Over 1/2 of Montserrat, including the capital city of Plymouth, has been buried by an active volcano. Because of modern technology, and the warning systems in place, only 17 people were killed by the major eruption in 1995, but the volcano took a lot more from this island than lives. Family’s have been separated, businesses have gone bankrupt, and hopes and dreams of prosperity have been destroyed.   

In 1995, before the eruption, the island was thriving with tourism. There was daily cruise ship activity, scenic golf courses, and many boutique and luxery hotels. Legendary producer of the Beetles, Sir George Martin, opened a small recording studio on the island called AIR Studio Montserrat and many stars in the music industry including Paul McCartny, Jimmy Buffett, Mick Jager, Michael Jackson and many others would frequently come here to record music and get away from the hustle and bustle of the larger studios. 

On July 18, 1995 the dormant Souffiere Hills Volcano became active and everything change.  

Eruptions completely buried the Capital City of Plymouth. Visitors to the island must now hire a guide to show them around since the volcano is still very active and many areas are off limits.    We hired George, who has lived in Monserat his entire life. He said on the day of the eruption he only thought it was the Concord flying over because hearing the sonic boom from it was a common occurance back then. It flew over every few days. 

George and his van

George has experienced the devastation of the volcano first hand. Between 1995 and 2000, more than 2/3rds of the islands population left the island and has not returned; including George’s wife. He also owned a thriving taxi service and was one of the first operators on the island to receive a license to carry cruise ship passengers. Unfortunately, since the first eruption the cruise ships have stopped coming and other tourist are afraid to visit. There is now only 1 hotel on the island. 

George picked us up in the town of Little Bay Beach where Sail Pending was anchored.     

View of Little Bay from the dingy dock

Then he took us to a nice view point where we could see the entire anchorage of Little Bay. Sail Pending is the sailboat anchored farthest out, to the left of the blue fishing boat.

 Monserrat is a very lush island with dense forests and rocky cliffs that fall into the deep blue sea.   

  
As we were driving along the main road, George bragged about how pure and clean the water on the island is. He said it was the best water in all of the Caribbean and told us about a natural spring that was nearby. He told us if we drank from it, we would be guaranteed to return to Montserrat again.  

 

 We all drank from the spring.   

George was a talker and loved showing us around and telling us about his island. He was explaining the islands week long St. Patty’s Day celebration and how the loud music continued until 5am the night before, in the town of Salem, where he lives. He told us the music only stopped when the electric for the entire town went out. He said we may not be able to drive through the town because the festivities were planned to start early again this morning. He was right!! We were stopped as a Music Parade (click for video) started going through the streets. Check out the size of those speakers.     

Because of this dance party through the streets at 10am, we had to take a long detour around the town of Salem. George showed us where he lived and told us who his neighbors were and showed us where all of his friends lived. Once we got pass Salem, we headed towards the devastation from the volcano. 

First, we went to an area that use to be a golf course and large dock but is now completely covered in ash. My pictures don’t do the significance of what we saw justice, so I took a picture of the picture in the Leeward Island Cruising Guide written by Chris Doyle.  Several hundred yards of new land has formed and there is a  beautiful new black sand beach. 

to the Leeward Islands
Chris Doyle Cruising Guide, page 248

Continued on Part 2….

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