The Caribbean Island of Montserrat
Montserrat is a British overseas territory located in the Leeward Islands,
part of the chain of islands called the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean Sea. It measures
approximately 16 km (10 miles) long and 11 km (7 miles) wide, giving 40 kilometres (25 mi) of
coastline. Christopher Columbus gave Montserrat its name on his second voyage to the New World in
1493, after its namesake located in Catalonia. Montserrat is often referred to as the Emerald Isle
of the Caribbean, due both to its resemblance to coastal Ireland and to the Irish descent of most
of its early European settlers.
Its Georgian era capital city of Plymouth was destroyed and two-thirds of the island's
population forced to flee abroad by an eruption of the previously dormant Soufriere Hills volcano
that began on July 18, 1995.
The eruption continues today on a much reduced scale, the damage being confined to the areas
around Plymouth including its docking facilities and the former W.H. Bramble Airport. An exclusion
zone extending from the south coast of the island north to parts of the Belham Valley has been
closed because of an increase in the size of the existing volcanic dome. This zone includes St.
George's Hill which provided visitors with a spectacular view of the volcano and the destruction it
has wrought upon the capital. A new airport at Gerald's in the northern part of the island opened
in 2005. The village of Brades currently serves as the de facto centre of government.
Montserrat was populated by Arawak and Carib people when it was claimed by
Christopher Columbus on his second voyage for Spain in 1493, naming the island Santa María de
Montserrate, after the Blessed Virgin of the Monastery of Montserrat, which is located on the
Mountain of Montserrat, in Catalonia, Spain.
The island fell under English control in 1632 when a group of Irish fleeing
anti-Roman Catholic sentiment in Saint Kitts and Nevis settled there. The import of slaves common
to most Caribbean islands, mainly coming from Ireland (70% of the population were Irish slaves by
the mid 1600's), followed during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and an economy based on
sugar, rum, arrowroot and Sea Island cotton was established. By the late 1700s there were many
Plantations on the island
In 1782, during the American Revolutionary War, Montserrat was briefly captured by
France. It was returned to the United Kingdom under the Treaty of Paris which ended that conflict.
A failed slave uprising on 17 March 1798 led to Montserrat later becoming one of only four places
in the world that celebrates St Patrick's Day as a public or bank holiday (the others being the
Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador).
Slavery was abolished in Montserrat in 1834, presumably as a result of the general emancipation
of slaves within the British Empire in that same year.
Falling sugar prices during the nineteenth century had an adverse effect on the island's economy
and in 1869 the philanthropist Joseph Sturge of Birmingham, England formed the Montserrat Company
to buy sugar estates that were no longer economically viable. The company planted limes starting
production of the lime juice, set up a school, and sold parcels of land to the inhabitants of the
island, with the result that much of Montserrat came to be owned by smallholders.
Long referred to as "The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean" for both its Irish heritage and its
resemblance to coastal Ireland, most of Montserrat today remains lush and green. A new airport,
opened officially by the Princess Royal Princess Anne in February 2005, received its first
commercial flights on July 11, 2005, and docking facilities are in place at Little Bay, where a new
capital is being constructed out of reach of any further volcanic activity.
The people of Montserrat were granted full residency rights in the United Kingdom in 1998, and
citizenship was granted in 2002.
Cricket is a popular sport in Montserrat. Players from Montserrat are in fact eligible to play
for the West Indies cricket team. Jim Allen was the first to play for West Indies and he
represented the World Series Cricket West Indians. No other player from Montserrat had gone on to
represent West Indies until Lionel Baker made his One Day International debut against Pakistan in
Montserrat has its own FIFA Affiliated Football Team, and has twice competed in the World Cup
qualifiers. A field for the team was built near the airport by FIFA. The Montserrat team are
currently tied for 199th place in the FIFA world rankings with eight other teams, including
American Samoa and Guam. In 2002, the team competed in a friendly with the second-lowest-ranked
team in FIFA at that time, Bhutan, in The Other Final- the same day as the final of the 2002 World
Cup. Bhutan won 4-0
The island of Montserrat is located approximately 480 km (300 miles) east-southeast of Puerto
Rico and 48 km (30 miles) southwest of Antigua. It comprises only 104 km² (40 square miles) and is
increasing gradually owing to volcanic deposits on the southeast coast of the island; it is 16 km
(10 miles) long and 11 km (7 miles) wide, with dramatic rock faced cliffs rising 15 to 30 m (50-100
feet) above the sea and smooth bottomed sandy beaches scattered among coves on the west side of the
island. Montserrat has been a quiet haven of extraordinary scenic beauty.
Montserrat has two islets: Little Redonda and Virgin, and Statue Rock.
The Soufrière Hills or Montserrat volcano is an active complex stratovolcano with many lava
domes forming its summit on the island. After a long period of dormancy it became active in 1995,
and eruptions have continued up to the present. The last eruption was in December 2008.
Montserrat Flag and Coat of Arm
|It is a Blue Ensign with the Union Flag
in the canton and the Coat of arms of Montserrat in the fly.
Symbolism of arms
The arms feature Erin, the female personifcation of Ireland, and the golden harp, another symbol of
Ireland. This reflects the colony's Irish ancestry.
The Governor of Montserrat maintains a separate flag. The Governor's flag consists of a Union Flag
defaced with the coat of arms.
The Coat of Arms of Montserrat
was first adopted in 1909. The Arms consist of a shield featuring a lady in green representing
Erin, the female personification of Ireland, based on the mythology of Ériu. The lady is holding a
golden harp, a symbol of Ireland that features in Ireland's coat of arms. The cross symbolises
The Arms pay tribute to the Irish ancestry of Montserrat, as much of the population is descended
from the Irish settlers exiled to the island by Oliver Cromwell in the 17th century.
The Arms feature on the Flag of Montserrat, and on the defaced Union Flag used by the Governor of
Things to do in Montserrat
Possible from safe vantage points including Jack Boy Hill, and the the MVO. Another recommended
vantage point for viewing Plymouth and surrounding areas is from Garibaldi Hill although this
requires a four-wheel drive vehicle or a steep climb to appreciate the view from the summit.
Plymouth - A Modern-day Pompeii
Abandoned in 1997, Montserrat's capital Plymouth has been compared to a modern day Pompeii. Buried
deep in ash and volcanic debris including boulders up to the size of the houses that once stood
there, the once thriving business and commercial centre of the island now resembles a dust-covered
lunar landscape through which deep canyons have been gouged. Plymouth lies within the volcanic
exclusion zone and access is not possible.
Nevertheless, the devastation of Plymouth can be safely viewed from Richmond Hill (when this are
is opened). Or for a different perspective on the volcano and the devastation it has wrought to the
southern end of Montserrat, schedule a round the island boat tour. These tours begin from the
port in Little Bay and head south, first to Plymouth, then round the southern tip of Montserrat to
the Tar River Delta and north to the remnants of WH Bramble Airport. From the sea, you can clearly
see the path taken by the pyroclastic flows and mudflows with the Soufrière Hills Volcano in the
background. Tours generally last two hours and are subject to weather and volcanic
Jack Boy Hill
In the north east of the island is a viewing facility at Jack Boy Hill, which also provides an
excellent vantage point for volcano viewing. This facility overlooks the destroyed WH Bramble
Airport, the old estate house, the site of destroyed eastern villages, now covered by volcanic
pyroclastic flows and of course the volcano. The facility includes a viewing platform, picnic
areas, a viewing telescope, a mini trail and landscaped grounds.
Montserrat Volcano Observatory
The Soufrière Hills Volcano is constantly monitored by the Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO) in
Flemmings. As well as monitoring the volcanic activity, the MVO provides information on the volcano
to the general public. The MVO Interpretation Centre (recently established) is opened Monday to
Thursday from 10:15am to 3:00pm. There are poster displays explaining the techniques used in
monitoring seismic (earthquake) activity, gas emissions, ground deformation and environmental
impacts; and dramatic video shows including a synopsis of the activity and examples of the recent
events on the volcano, along with touch screen kiosks and volcanic artefacts on display. Further
information on the MVO, along with up-to-date activity reports on the Soufrière Hills Volcano and
explanations of volcanic phenomena.
Day Trips from Antigua
A number of tour
operators based in Antigua operate day trips to Montserrat that include volcano viewing, a tour of
the island, lunch and transportation.
This information from: http://www.visitmontserrat.com
visit them for more on what to do in montserrat.