West Indies, Montserrat

Volcano: Soufrière Hills

   28th of January to 8th of Februar 2010 

 R.Roscoe, M.Rietze, Marco Fulle, Th.Boeckel

in deutsch

  Cinema  

     

    Montserrat, Soufriere Hills, 2010 by Martin Rietze    


   

Maps of Montserrat Island

A two-week break after the great trip to Japan arranged us to organize again a journey into the Caribbean volcanic world. The intention was the Soufriere Hills volcano on the island Montserrat. Shift operation, after Marc Szeglat and Chris Weber tarried since the 18th of January on the island Marco, Martin and Richard started at the 24th of January to try their best. About four days later I traveled afterwards, and returned at last of all at the 8th of February back to Germany. This delay turned out afterwards as a magnificent stroke of luck.

Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boeckel     Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boeckel     Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boeckeltb

Escaping from the snow chaos at Munich. Welcome eruption on the way to Montserrat

Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boeckel    Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boeckel    Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boeckeltb

With luck I could escaped from the white snow hell of Munich with the first aircraft to London. After this flight all following flights were radically cancelled for the next two days, because of the strong snowstorms in whole Europe. Arrived at Montserrat, the first way took me to a  paradise looking viewpoint the Jackboy Hill, which is situated at the east edge of the exclusion zone. Perfectly free the now up grown dome of the Soufriere Hills volcano with an estimated height of 1070 m stood impressively in front of me.

      Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boeckel    Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boeckel    Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boeckeltb

Pyroclastic flows through the Tar valley seen  from Jackboy Hill

Due to the previous reports of Richard and Martin I realized that this circumstances belong to a meteorological pecularity. Besides this, already lively Pyroclastic Flows (shortly PFs called) could be observed. From the Tar River to the northern slopes these feared 'glowing clouds' went down in an hourly rhythm crossing the landscape. Highly impressing, even from a distance of apprx. five kilometers.

Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, by Martin Rietze     Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, by Martin Rietze mr

Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, by Martin Rietze     Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, by Martin Rietzemr

Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, by Martin Rietze     Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, by Martin Rietze     Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, by Martin Rietze    Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, by Martin Rietzemr  

Front glowing PFs by night

The continuing activity delighted, and during the night PFs in a front-glowing condition could be observed. Taking a very short exposure time Martin took this fantastic photographies and animations by using a bright optic with a high ASA. And the are glowing in the nite! James the dump worker, would discribe this in an caribbean slang. Da an'sa, it i'a gloin in nite! This question whether the down racing fire tongues are visible with a glow by night, could no one answer me for a long time. But the pictures point it out clearlypushed itself upward the dome.

 Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, by Richard Roscoerr Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, by Richard Roscoerr Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, by Martin Rietzemr

 Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boeckeltb Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boeckeltb Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, by Martin Rietzemr

When plentiful mass pushed itself upward the dome, the top gets instabil and large hot rock masses crumbling down to an evelance. Further the loosen slope ash get involved by creating a Pyroclastic Flow.

Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boeckel     Soufriere Hills, Montserrat 2010 Thorsten Boeckeltb

Soufriere Hills, Montserrat 2010 by Richard Roscoe     Soufriere Hills, Montserrat 2010 by Richard Roscoerr

 Glowing Dome

The onward pushing andesite dome mades itself noticeable by rumbling of the contiuing  rock fall. One has the feeling that in the upper range a constantly alternation is going on. Diverse time-laps-studies over days shows clearly the dome changes by a constant movement. During one week the dome activity can change completely from east to north. Due to this instability you never can get the sureness which area of the volcano is maltreated by the PFs. Contrary to the dome pushing, also an explosion can trigger Pyroclastic Flows.


Activity the days before.

Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boeckel    Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boeckeltb

Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boeckel    Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boeckeltb

Explosion at the 5th of February

Soufriere Hills, Montserrat 2010 Thorsten Boeckel    Soufriere Hills, Montserrat 2010 Thorsten Boeckel    Soufriere Hills, Montserrat 2010 Thorsten Boeckeltb

So, I stood now on the balcony of the Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO), and did not know actually what do do with the last Montserrat day. Well, may I make a few animations or films from the Bellham Valley with the traces of the past Pyroclastic Flows. Since 1:35 pm I could see an increasing ash venting at the dome, which could be observed several times during the past days. No reason to get agitated, without knowing that in a few minutes all would change rapidly. 13:49: I looked straight to the volcano when suddenly five  black ash jets shot out from the main ash column without an announcement or big noise. Wow! Up in seconds an ash/pumice stone column piled itself apprx. 1000 meters up, and sagged down again. The back-rushing material crashed on the dome and released a powerful Pyroclastic Flow going rapidly down in western direction. Very interesting to notice, the procedure went nearly loudless and without a volcanic noise.

 Soufriere Hills, Montserrat 2010 Thorsten Boeckel    Soufriere Hills, Montserrat 2010 Thorsten Boeckel    Soufriere Hills, Montserrat 2010 Thorsten Boeckeltb

 The plume arose apprx 7-8 Km

Now a hectic rush and certain nervousness arose at the observatory. Everyone ran crosswise in disorder, the director cried the remaining MVO crew out from the house. Explosion, an explosion is going on….! I ran to my video camera and wished myself to serve simultaneous the other camera still two arms in addition. The desire was not fulfilled, and I had to bring my stuff somehow with my native two hands in position, without making a failure now!

Soufriere Hills, Montserrat 2010 Thorsten Boeckel    Soufriere Hills, Montserrat 2010 Thorsten Boeckel    Soufriere Hills, Montserrat 2010 Thorsten Boeckeltb

Pyroclastic Flow reaches the sea

Everyone stared glued at the grey monster which seemed to sank completely in the ashes. Now with an enormous speed the PF started over the entire width of the western slope and disappeared behind Georges Hill. Further PFs went down at the northern area. Everything seemed to degenerate now in its dimension, and even from an approximately 4.5 km distance everbody felt somehow unwell. No one could predict, what happens next.

Soufriere Hills, Montserrat 2010 Thorsten Boeckel    Soufriere Hills, Montserrat 2010 Thorsten Boeckel    Soufriere Hills, Montserrat 2010 Thorsten Boeckeltb

The ash cloud piled up very fast to an apprx. height of five km right in front of us and reached at the end the height of eight km. Clandestinely the big PF emerged behind Georges Hill again, and tooks its way relentlessly over Plymouth  the sea. With contacting the sea water, an enormous ash steam developed itself immediately. In comparison with the already vacated houses of Plymouth, the dimension and destructive power of a Pyroclastic Flow became conscious.

Soufriere Hills, Montserrat 2010 Thorsten Boeckel    Soufriere Hills, Montserrat 2010 Thosretn Boeckel    Soufriere Hils, Montserrat Thorsten Boeckeltb

Originalreport from the 5th of Februar, Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO)

At 1:49 pm 5th Feb 2010 a vulcanian explosion occurred from  Soufriere Hills volcano

The event lasted 7 minutes and sent pyroclastic flows mainly to the west of the volcano with pyroclastic flows rapidly reaching Plymouth and spreading across the sea for around 500 m. Short pyroclastic flows, up to 2 km runout, also travelled down Tyers Ghaut to the northwest and Whites Ghaut to the northeast. A plume rose rapidly to 21,000 ft (confirmed by pilot reports). There was no lapilli or ash fallout in inhabited regions due to an easterly wind direction. Precursory activity included only ash venting, although the event coincided with a cycle of increased activity.

Soufriere Hills Volcano by Boeckel        Soufriere Hils, Montserrat Thorsten Boeckel        Soufriere Hills, Montserrat 2010 Thosretn Boeckeltb 

The beginning of explosion together with the seismic recordings. The blue and green amplitude needs more than the half of the paper (right photo with friendly permission by MVO)

 

If you factorize all parameters in which must be set right for observing of such an explosion successful, you get in fear.

  • the activity should be during the day,

  • you have to stand on the correct side of the island,

  • the weather must be clear, the dome ist normally 80% in clouds,

  • the wind must come from the right direction,

  • the cameras have to be well positioned (with full accus CF-cards!), and you should press 'record' before filming....

  • and the most important, you must be present in these 7 minutes, and not in a restaurant, shopping or sleeping....

     

    Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boeckel   Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boecke    Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boecketb

    At the end of the rain bow... the MVO is situated. A sign-posting?


    DOME COLLAPSE on 10th of February2010

    Alteration of the volcano landscape and devastation of the 'Harris' areal

    Montserrat 2010 devastation Harris    Montserrat 2010 devastation     Montserrat 2010 devastation Harris

    The satellite images by NASA are pointing out the change of the landscape around Soufrierre Hills volcano before and after the activity period 2009/2010. The routes of the new pyroclastic flows are clear to see.

    All satellite images, credit to

    Soufrierre Hills 2010 Dome colapse 11th February by Greg Scott      Soufrierre Hills 2010 Dome colapse 11th February by Greg Scott      Soufrierre Hills 2010 Dome colapse 11th February by Greg Scottgs

    The final big show of the activity chapter 2009/2010 occured at the 10th of Februry 2010 by a dome collapse. That means that the upper crater body bursted self-inside and also down to the northern slopes. The downsliding mass devasted the abandoned areas around Harris, Streatham, Bramble airport and Spanish point.

    Soufrierre Hills 2010 Dome colapse 11th February by Greg Scott    Soufrierre Hills 2010 Dome colapse 11th February by Greg Scott    Soufrierre Hills 2010 Dome colapse 11th February by Greg Scottgs

    The giant pyroclastic flow run down the northern flank of the Soufrierre Hills volcano and mainly over the north-east parts of the Harris-Streatham-Bramble areal. Pyroclastic flows ran also down the Tar valley.( Map). Only demolished trees and destructed buildings are now the quite remainders. More than two kilometer behind the 'Harris' hill the PF destroyed the forests completely.

    Soufrierre Hills 2010 Dome colapse 11th February by Greg Scottgs  tb  Soufrierre Hills 2010 Dome colapse 11th February by Greg Scottgs

    If you compare the landscape for example the Belham river valley which has a similar apperance like the devasted area before, you'll get conscious what enormous energy and power of destruction stands behind such a pyroclastic flow.

    Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boeckeltb   Soufrierre Hills 2010 Dome colapse 11th February by Greg Scottgs

    tb   Soufrierre Hills 2010 Dome colapse 11th February by Greg Scottgs

    Again in comparision the old Bramble airport facilities and Spanish point before and after the pyro attack. The thickness of the ash layer measured partly up to 15m

    Heli images with friendly permission of Greg Scott (gs), Caribbean Helicopters.carribean helicopters 


Pyroclastic land

Due to the explosive situation the access in the restricted area is not possible and deadly dangerous. A good alternative offers a boat trip. Boats can be lent in the port of St. Johns (price per Person 60-80U$). From there you get a good view to the abandoned city of Plymouth, the modern Pompeji in rates. May you are lucky and you'll adjust directly a PF, and you have the feeling the clock is turned back to 1996. In our case the volcano had a strong active phase in the afternoon of the 2nd of  February and the whole scenario was deep impressively. Again the power of the volcano could be brought in connection with buildings. Advice: Take a strong telelens with you. An adequate 2 miles distance to the coast should be kept absolutely.

 

Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boeckel   Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boeckel     Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boeckeltb

The former river depression at Aymers Ghaut gets regularly afflicted.

    Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boeckel     Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boeckeltb

 Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, by Richard Roscoerr  Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boeckeltb Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boeckeltb

Approaching PF (Telelens up to 500mm).

Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, by Richard Roscoerr  Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, by Richard Roscoerr  Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boeckeltb

Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boeckel     Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boeckeltb

Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boeckel     Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boeckeltb

What the multiplicity of Pyroclastic Flows can't destroy the  Lahars will take rest. Of floated rocks by Lahars in the background can be seen and may carry the symbolic of millstones. Slowly the volcano conquers the city back again and may create a new paradise in the far future.

Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boeckel     Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boeckel     Montserrat, Soufriere Hills 2010, Thorsten Boeckeltb


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© 2010, Photos und Text Th. Boeckel (tb), Photos M.Rietze (mr), Richard Roscoe (rr), last modification 02/14/2010