I Spent my Vacation Learning About this Famous Historic Volcanic Eruption (+ Drone Footage)

Dr. Jamal Browne on Instagram

I can hardly believe that April is nearly done! In fact, I literally had to check my calendar to confirm this. After all, I am on vacation; but the time just seems to be moving so fast, that I can barely keep up.

Thankfully, the last few days have offered me nothing but rest and relaxation – quite the opposite to my promise of daily adventures, right? But I guess that even for a 32-year old, the body just has its ways of signaling that it is time to slow down for a bit… just a bit.

That aside, my promise of daily adventures on this blog still stands… just not today. Unless of course you care to know what else I’ve been up to over the last few days – which I promise is quite the adventure in itself.

As most of you may be aware, I recently completed my PhD, so I am still very much in research mode. It should therefore come as no surprise that I have literally spent hours over the last few days just going through some of the most amazing historical photographs of St. Vincent & the Grenadines – stretching as far back as the late 1800s.

I came across these photographs a few years ago while scrimmaging through historical images and notes in the old British Colonial Reports, in search of information on historical treaties between the Kalinago and Karifuna peoples of St. Vincent, and the British Crown.

For just a moment I thought that you folks might not care less about about what I had discovered. But from the moment I came across these images and notes documenting the famous 1902 eruption of the La Soufriere volcano, I was sold on the idea of sharing this piece of my nation’s history with you.

The Famous 1902 Eruption of the La Soufriere Volcano

Over the years we have heard tales in bits and pieces about the May 7, 1902 eruption of the La Soufriere volcano in St. Vincent. But how much do we really know about what is likely to have been one of the greatest natural disasters in the country’s recorded history?

Well, as the old English idiom goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, and I will be hoping to unearth the missing narratives of this haunting yet compelling saga, one “picture” at a time.

Described as an “explosive eruption” – one of only 3 that had occurred on the island since 1718 – and potentially the most catastrophic of them all, the 1902 eruption is believed to have claimed 1565 lives.

The devastating imprint of this eruption is believed to have been the result of heavy ash-fall, and pyroclastic flows and surges. It was also strangely followed by an eruption that destroyed the town of St. Piere – and all but a handful of its inhabitants – on the island of Martinique the very next day.

Most of these photographs are confirmed to have been taken by Tempest Anderson (1846-1913) – a British Surgeon turned Photographer and Volcanologist.

I can just imagine Dr. Anderson being quite the adventurer – very much like myself. You see, after years of formal tuition and immersion into rigid professional routines, I can certainly identify with that perfectly human desire for adventure and intrigue.

As I scrolled through these images, I could not help but reflect on how often we forget where we’ve come from as a nation and as a people. It may seem a bit clichéd, but our common history of struggle, pain and hardship should bring us closer – not set us against each other.

Strangely, I find comfort in images like these – images that confirm the resilience of the Vincentian people, for such is our determination to rise above whatever challenges and hardship life throws our way.

I also came across some amazing drone footage of La Soufriere captured by Aerial Norway about a year ago. What I love most about this footage, is that when put into context, it illustrates how beautiful yet unpredictably violent nature can be. Most of us will today find great difficulty envisioning these lush, green hillsides being burnt to ashes. This however is a reality that many of our fore-parents once endured. That aside, I hope you enjoy this footage.

Thank you for checking out today’s blog, and be sure to leave a comment, subscribe, follow me on Instagram, and pick up your copy of my brand new book ‘Defying the Odds – Your Personal Guide to Victorious Living’.

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Sheri Cuffe says:

    Thank you very much for this post. I experienced the1979 eruption as a teen-ager, and it was terrifying. I don’t think I fully appreciated the danger we were in then, until I recalled the experience from an adult point of view. I am home on vacation and remembering how it was back then. My great grandmother and great grandfather experienced the1902 eruption, but I only had a few anecdotes to go on from that time. I am especially grateful for the photographs accompanying your article. They help put a perspective on things. Once again thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sheri! Thank you so much for your feedback, and for sharing your experience – and that of your grandparents – with us. I also wish you the very best for the remainder of your vacation here in SVG. Enjoy every bit of it! Cheers!

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  2. Leslie Grayham says:

    Thank you Jamal for this historical journey into the 1902 volcanic eruption in SVG. I vividly remember the 1979 eruption as a teenager in Lauders, Lowmans Windward. Remembered how frightened I was having to go up to Griegs mountain to bring home the goats and feeling the earth trembling under my feet. Looking skyward and seeing that huge mushroom cloud slowing rising. Remembered how in the middle of the afternoon, how it suddenly became dark as if it was dusk, and thinking the world was about to end as I knew it. I still feel goose pimple even thinking about it.
    I could also remember later that day, after making home safely with my goats, and for several days after, seeing the pickup trucks laden with people and whatever belongings they could have hurriedly grad; streaming into our village to the primary schools and church buildings that were converted into shelters to house the families that were fleeing from villages north of the Dry river to get out of harms way.
    I wish I had the resources and the ability to document those scenes from 1979, but looking back even now brings a sense of satisfaction that I lived through that experience.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Leslie! I truly appreciate you sharing your experience from 1979. It will be lovely for you to perhaps put pen to paper and document everything that you can recall from the 1979 eruption of La Soufriere. I will be more than delighted to publish it right here on this blog. Once again, thank you for sharing your experience!

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  3. Hey Jamal, I am truly grateful for such glimpse of our history. I can’t help but be asking myself 2 questions: Are we now as prepared as we should be for another eruption, and how much of an impact did the 1979 eruption had on our independence? These would make for interesting discussions, I believe.

    One Love!

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    1. These are very important questions Kishore; and I agree that due consideration should be given to these as part of our national comprehensive disaster management planning processes. Thanks for your very useful input as always bro!

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