The eruptions of Montserrat's Soufriere Hills volcano, which began in 1995 after more than a century of slumber, was a tragedy for this small Caribbean island. Two-thirds of the island have had to be abandoned, including the capital city of Plymouth, which today is largely entombed in mud and ash. Tragically, 19 people died in a pyroclastic flow that swept over the island's main airport, and a once-beautiful river valley has been filled with hardened mud. Thousands fled in the aftermath, cutting the local population from more than 12,000 in 1995 to about 5,000 today.
Yet Montserrat survives, even thrives, holding fast to its mix of Irish and African traditions and working to rebuild the island's capital in a new location. For visitors, the island offers a unique opportunity to experience a still-active volcano, marvel at nature's destructive power, and appreciate the resilience of a nation staring down the monster in its midst.