Where is Montserrat?
Located in the leeward islands known as the lesser Antilles or the British west indies, Montserrat island is round and mountainous at only 10 miles long and 7 miles wide and a population of 4900 according to the 2012 consensus. The island has deep Irish roots due to the early settlers that called the island the emerald isle due to its resemblance to the Irish coastline. the Caribbean island is separated into two zones due volcanic activity. The British overseas territory is most famous for the Soufriere hills volcano that erupted on July 18 1995.
A Little Montserrat History:
Like most of the islands in the Antilles Christopher Columbus came across Montserrat in 1493 on his second voyage but did not land due to rumors of raids by the Carib Indians. It was not until 1632 that the island was settled by a group of Irish indentured servants fleeing anti catholic violence from the nearby island of Nevis. Almost immediately the Irish started importing slaves from Africa and indentured servants from Ireland to plant and harvest sugar for rum , cotton and arrow root. St Patrick’s day 1768 salve belled but did not when their freedom causing nine of the leaders of the rebellion to be hung. As the revolutionary war went in America the French briefly took over control of the island but released it back to the English in 1783 in the treaty in Paris. The Irish influence remained strong throughout Montserrat with almost all of the white population being of Irish descent. The Irish language was used among Negros as well as white and the birth of many mixed children was common and accepted. Slavery was abolished in 1834 and the descendants of the early settlers live in peace today.
July 18, 1995 brought the most destructive event ever to hit the Island. The previously dormant Soufriere Hills volcano located on the southern coast of the island became active. The capital city of Plymouth as well as the Georgian area were completely destroyed. Approximately two third of the islands population where forced to flee to the US and England. The exclusive zone was created to keep the population out of areas still considered dangerous but tourist can still view the destruction of Plymouth on special tours form the outlook of Garibaldi Hill in Isle bay. Most of the volcanic activity has ceased sinse 2010 with a close eye being kept t on the volcano from the Montserrat Volcano Observatory.
World famous music producer for the Beatles, Sir George Martin opened Air Studious in 1979 bringing in world class musicians such as Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton to record on the beautiful and peaceful island of Montserrat. . In 1989 Hurricane Hugo destroyed AIR studios and was never reopened however Sir George Martin raised funds to help survivors at his London based concert Music for Montserrat.
After the eruption of the Soufriere hills volcano in 1995 the economy of Montserrat has all but been severely disrupted. The tiny island county before the eruption was mostly a export economy with electronic parts ,clothing, agriculture and a USD per capita of $3,000 to $8,000. The island also had a reputation as a world class tourist destination mostly due to the opening of AIR studios , with celebrity musician telling their friends about wonderful climate and culture of the island and its people
Montserrat Caribbean vacations can still be enjoyed today as a learning and enjoying experience. There is world class diving, rare bird and plant species, beaches and of course the volcano. In fact tourism is on the rise and even new construction is getting underway such as the Montserrat Caballe. Getting there is easy by plane or the ferry The Caribbean Queen that shuttles passengers several times a day from Antigua. If anything Montserrat is now one of the most interesting islands in the Caribbean and should be on every true island explorers bucket list.