Day Thirteen, March 6, 1997 Montserrat
Tony came back, and we were permitted to pass through the checkpoint. We got as close as we were going to get by car, or walking. We all snapped pictures like crazy, as though it were going out of style, every time there was a rockfall, we all snapped pictures. We stayed there for about an hour, then headed down to the airport for a little break.
Our reason for going to the airport was simple, our professors had arranged with the helicopter pilot of the Montserrat Volcano Observatory, to take several quick trips up around the dome, so that each student could go and see the volcano up close.
We met our pilot Jim, he a Canadian as well (an ex-military pilot), now flying down in the islands. He has been flying for the Observatory for about a year now. He was very friendly and briefed our group on proper procedures for entering and exiting the helicopter as well as safety features we should be aware of. We then drew straws to see who would be going on which flights. To make the trips longer, and the return times faster, we decided on a small plateau nearer to the volcano. We all drove up there, and began our adventure.
The helicopter ride was amazing. Jim first took us over a couple houses which were situated just at the base of the volcano which were the first to be bombed by volcanic material, and consequently burned in the process. There were large holes in the roof, where the volcanic bombs had crashed through. We then creeped up the side of the volcano looking at the devastation caused by the hot and poisonous gases being released. The remains of the vegetation in the ground looked like twigs, but Jim told us they were once palm trees. As we got higher up, we could feel the heat from the volcano on our legs and arms, when the helicopter pivoted to our side. The devastation at the top was more intense, there were no twigs, nor was there barely any evidence that there was vegetation once there. Our pilot told us that it was once a lush forest, much like that on all other parts of the island. We went by the growing dome, and could hear and see the steam and gases coming off the volcano. We were all thrilled beyond comprehension at what we were doing and seeing.
Just as we were finished up top, our pilot says "Now we are going to be a pyroclastic flow!!", and we dove down the volcano. We reenacted every twist and drop which the pyroclastic flow we viewed yesterday, took as it flowed from the volcano to the ocean. We were on a rollercoaster ride, that none of us ever wanted it to stop. When we reached the ocean we banked up and to the right to see an aerial view of the deposit in the ocean. We all could have snapped pictures if we had had any film left. Most of us used up our entire rolls snapping pictures like it was going out of style at the top. Those who were able to get good shots, would end up sharing when we returned home.
We were all so excited getting off the helicopter, it was just amazing, no one could stop talking about it. It was definitely a highlight of the trip.
During al of our excitement one of the Graduate students form Ottawa University got to go on a special field trip. Craig spent the day with two of the geologists from the observatory, and the discovery crew. They went closer to the volcano than any of would have dreamed! Well he got his 15 minutes of fame, as his adventure was filmed and on T.V. as a part of a documentary "The Ring Of Fire".
While we were waiting for the our ride up in the helicopter, the Captain who was with us, was called back with an emergency to the ship. Apparently our anchor cable had snapped and we drifted back onto another boat. No major damage, just some extra chores of painting the hull for someone. The crew all got a ride from Jim when we returned.
We arrived back aboard the ship, and began to polish our skits and songs for the ship's concert. The students helped the captain and crew rig up a plank in which would be used later on. The concert was fun filled and full of laughter. We invited our pilot Jim to participate and watch. The Captain got dressed up in his replica uniform for the event. We sang songs and told jokes, each watch took their turn and got up and did their little act. All the acts were funny in their own way, and played upon the humorous misfortunes of the other watches. No watch was better than another, they all had their own special flare.
At the end of the concert, the Captain laid sentencing
upon our professors. The punishment was for their undue treatment of holding
a learning field trip in the Caribbean and other atrocities, they were
made to walk the plank. As well, in reward for their diligent efforts they
were given an official Bytown Brigantine, Fair Jeanne Sweatshirt. We were
hyped up, we had finished our course, and we were setting sail for Antigua.
There was no more work except for clean-up, and we had free time and some
partying left to accomplish. With that, we set sail, and headed for our
last port of call.