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Montserrat: first volcanic eruption

Nuee ardente, pyroclastic flow, searingly hot ash avalanche...whatever you choose to call it, I reckoned I had less than a minute before it killed me...

Montserrat after the volcano: true resilience

When the citizens of Plymouth were given 36 hours to evacuate, and told to take only their passports and important papers with them, I was impressed at the equanamity, calmness and composure of Montserratians. Their livelihoods, social structures, and homes had all been taken from them.

The destruction of Montserrat's original airport

I flew out of the W.H. Bramble airport in 1995, as many Montserratians were choosing to leave for other Caribbean islands, Canada and the UK. But no-one used it ever again after the 25th June 1997 eruption of the Soufriere Hills killed 19, and destroyed the airport.

The destruction of Plymouth, Montserrat's capital

I've just driven up Garibaldi Hill, just outside the exclusion zone, to get my first sight of Plymouth in 16 years. Even though I know, intellectually, what happened since, it's still a shock to see it. Then it was the thriving heart of Montserrat. Today it's a Pompeii of the future.

From golf course to volcanic desert

This is the Belham River valley: it used to be Montserrat's premiere golf course. Expensive houses lined its periphery. An area overlooking the valley is called Happy Hill. Truly paradise for the wealthy expats who lived in the area. The Soufriere Hills Volcano changed all that.

Looking for Montserrat's national bird: the oriole

There are maybe 200-800 birds left. The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust have run a successful breeding program to help ensure their survival. We eventually spot one, but I've gained more from hearing Scriber talk about the status of wildlife on the island, and all the work that's put in to protect it

Nature hiking in Montserrat

This was an unexpected treat. I'd spent two months pushing, fighting and cursing through Montserrat's pathless wilderness, and here was an opportunity to experience the delight of being in the tropical forest with little hardship.

A warm welcome to Montserrat

It's been too long, but I'm finally back in Montserrat. It's a different airport (the old one having been destroyed in 1997) but the new, one room replacement, opened in 2005 by Princess Anne, is still small, friendly and laid back.

Surveying wild animals on Montserrat

On our conservation project, Mark, Jenny and I had to survey the island's population of reptiles and amphibians. Unlike the "batters" who patiently waited for their animals to fly to them, we had to use a different approach. We knew we wouldn't have time to survey the whole island, so we had to come up with a random technique that we hoped would give us a representative sample. We had just over 2 months to survey the 39 m2 (106 km2 ) – less than a third of the area of the Isle of Wight.

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