By David Pyle
There’s not much that beats the thrill of discovery.. particularly when it turns up in your own backyard. This summer, I have been on the hunt for records and reports of the 1902 eruptions of St Vincent, a lush volcanic island in the Eastern Caribbean. There are indeed many reports from this eruption, carefully documented in official records from the time. But, more surprisingly, there are samples – and many of them in the UK: packets, vials and boxes of ash; chunks of rock and more, in museum collections and archives in both the Natural History Museum, and at the British Geological Survey. Here is just a snapshot of some of the incredible samples from the British Geological Survey Archives.
Along with the samples are the original envelopes in which they were sent, and handwritten notes documenting the sample: priceless tools, when you want to look back at an eruption that took place over 100 years ago.
Some of these samples are timed and dated, and can be linked to particular phases of the eruption. Here is one example – of the ash that fell during the opening stages of the eruption on Barbados.
Other samples can be used to map the distribution of ash and coarser samples that fell across St Vincent – here’s an example of a ‘gravel’ grade sample from Rosebank on St Vincent.
Among the most amazing discoveries, are examples of damage to economically valuable plants – this one, a sample of Breadfruit leaf that was damaged during the latter stages of the eruption in March 1903.
Together, these sorts of samples will allow us to go back and investigate what was actually happening during the eruption, in a way that is rarely possible, even for modern events.
Links – read more about the eruptions of St Vincent on the London Volcano blog.