Sunday, July 8, 2012

July 7, 2012: Today we went on an island boat tour. Our tour guide was Troy. It was fun to see the island, but especially Soufriere Hills Volcano, from the water. Soufriere is a French term used to describe any volcanic area, literally translated to mean, “sulfur in the air”. We were able to see the mudflow and the pyroclastic flow that buried town of Plymouth (which was the island's capital)! Two thirds of the island is now an exclusion zone. It is illegal to go into the exclusion zone (unless the gates are open and even then you can only go so far) and port and, in fact, Troy was unable to even stop the boat. He drove very slowly so we could see it. Seeing the buried city was stunning! I wish we could have gotten closer! The pyroclastic flow completely demolished the entire town! The volcano gave a lateral blast shooting the rocks (some bigger than some of the houses) and ash straight down into the city reaching about 110 mph. The plume of smoke and ash rose to an altitude of about 50,000 ft. Some areas are an estimated 60 feet deep in ash! Most of the houses and buildings were completely covered by the flow. However, some of the taller buildings were not completely buried, and can be seen in the pictures! The volcano is constantly emitting sulfur and the smell was incredibly strong the closer we got to the port of Plymouth! Troy told us that the volcano actually puts out more greenhouse gases that L.A. puts out in day. The only export in Montserrat is the volcanic ash. It is used for building construction. 

In all of the pictures below keep in mind that most of the houses/buildings are completely buried. The ones you do see were taller buildings (around 3 stories or more). Also, in some of the pictures you can see a "beach" area. This town had no beach prior to the eruptions. The beach was created from the pyroclastic flows. If you look at the Governor's Mansion (for example), it was on a cliff overlooking the water. 

Soufriere Hills Volcano (you can see the pyroclastic flow and the sulfur clouds).

The buried capital of Plymouth. In all of the pictures here keep in mind that most of the houses/buildings are completely buried. The ones you do see were taller buildings.

Pyroclastic flow (you can see a building in the foreground. About 2 1/2 stories of the building are now buried under the ash!

The building on the left side on the cliff was the Governor's Mansion.

Another shot of the destruction.

The pyroclastic material scorched the land. This area was in the center of the path. The houses were destroyed, but not buried like the ones on the left and right!

The tug and barge. They are used to export some of the pyroclastic material out of Montserrat.

Buried up to the top floor.

More buried buildings.

Buried and scorched buildings.

The growth (green area) on the left side of the mountain is a sign that the volcano is beginning to release less sulfur.

Our snorkeling and boat tour guide, Troy.

I thought this picture was cool. See all the layers in the cliff? Also, if you look to the bottom right of the cliff, you can see a landslide.

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