Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Joe vs. the volcano

Yesterday's post, about me being a Nervous Nilly, amused more than one reader. Best summed up by Hershel (W4TMN), "Scott, you're nervous about this stuff and not concerned about that volcano now erupting?" Still other comments came from local club members who, I believe, are actually worried I'll be cooking my hide down there. It is easy to make light of this, but the truth is we are becoming quite concerned about the situation. As Budd Drummond said in a post to the group's private email list, "We should at this point start thinking of worst [case] scenarios."
I was just lamenting that so many things that I had planned to do for this trip either didn't get done, or were barely started. One such activity was a DXpedition manual that would have provided a place to put information and collective wisdom ranging from where we might find the closest hospital, to items that should be included in a personal first aid kit such as a dust mask and flashlight. I started making some headway on this, but it was clear that I could not complete such an effort and all the other thing that needed to be done, too, such as the online log processing tools, QSLing tools, and public relations work. The observation made by Paul was representative of the thinking back in October, "I believe the DXpedition manual is a great idea, but if it was to be made, it should have been started a year ago. We have far better things to do than worry about the manual at this point. In my humble opinion. I believe if Chris/Budd want to do this again next year (or in the future endeavor) it would be a great project keep going on. At this point STOP."
I don't know if "a year ago" was the right lead time, but certainly three months prior to departure left too little time to do it well. Here is a very early outline from that effort in PDF form.
Link to DXpedition manual outline as a PDF file.
Meanwhile, back to the volcano. Several soul-searching mail messages were exchanged today, both on our private list, and between various members since stories of the collapse of the volcano's dome and intense pyroclastic flows down the northwestern side of the volcano into Tyres Ghaut and Gages Valley. If that wasn't enough, plumes rose upwards of 5 miles high which were at times traveling north over the part of the island we intend to visit, and even towards Antigua. Local officals call this a "warning call" of what the volcano could do.
What if we go and this thing really blows? In the immortal words of Jimmy Buffet, "Now, I don't know, I don't know where I'm a gonna go when the volcano blow." (By the way, that song was recorded on Montserrat and was written for this very volcano!) Seriously, what if the airport is closed and we are stranded? What if the electricity goes out? Should we stockpile food and water? What if we can't get off the island for 3 weeks? These are all things we should have discussed long ago and did not. (It isn't like this volcano thing is a surprise!)
According to a Radio Jamaica.com story, "The authorities maintained that Montserrat is safe for islanders and visitors despite an evacuation of the northwestern districts following an escalation of activities at the Soufriere Hills Volcano." Right now, at least, this seems right. It seems like the volcano is far enough away, and the landscape shaped in such a way that the northern part of the island should be safe. That's my assessment as of tonight. Of course, every team member will need to decide when the time comes what constitutes safe enough for them. Time will tell.


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