Plymouth, Montserrat

In 1995, the Soufriere Hills volcano awoke from it’s 400+ year slumber and rained a thick layer of ash on Plymouth, the vibrant capital of Montserrat. Eventually the unimaginable yet completely inevitable occurred – the volcano violently erupting, the pyroclaatic flow completely destroying the city.

16 years later, the Soufriere Hills is still alive, spewing a cloud of sulfuric steam into the air – a smell that’s impossible to describe in intensity. The southern half of Montserrat is one of very few exclusion zones in the world – and for good reason. The last eruption claimed the lives of 19 people who thought they were far enough from the volcano to be safe. Experts estimate they had perhaps 30 seconds to escape the area – an area that spans approximately 20 square miles.

Today, The simplest, safest way to get a serious look at the remains of Plymouth is via helicopter. These photos were taken in October, 2011. They represent but a sampling of the 2-300 I took during the flight. For this trip I chose to go with the wide angle 10-20mm lens. I wanted to grab as much of the scene as possible – to paint the broad strokes. if I ever get to go back, and there is anything left to shoot (multiple eruptions over the years have progressively destroyed more and more of what’s left), perhaps I’ll choose a 200-500 zoom, to really get in there and get the details.

When in the Caribbean, it’s almost impossible to take a bad photo, even of the most devastated modern city in the hemisphere.

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