This is a special post. It will eventually link to one about a hiking trip but it may take some time to get to there because life happens before, during, and after a hike. What’s happening you ask? There’s the usual murder of African-American men by law enforcement officers in the US but more unusual is the eruption of La Soufrière, the volcano on St. Vincent, the largest island in an archipelago of 32 in the Lesser Antilles. La Soufrière’s ‘flare-up’ is affecting St. Vincent and the Grenadines as well as Barbados and ash plumes can be seen clearly from other nearby islands. Last week a plume of volcanic ash was also heading for Spain.
The impact of La Soufrière’s ongoing eruptions is of course much greater on St. Vincent than on Barbados but in Barbados that impact was significant enough to shut down the airport for about a week and to blanket most of the country with ash, just like it did in 1979 when it last erupted. I vividly remember that event. Though I was quite young, I still recall how dark it was during the day. I remember the ash. I specifically remember looking out our back door and seeing ash falling into the yard. Ash was everywhere. In spite of how the current eruptions are affecting my home, my focus in this post is really on St. Vincent and one Vincentian in particular.
You never know how the people you meet will or can affect your life. They can be in your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. I have a Vincy friend. He entered my life in 2000 when we started our Master’s at UWI Cave Hill. We’ve been friends ever since and share many good memories (marathon study sessions, liming, the birth of my goddaughter, feting, SVG/Bim island tours …). I think our souls just connected. We live in different countries now so we don’t see each other often but we keep in contact and catch up in person when we are in Bim or SVG.
In December when the volcano started to rumble I checked in with him and was reassured. When activity picked up almost 2 weeks ago I checked in again. This time there would be no reprieve and La Soufrière has erupted almost daily since April 9th, with huge ash and gas plumes and pyroclastic flows. Fortunately the evacuation order was given on the afternoon of April 8th and most residents (over 16,000) from the danger zone made it out safely, but the immediate needs of food, water, shelter and stable power supply are tremendous. The mid- and long-term displacement, loss of property, and lost livelihoods will be immense, exacerbating the ongoing challenges wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since 1979, SVG has undergone significant development, consequently the effects from La Soufrière will be felt differently and perhaps more strongly. The extent of effects on the natural environment are anticipated to be great, but a proper assessment is some time in the future. Evidence of destruction of flora and fauna is already apparent and there are concerns about the endemic species (e.g. St. Vincent Parrot (Amazona guildingii)) and others which were already classified as vulnerable, endangered, or restricted-range prior to the eruption.
It goes without saying that my heart and prayers are with the people of St. Vincent, those at home and those in the diaspora. However, one special Vincy is foremost in my mind. I now do a quick check just about every day. I don’t need an extensive update because I know he has a lot more important work to do but this Vincy is constantly on my mind, both when I’m awake and in my dreams as I sleep. Even this past weekend as I went out of town and did my monthly hiking trifecta, my mind just kept turning to him and his countrymen. This Vincy who came into my life for reason and will be a friend for a lifetime. So how do I support my friend? I feel quite helpless. There’s little I can do now, though I’m doing what I can. As the path forward becomes clearer, I hope to be on the ground in SVG or in Bim to do more.
The regular check-ins will continue because even as I was heading home on Sunday, I got another message telling me that La Soufrière erupted yet again, perhaps the 30th such event since April 9th. At this point, the team of scientists on the ground are unsure about when the volcano will calm. It could be weeks or months. In fact, a NASA (2021) article notes that “of the 45 currently erupting volcanoes on Earth, La Soufrière is among those that worry volcanologists the most” because it “has an explosive and erratic eruption style.” The current eruptions will also have far-reaching climatic effects beyond the Caribbean.
Pictured below are the flag of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, national bird – St. Vincent parrot (Amazona guildingii), and national flower the Soufriere Tree (Spachea Perforatais) #VincyStrong
My Vincy is still on my mind, but now to the hiking, which fittingly was in a national park that protects geologic formations resulting from volcanic eruptions and movement of tectonic plates. Where did I hike last weekend? Pinnacles National Park. Read the post about that trip here.