Day 4 |
Oct 12, 2011

 Montserrat, BVI

By Maria Patricia Silva Rodriguez, Ornithologist

Co-ordinates: 16° 45’ N 62° 12’ W
Weather: Cloudy with a few showers
Air Temperature: 26.6 C in the morning

I made a quick stop at the Bridge early in the morning to see the position of the Silver Explore in the Caribbean waters. At nine o’clock I disembarked in one of the Zodiacs driven by Claudia Holgate our onboard climatologist. From the tiny pier we jumped into a small bus and went on a new adventure. The island’s nickname is “Emerald Island” and it was covered with beautiful green rain forest and it had an incredible volcano.

As we travelled around the island our local guide Charles told us about the island’s history In November 1493 Christopher Columbus named the island after Santa Maria de Montserrat. We visited the Montserrat Cultural Center and I learned that this spectacular building was the dream of former Beatles producer Sir George Martin. Many musicians like Eric Clapton and Stevie Wonder had played there.

Next on the itinerary was a twenty-minute stop at the Botanical Gardens, were they have nursery plants and seasonal local flora shows, I didn’t leave before going to the Orchid House where I looked at many interesting species including one unique to Montserrat. I had a little time for shopping. I bought a pin with the national bird, the Montserrat Oriole, on it. It is a critically endangered species and is the only endemic land bird.

But the highlight of the day for me was the Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO). This observatory is one of the most modern in the world and constantly monitors the volcanic activity on Montserrat. I watched an incredible film about the Soufriere Volcano, its eruption in 1995 and the phreatic eruptions that blanketed Plymouth (the capital) in a thick ash cloud. Two years later in 1997 pyroclastic flows destroyed Plymouth, Dadengam, Glendon Hospital and the airport.

After visiting the MVO my trip continued down the road at the Olveston House, a classic and inviting English house. I had time to relax and drink fruit punch and rum punch together with breadfruit snacks. While I was sitting outside the house hummingbirds flew around drinking from flowers. Then we had a brief but intense tropical shower.

Around one o’clock we headed back to the Silver Explorer for lunch. Zodiacs were waiting at the pier for us and after a short ride I was back aboard ready to eat a nice meal at The Restaurant and prepare myself for afternoon activities

After lunch, guests joined me for a Zodiac cruise. I drove the Zodiac towards Plymouth, the town that was abandoned in 1997. The old capital had been compared to a modern Pompeii. Buried deep in ash and volcanic debris, the landscape resembles a lunar landscape and lies within the volcanic exclusion zone. Public access is not allowed. Pictures and videos of this amazing landscape are not enough to show its desolation.

On the way back to the Silver Explorer, I spotted some seabirds, pelicans, frigate birds and two species of tern.

In the evening I attended the briefing for tomorrow’s expedition followed by a lecture about volcanologism by our onboard geologist Juan-Carlos Restrepo.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s adventures!