern and western parts of the island.
The most recent period of increased activity at the Soufrière Hills volcano, from November 2009 through February 2010, saw ash venting, a vulcanian explosion which sent pyroclastic flows down several sides of the mountain. Travel into parts of the exclusion zone is sometimes allowed with a licence from the Royal Montserrat Police Force.
Despite all the volcanic activity, a large part of Montserrat (the northern part) has barely been affected, and remains lush and green. In February 2005, The Princess Royal officially opened a new airport at Gerald’s in the north (renamed the John A. Osborne Airport); as of 2011, it handles several flights daily operated by Fly Montserrat Airways. Docking facilities are in place at Little Bay, where the new capital town is being constructed; the new government centre is at Brades, a short distance away.
The people of Montserrat were granted full residency rights in the United Kingdom in 1998, and British citizenship was granted in 2002.
Location: Montserrat, BWI
Special thanks to Noella Weekes of Montserrat