Weather: Sunny with scattered clouds and rain showers
Air Temperature: 29ºC, 84ºF
Pressure: 1012 hPa
Wind: 5-10 knots
A rugged and very green landscape was my first impression of Montserrat, also known by the nickname of “Emerald Isle” for the dense rainforest surrounding the volcano. We had a quick breakfast just before boarding one of the zodiacs to start disembarkation in the early morning. It was particularly warm for that time of the day, I thought, and in fact was a little sample of the heat awaiting us for the rest of the day.
As soon as we finished with the zodiacs, we boarded a number of mini-vans to start our morning tour on the Island. Our local guide soon explained that Christopher Columbus named the island in 1493 after Santa Maria de Montserrat. Travelling inland on a winding and sometimes steep road we arrived at our first stop at the Botanical Gardens. This wasn’t only a good opportunity to appreciate the local and regional flora but also one to see some colorful birds and lizards. I cannot avoid mentioning that the shop was quite popular - I found some nice postcards, pins, books and other souvenirs.
Once back to the vans we headed towards the Montserrat Volcano Observatory which was certainly the highlight of the tour. This observatory is one of the most modern in the world and constantly monitors the volcanic and seismic activity on the island. I was touched by the film shown on the Soufriere Volcano, and the series of eruptions starting in late 90’s that covered the now abandoned city of Plymouth with a thick layer of ash. After visiting the observatory, we headed south to reach the periphery of the city and even had the opportunity to walk through one of the abandoned buildings, certainly an interesting experience and an opportunity to appreciate at close distance the magnitude of the devastation.
On the way back, I really enjoyed the stop and refreshments offered at Olveston House, a classic English house enclosed in the highlands. After some fun and interesting chats with the guests, we decided to head back to the shore side. After a 20-minute ride painted with rain showers, we were on the pier where I quickly boarded my zodiac. Soon after, everyone was back aboard and Silver Explorer repositioned for the afternoon’s activities on the south coast of the island.
Almost half of Montserrat (the southern part) has very restricted access and no settlements are allowed following the latest series of eruptions. However, we got special permission to have a close look of the town from the zodiacs. Hence, just before 3pm we launched the boats and sailed to get close to the shoreline in the south end of Montserrat where we could appreciate the effects of the eruption from another perspective.
Back aboard, Dr Patricia Silva offered a lecture on birds in human life and later on our Expedition Leader gave us a briefing for tomorrow’s activities followed by a funny and informative recap by the Expedition Team. Another busy day in the Caribbean with even more to come in the next few days.