The Sunday Sun March 6, 2005
A jewel beneath the ash
A visitor gazes at the
half-buried courthouse in
A church in Plymouth
Clouds partially obscure Montserrat's still active volcano, as a tourist gazes at the awesome view
Ash covered footwear at
|By RUTH LOR MALLOY
Special to the Sun
I KNEW almost nothing about
We felt no earthquakes and just
After our arrival we learned that
We visited the Volcanic Observatory and compared the squiggles on the seismographs with the readings from June 1997. Earthquakes and steam had given warnings months before that eruption.
dramatic cliffs a
striking contrast to
Everyone said the volcano was now on "hold." We felt reassured after talking with some of the 4,000 current
We liked the island because there were few tourists. The Vue Pointe Hotel where we stayed only had a
handful but the standards were good.
The government is planning a new, higher one. From the
"We are trying to keep this island alive. My husband and I want to retire
here," said Carol Osbome, 44, of the Vue Pointe Hotel. "We have never
Every winter the hotel gives Vickie Wilson of Winnipeg a room to hold weekly community folk and
ballroom dances. There is also a weekly games night.
|We hired a 4x4 to tour the island. We found the door at Air Studio open
and no one around. But what a thrill.
The place was empty except for one room which still had old tape
recordings, and a log book dating from daily to 1988. (The studio had been used for
11 years from 1979.)
For us, the highlight of the trip — besides the escape from Toronto's
winter weather — was a walk through the mud- and ash-covered town of
Plymouth with Jim Lee, a Montserrat native and building contractor.
"Offenders will be prosecuted." But Jim assured us no one had been arrested or hurt there. Still he cautioned, "Don't go there after a rain."
It was a weird experience. Better than seeing Pompeii because we walked into the church and saw its organ and the supermarket's tub of margarine.
|We saw the old movie theatre and its projector. We stepped
gingerly out on the quay where cruise ships once moored and up to the two-storey-high court house with its half-covered clock tower. In a few months,
much more of it will be covered.
Afterwards we felt elated that we had survived. We hadn't fallen through a roof laden with tons of ash. We had had a very special experience, one that the hordes of cruise ship passengers and sun-bathers in nearby Antigua did not have.
We had seen what archeologists and tourists in the future will ponder
over, like they do in Pompeii today. We learned a lot about volcanoes and survivors.
Ruth Lor Malloy is the author of
GETTING THERE: Air Canada and Skyservice fly
directly to Antigua. A ferry (a one-hour ride) and a helicopter (a 20-minute trip)
usually leave from Antigua twice daily to Montserrat. The airport should open soon.
Jim Lee will take visitors on a tour of Plymouth in return for a donation to the Seventh-Day Adventist school he has started.
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