Caribbean volcanoes have held a deep fascination for me since, as a 7-year-old, I was allowed to watch a Puerto Rican telenovela set in Martinique on the months preceding the devastating eruption of the Mont Pelée volcano in May 1902. Since I already knew (from one of my favorite comic books) that all but one person remaining in the town on the day of the was going to die, I spent my evening glued to the tv set, waiting to know the fate of my favorite characters. I have spent a considerable part of my adult time studying both the Mont Pelée eruption and the Dominica’s Boiling Lake. This week, the International Business Times has included the Boiling Lake and Montserrat’s Soufrière Hills volcano (but surprisingly not Mont Pelée) on their list of 11 volcanoes in the Americas you can climb. Here are the excerpts on the Caribbean volcanoes on the list:
Maybe it’s because they seem primordial, or because you did really well in rocks for jocks, or actually know a thing or two about geology. Or perhaps just because it’s there, and well, so are you. But for some (perhaps magnetic) reason, where there is an accessible volcano, there are travelers (and sometimes locals) bathing in its hot-springs, scaling its slopes and marveling at its lava flows.
Boiling Lake – Dominica
Of sixteen active volcanoes in the Caribbean, Dominica is home to nine, and since no significant eruptions have taken place since Columbus’ time, the rainforests are lush and mostly undisturbed. Visitors to this eco-destination can visit Morne Trois Pitons National Park, a World Heritage site since 1997, which is named for the remains of what was once an enormous volcano.
The park contains several volcanic features, including the hot springs at the Valley of Desolation and a 13 km, 3-4 hour hike up to the world’s second-largest boiling lake, a bubbling, burping greyish-blue 200-foot-wide lake which geologists believe to be a flooded fumarole. Locals consider it to be a right of passage, but except for the guides, you won’t find many repeat visitors. It’s messy business, especially since in addition to being highly volcanic, Dominica is also the rainiest of the Carribean islands. “Stinking hole” is another feature here, a lava tube in the middle of the forest that leaks sulphuric fumes.
For those who prefer their waters a little clearer, Dominica also offers an unusual underwater view of volcanic activity in the form of Champagne, an underground vent system that releases ticklish sulphuric bubbles that visitors can snorkel through. This is accessible by tour, or by kakaying out to the access point.
Soufrière Hills – Monserrat
The formerly dormant Soufrière Hills volcano on Monserrat came back to life in 1995, triggering fears of an imminent eruption, and chasing half of the island’s 12,000 inhabitants away. In 1997, the volcano made good on its threats, and covered the southern part of the island, including Plymouth, the 200-year-old capital, with a giant, lava-spilling eruption.
Ever since the volcano stabilized, travelers teem there to see the aftermath, and investments pour in from abroad to keep the economy going. Guests a Hot Rock Hostel get front row seats to the spectacle, and hiking and boat tours are also available. For details on what the volcano is doing at any given time, you can also visit the Montserrat Observatory site.
An overview (if brief) glimpse of the contrast between the two sides of the island, destroyed and unscathed is perhaps best gleaned from up above, which you can achieve by flying to one of the nearby islands, such as Dominica, a volcanic powerhouse in itself (see above). In fact, some experts suspect that Dominica is primed for an eruption on a similar scale to that suffered on Montserrat.
For all eleven volcanoes on the list go to http://www.ibtimes.com/contents/20090714/11-volcanoes-americas-you-can-climb.htm