COMMENTARY: Under The Fiery Wrath Of Nature

La Soufriere Volcano" Nemo Photo


The human experience is not only varied, but also full of intrigue. Invariably, some experiences are marked by challenges and difficulties of all kinds. There are also the situational debilitating mind games. There are mixed-feelings of ‘optimism and pessimism as there is hope and hopelessness. Compounding these, are adversity, pain and suffering; tragedy and grief; Then there is ‘Disillusionment and Despair.’ There is still the experience of drama as there is excitement and anxiety. Those with strong faith developed their own coping mechanisms. Fortified in their beliefs, with a will to survive, strength of character and an understanding that life is not exactly a ‘Bed of Roses,’ with demonstrable resolve, many persevered and overcame their deepest fears. Then anxiety changes everything, injecting fear and uncertainty. The current situation at the ‘La Soufriere Volcano,’ speaks to the latter.


It has always been the human desire to know, conquer and to achieve. One of the driving forces behind human adventurism has been man’s curiosity. This commentary looks not at man’s curiosity and/or adventurism, but back at past volcanic activities at the ‘La Soufriere volcano.’ That which cannot be refuted is the ever presence of danger to humans. It speaks neither to scientific knowledge of ‘Geology, nor Volcanology.’ Understand that the accounts contained herein is primarily that obtained from research of the subject that the Scientists themselves have archived for posterity and researchers. In the ‘Explosive Eruption of 1902/03,’ research revealed that some ‘1, 565’ perished. These were the; (i) ‘…Unsuspecting; (ii) …Unenlightened; and (iii) …Uninformed.’


The persons that speak with credulity and ‘Knowledge-Based Authority’ are ‘Geologist/ Volcanologist Professor Richard Robertson and his Team of Scientists, and now ‘Dr. Michael Carmejo-Harry’ and his Team of Scientists. They are well-positioned to reach scientific conclusions and shall share their expertise on possibilities of the behavior of eruptive volcanoes. Nonetheless, likened to the Scientists, people shall know that in ‘an Explosive Eruption,’ everything in their path, including; (a) ‘…Surrounding vegetation; (b) …tethered or untethered animals; (c) …Rivers and surfaced water-filled lakes; (d) …Dams and ponds; and (e) …Human habitat’ are in to feel the effects of nature’s fiery wrath.


The 150 square-mile island-nation of ‘St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ is not immune to natural disasters. It has its fair share of natural disasters. While Scientists are currently monitoring seismic activity within the ‘La Soufriere Volcano,’ residents are making preparation to avoid its ‘Fiery Wrath.’ Citizens may recall the entire ‘Christmas Season-2013’ preparations that had been disastrously rained out. Outside the forecast of weather Scientists, a ‘Deluge of Catastrophic Magnitude’ descended upon the nation with destructive effect and tragic consequences. Havoc was wreaked on the landscape, infrastructure, residential communities and agriculture farms.


Whether or not attributable to misinterpretation or miscalculation of a pending weather system, with no human control over the elements of nature, the results would have been the same. The psychosocial effects were overwhelming. This was worsened when residents of some communities, including an infant in arm, were helplessly washed away. Incidentally, this was due when swollen streams that had overflowed unprotected banks’ [IWN: December 25, 2013]. Learning institutions, business establishments, health and recreational facilities and motor vehicles’ all felt the effects of the ‘Watery Wrath of Nature.’ As if to inflict further punishment on the dearly departed, their final resting places were not spared the deluge that descended upon the nation ‘Christmas Eve’ night into ‘Christmas Day.’


In some communities, published pictorial images of Caskets shown several clinging on hillsides. Though not perilously, several were reportedly washed down rivers into the sea. Though there were statistical accounts of fatalities of 8 persons dead and 3 reportedly missing, those washed away from their graves had not made the tragedy any worse, as the casketed were already made lifeless. In spite of such disastrous occurrence, tragedy and adversity, the people showed great resilience and a will to live. Now, with the apparent ‘Fiery Wrath of Nature’ poised to descend upon some communities and by extension, the nation, it is certainly not about resilience. For now, it is about uncertainty, anxiety and trepidation.


Given the currency of the activities within the volcano’s Crater, lessons shall now be learned of the potential for danger. This may help with making informed decisions that could avert or reduce human casualties. The destructive elements of nature appear almost always ready to descend its wrath with catastrophic consequences. The ‘La Soufriere Volcano,’ is one such danger. Yet in the face of these, there is inquisitiveness as there is adventurism. Located high on the northern mountain ridge between ‘Somma Ridge and Mt. Brisbane’ on mainland St. Vincent and the Grenadines lies the ‘La Soufriere Volcano.’ Nature has placed it at ‘an Elevation of some 4, 048 feet.’ Humans therefore, shall not become too flirtatious as to be seen as reckless.


At such height, it is majesty of the landscape and well-positioned to inflict its fiery wrath upon anything in its path. As it relates to its ‘Effusive’ state of eruption,’ Scientists have already seen ‘Magma’ rapidly oozing and a second Dome disconcertingly growing.’ While attempts at figuring out just what next the activity may develop           into, residential communities on the ‘Periphery of Danger,’ continue to ponder. Still, among the residents, there is whispering hope, yet lingering doubts. Scientifically, a volcano, is universally accepted as a natural dangerous phenomenon. Most are concerned as to what may descend upon their communities with little or no warning. That which has been a constant reminder are its explosive and destructive power.’


As it affects danger, there is a ‘Sense of Intuitiveness.’ This speaks to the ability to perceive what obtains by acts of nature. Such allows for people to look into the dark recesses of the human mind. Such intuitiveness informs those harboring feelings of trepidation, yet with presence of mind that there is imminent or impending danger. In the case of the ‘Effusive Eruption’ of the ‘La Soufriere Volcano,’ it alerts the quick-witted to act responsibly. It is usually this perceptive skill that triggers some degree of urgency in the conscious to act prudently in averting danger by using their endowed senses.


Though not engaged in a medical practice, ‘Professor Richard Robertson’ still has an ‘Appreciation and Understanding’ that viruses and volcanoes behaved differently. One infects and kills, while the other erupts and destroys. While humans inflict violence and terror upon each other, none may deny what the elements of nature, in recent times and with increased frequency, have been inflicting on ‘landscape, infrastructure, humans and animals.’ Likened to the Scientists, the only thing humans know is that the elements of nature are as destructive as they are deadly. Nature sees no glow, enjoys no glory and was never positioned to be fearful of man nor beast, or of its own wrath. Except, inescapably trapped, danger or potential disaster has often propelled humans to take evasive action in avoiding the inevitable.


Since Scientists have observed volcanic activities at the ‘Crater of the La Soufriere Volcano’ [December 16, 2020], not only have the hours ticked away into days, but also the days have ticked away into weeks. Elevated to ‘Orange Alert Code,’ Scientists speak to this as the possibility of ‘Seismicity’ that could see an eruption within 24 hours’ [Searchlight News; January 16, 2021]. Now, with mounting anxieties, eerie feelings have descended upon members of surrounding communities. It has become more unnerving since the Scientist are not positioned to state with pin-point accuracy just the volcano may do. That which is known is that it has been (i) …Steaming; (ii) …Oozing fiery Magma; and (iii) …A Dome has been rapidly growing.


Likened to the Scientists and authorities, residents are also cognizance that when a volcano steams and the night sky over its Crater glows, none shall harbor illusions that snow is about to fall. Conversely, when it rumbles, none shall believe it is the normal weather-related thunder storm followed by the flash of lightening. Many are mindful of the catastrophic consequences resulted from the ‘Eruption of 1902/03 that reportedly left ‘1, 565 people dead’ [JSTRO: WP Aspinall et al: July 13, 1973]. Even so, residents have not ignored the possibility of being inescapably and perilously trapped. In that instance, with no place to run, and no mountain to climb or place to hide or shelter, the unsuspected appeared to have perished, either through sulphuric gas inhalation or fiery wrath of pyroclastic and mud flows through their communities


Within their scientific knowledge and professional competence, to issue timely warnings of in imminent or impending danger, this is what Geologists and Volcanologists do. They conduct studies on the activities of nature’s most destructive elements. That which is now widely known is that when ‘Strange Sightings’ are observed in the night skies over the volcano, people are given good reasons to become mortally afraid that there is impending danger. On darkened nights, it has been ‘Glowing Terror’ into the hearts of those in commune in its neighborhood. From its summit, the view is limited to its immediate landscape and faintly distant human habitat on the Leeward or south-western side of the volcano.


The people of the ‘Chateaubelair community’ were said to have been the first to have seen a frightening and unnerving glow. Those, seemingly resigned to their fate, saw it as the ‘Glow of Death.’ Members seized of recorded ‘Catastrophic Historical Facts,’ have regarded the glow as one of woe. Nationals in commune too close for comfort, would rather not see such glow. Many need no scientific warning to evacuate themselves from its fiery wrath. Given the currency of the situation and with knowledge from the annals of history, people already know exactly what is in the ‘La Soufriere Volcano’ to be emitted. Even so, there shall be no reasons not to accept the ‘Assurances of Scientists’ that it is a natural phenomenon. In a state of non-volcanic-activity, it rests in quietude and complete dormancy.


Scientist- Geologist and Volcanologist ‘Professor Richard Robertson,‘ in scientific language has described it as ‘Incandescence Glow’ [Searchlight News: January 15, 2021]. Though this may only occur in the event of ‘an Explosive Eruption,’ residents in close proximity of the ‘La Soufriere Volcano’ have become apprehensive over the current activities. Such apprehension is not without merit. Seeds of doubt have been sown into their minds, leaving many fearful of unimaginable consequences. For reasons of flowing high temperature-water, thick mud flow and pyroclastic material gushing speedily downstream to the sea, likened to the ‘Explosive Eruption of 1902/03,’ residents may not see the light of day. Given two of three eruptive scenarios provided by Prime Minster Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, there is some hope if it remains in its ‘Effusive’ eruptive state of oozing Magma. Chances are excesses may flow into the sea.


Likened to most dangerous places on earth, the ‘La Soufriere Volcano,’ accessible by humans, has now been declared off-limit. The ‘Crater’ when water-filled, is really not an ordinary fresh water Lake. Back then, there was no plant or marine life. It is to the knowledge that any place that is called a ‘Lake,’ necessarily means a large expanse of fresh water. This is quite different from the open seas. It is surrounded by land. At the ‘La Soufriere Volcano’ water that was contained in its Crater, and then referred to as a Lake, is really not an ordinary ‘Lake.’ Back then the ‘La Soufriere Crater’ contained only water. Scientists have estimated a natural catchment of some ’75 Million Cubic Meter of water.’


No one spoke to the taste of the water or its use or fitness for human consumption. Naturally, people saw the water-filled-Crater as a Lake. Considering that which lies beneath the water-filled ‘Crater Lake,’ back then, such may have been likened to the ‘Coolant’ contained in the radiator’ to cool the engine of a motor vehicle. The Scientist may say that nature never intended the water-filled Crater to be the volcano’s cooling system. This appears irrefutably true. In an ‘Explosive’ eruption pyroclastic flows have been known and reported to have dried up entire fresh water Lakes.


A volcano in an eruptive mode- ‘Effusively or Explosively’ has its own story to tell.  Firstly, the commentary looks at the ‘Freaky Frantic Glow’ that residents at ‘Chateaubelair’ and surrounding communities appeared to have come to dread. It also glances back at the ‘Eruption of 1902/3.’  It is not intended to cause nighttime horror, but as a reminder that they shall take not just warning from the Scientists, but also for their own safety, protection and survivability, take all necessary precautions in keeping out of harm’s way. They shall know that anything that blows, it is not sun.


Dormant as it may have been and as curious humans have been to see what it is all about, it was a Volcano. It has many ‘Wonders and Mysteries’ that are scientifically, worth knowing, but not necessarily worth seeing or experiencing.  Even so, human adventurism knows no bounds. When a second dome the ‘La Soufriere’ began to ‘Grow and Glow,’ Geologist and Volcanologist, ‘Professor Richard Robertson made a ‘teasing gesture’ [CNW: December 30, 2020].  he has seen ‘Magma’ oozing upward into the Waterless-Crater. It might be reasonably inferred that he was indirectly saying to ‘Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves,’ that though remote, there is every likelihood that the Volcano could erupt and emit built fiery molten material from its Waterless-Crater.


The Scientists have associated certain volcanic activities with these two words. The former speaks to either; (i) ‘…Gradual or rapid oozing of Magma from beneath the surface of the ‘La Soufriere Volcano,’ while (ii) …In several violent explosions it emits ash, gases and Magma.’ Likened to other Volcanoes, Scientists know what is stored beneath the surface of the ‘Crater.’ They know of ‘rocks, gases and seemingly hot temperatures.’ They also know that in an eruption, be it ‘Effusively or Explosively’ what will be emitted. None is empowered to dictate the course of nature. The ‘La Soufriere Volcano’ has now occupied their attention. Now, all the experts can do is to; (a) ‘…Watch or monitor its activities; (b) …Study and learn; and (c) …When necessary, inform of potentialities for consequences of unimaginable magnitude.’


With an active volcano, people know that any ‘Glow’ in a volcano is often ‘Intensely Hot.’ They also know that likened to a piece of metal- iron and steel in a fiery furnace, when it glows, it is the only time it can be beaten into the desired shape. To be turned into any form or shape, it might be much better for one to wait until that time comes, than to be baptized by which appears poised to descend from the ‘La Soufriere Volcano.’ Scientists have determined that the ‘Oozed Magma’ carries a ‘Heat Intensity’ of between ‘500 and 600 Celsius or 932 and 1,112 Fahrenheit.’ This is sufficient to turn hard rocks into fiery pyroclastic flow down the banks of volcanoes.


Even as ‘Geologist and Volcanologist Professor Richard Robertson’ and his Team of Scientists continue to monitor its ‘oozing, growing and glowing dome,’ not only to the average citizen, has the La Soufriere Volcano,’ is among ‘Nature’s Inexplicable Mysteries,’ but also one of its most destructive elements. Though current activities within the confines of its Crater, is welcome news, Scientists appear circumspect of what it might do in the coming weeks or month. That which is irrefutably true, is that in an eruptive rage, humans caught in complacency or in ‘dilly-dallying mode, could experience imaginable perils. Thus, in its current mode, there is clearly no time, neither for indiscretion, nor indecision.


While Geologist/Volcanologist ‘Professor Richard Robertson’ has been somewhat optimistic, residents in community in its immediate vicinity have seen something different. Most have harbored eerie feelings that this element could do what it has done before. It could continue to; (a) ‘…Ooze’ as well as (b) …It could cough up everything up unexpectedly. Likened to ‘God’ creating the biblical characters of ‘Adam and Eve’ for companionship, nature may also have decided that two particular Rivers shall play a dual role. They are to be; (i) ‘…Channels for excesses from rain-drenched forests or mountains; and (ii) …Channeling explosive discharge of molten rocks to wherever they flow.


Research has revealed two rivers. In the ‘Eruption in 1902/03,’ the La Soufriere Volcano’ reportedly spewed sulphuric ash, fumigating gases and molten rocks from its Crater. Incidentally, these rivers; (i) ‘… Wallibou River (South Leeward); and (ii) Rabacca River’(North Windward), became the drainage system for the volcano. Historical facts reveal a that in the ‘Explosive Eruption of 1902/03,‘ for reasons of fiery pyroclastic and mud flows, these rivers became impassable. With a possible impending ‘Explosive’ eruption, history has already identified the most dangerous rivers in the nation. These rivers, for their natural strategic and geographic locations, are natural channels for nature’s fiery wrath.


The piroclastic-free flow rivers have been identified as; (i) ‘…Mount Young; (ii) …Colonarie; (iii) …Argyle; and …Richmond Rivers.’ These provide daily flows of fresh water from the high mountain range eastward to the sea. Residents communing not too far from their banks know of the ‘dangerous flowing power’ when swollen with mud-colored water that sweeps the river beds and rolling huge boulders to the sea. Given recent news portal reports, posing or likely to cause danger in any emergency, was said to be a disconcerting incomplete Chateaubelair Bridge’ [IWN: January 20, 2021]. Adding to the trepidation, the bridge is located in the very community terrified residents have reportedly seen the ‘intense but fiery glow in the night sky overlooking the ‘La Soufriere Volcano.’


Other than advanced warning of the possibility of an ‘Explosive Eruption,’ it has never been the responsibility of ‘Geologists nor Volcanologists’ to render infrastructural-ready advice to local authorities. They have no administrative roles in Governments. Their expertise is limited to the monitoring of volcanic activities and accordingly render timely advice to local authorities. In the event of disastrous consequences, history shall not show, and posterity shall not read that lives were lost and the blood of the hapless has stained the hands of those that might be held responsible and accountable for any ‘Constructional Negligence.’ Regarding access routes into, or evacuation out of eruption-threatened communities, those charged with such responsibility should not wish to be seen by posterity or have history record them as being ‘Grossly Negligent.’


It shall not be seen as coincidental that nature provides for dual use, two rivers on either side of the island. Research has shown that both the ‘Wallibou and Rabacca Rivers’ have been used in the ‘Eruption of 1902/03,’ thereby channeling excesses from the ‘La Soufriere Volcano’ to the sea. Moreover, the fear in their minds has intensified over the non-wondrous glow seen in the sky over that which has been see with oozing Magma and a growing dome that steams with a fiery glow. Yet with open minds and whispering hope,’ many have begun to pray that it will not explode into a ‘Hell Fire.’ Such fear, particularly, residents at the Leeward side of the island-nation, may only subside if they are not left ensnared because of an incomplete and impassable bridge to be engulfed by nature’s fiery wrath. Thus, with the continued oozing of fiery Magma, though confined to the Crater, residents in its immediate surrounding may now have reasons to live in trepidation. As its ‘Effusive Behavior’ is being closely monitored and residents shall be guided by the expertise and professional advice of Volcanologist, Professor Richard Robertson and Dr. Michal Carmejo-Harry and the Team of Scientists, there shall exist some degree of hope. Most are counting on the ‘Lord’s Saving Grace.

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