Nadia and Sam Dyson take a trip with Calvin Air on a tour over Montserrat to see the active volcano.
This is one of the best things to do in Antigua and active volcanos are a rarity to see, the destruction that can be seen at first hand is epic and it is well worth the trip from Antigua to Montserrat to see the volcano. The trip is around 45 minutes with Calvin Air Helicopters which leaves from Darkwood beach area.
Mark Fleming is a great host and pilot which makes a wonderful trip. Upon takeoff we head over Darkwood beach and down the west coast of Antigua before making the 30 mile trip to Montserrat.
On the way over we look for whales and Mark tells us a little of the history of the island and the volcano.
The island of Montserrat is approximately ten miles long by seven miles wide, similar in size to Antigua. We approach Montserrat form the north east over Spanish point heading for the Sourfre hills volcano, the highest point on the island. From this point you begin to see the destruction caused by the volcano with huge swathe of the hillside stripped bare in contrast to the green hills to the north of the island.
Before 1995 the island was a popular holiday destination and was home to the legendary AIR studio owned by George Martin the producer of the Beetles. Opened in 1979 the Air Studio in Montserrat played host to recording sessions by a who’s who of rock and pop. More than 70 albums were recorded, with starts such as Dire Straits, The Police, Elton John, The Rolling Stones, Duran Duran, Ultravox, Lou Reed, Black Sabbath and Eric Clapton all having recorded albums at the Montserrat Studio.
The Soufrière Hills volcano is the island's highest point; in 1995 it was 3002 ft high, it has now grown due to the creation of a lava dome, with its current height being 400 ft higher than in 1995. A month after the first visible activity was noticed, the first major eruption took place in August 1995 which covered the nearby town of Plymouth (the capital of the island) in a thick layer volcanic ash.
Plymouth and the whole of the southern part of the island was evacuated and more than half of the population abandoned the island to live elsewhere in the world. Leaving less than 1200 on the island in 1997 where was a huge volcanic eruption which killed 19 people, buried most of Plymouth and destroyed the airport in a pyroclastic flow.
An exclusion zone, encompassing the southern half of the island was imposed because of the size of the existing volcanic dome and the resulting potential for pyroclastic activity. Visitors are generally not permitted to enter into the exclusion zone. Now Relatively quiet since early 2010, the volcano continues to be closely monitored by the Montserrat Volcano Observatory.
A pyroclastic flow is a fast-moving current of hot gas dust and rock (collectively known as tephra) that flows along the ground away from a volcano at average speeds of (62 mph) but is capable of reaching speeds up to (430 mph). The gases and tephra can reach temperatures of about 1,000 °C (1,830 °F).
Montserrat is nicknamed "The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean" both for its resemblance to coastal Ireland and for the Irish ancestry of many of its inhabitants
After circling the south of Montserrat volcano we head back to Antigua to take short helicopter tour of the south west coast of Antigua and Cades reef. A wonderful day with Calvin Air and Mark Fleming.