Montserrat is a Caribbean island—specifically in the Leeward Islands, which is part of the chain known as the Lesser Antilles, in the British West Indies. It is a British Overseas Territory (BOT). Montserrat measures approximately 16 km (10 mi) in length and 11 km (7 mi) in width, with approximately 40 km (25 mi) of coastline.
Montserrat is nicknamed The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean both for its resemblance to coastal Ireland and for the Irish ancestry of many of its inhabitants.
On 18 July 1995, the previously dormant Soufriere Hills volcano, in the southern part of the island, became active. Eruptions destroyed Montserrat's Georgian era capital city of Plymouth.
Between 1995 and 2000, two-thirds of the island's population was forced to flee, primarily to the United Kingdom, leaving fewer than 1,200 people on the island as of 1997 rising to nearly 5,000 by 2016.
The volcanic activity continues, mostly affecting the vicinity of Plymouth, including its docking facilities, and the eastern side of the island around the former W. H. Bramble Airport, the remnants of which were buried by flows from volcanic activity on 11 February 2010.
An exclusion zone that extends from the south coast of the island north to parts of the Belham Valley was imposed because of the size of the existing volcanic dome and the resulting potential for pyroclastic activity.
Visitors are generally not permitted entry into the exclusion zone, but an impressive view of the destruction of Plymouth can be seen from the top of Garibaldi Hill in Isles Bay.
Relatively quiet since early 2010, the volcano continues to be closely monitored by the Montserrat Volcano Observatory. It is the most studied volcano in the world and Montserrat has been regarded as a "Modern Day Pompeii" in the Caribbean.
A new town and port are being developed at Little Bay, which is on the northwest coast of the island. While this construction proceeds, the centre of government and businesses is at Brades.
Residents of Montserrat are known as Montserratians. The population consists of a number of ethnic groups, including Black (88.4%), White, Dual Heritage and Creole. The island's population is mainly a mix of Irish and Africans with other minorities.
The population is predominantly, but not exclusively, of mixed African-Irish descent. It is not known with certainty how many African slaves and indentured Irish labourers were brought to the West Indies, though according to one estimate some 60,000 Irish were "Barbadosed" by Oliver Cromwell, some of whom would have arrived in Montserrat.
The island of Montserrat is approximately 480 km (300 mi) east-southeast of Puerto Rico and 48 km (30 mi) southwest of Antigua. The island lies north-northwest of Suriname and French Guiana (France).
It comprises 104 km2 (40 sq mi) and is gradually increasing owing to the buildup of volcanic deposits on the southeast coast. The island is 16 km (9.9 mi) long and 11 km (6.8 mi) wide, with rock cliffs rising 15 to 30 m (49 to 98 ft) above the sea and a number of smooth bottomed sandy beaches scattered among coves on the western (Caribbean) side of the island.
Montserrat has two islets, Kingdom of Redonda and Virgin, as well as Statue Rock.
In July 1995, Montserrat's Soufrière Hills volcano, dormant for centuries, erupted and soon buried the island's capital, Plymouth, in more than 12 metres (39 ft) of mud, destroyed its airport and docking facilities, and rendered the southern part of the island, now termed the exclusion zone, uninhabitable and not safe for travel.
The southern part of the island was evacuated and visits are severely restricted.The exclusion zone also includes two sea areas adjacent to the land areas of most volcanic activity.
After the destruction of Plymouth and disruption of the economy, more than half of the population left the island, which also lacked housing. During the late 1990s, additional eruptions occurred. On 25 June 1997, a pyroclastic flow travelled down Mosquito Ghaut.
This pyroclastic surge could not be restrained by the ghaut and spilled out of it, killing 19 people who were in the (officially evacuated) Streatham village area. Several others in the area suffered severe burns.
For a number of years in the early 2000s, the volcano's activity consisted mostly of infrequent ventings of ash into the uninhabited areas in the south. The ash falls occasionally extended into the northern and western parts of the island.
In the most recent period of increased activity at the Soufrière Hills volcano, from November 2009 through February 2010, ash vented and there was a vulcanian explosion that sent pyroclastic flows down several sides of the mountain. Travel into parts of the exclusion zone is occasionally allowed, though only by a licence from the Royal Montserrat Police Force.
The northern part of Montserrat has largely been unaffected by volcanic activity, and remains lush and green. In February 2005, The Princess Royal officially opened what is now called the John A. Osborne Airport in the north. Since 2011, it handles several flights daily operated by Fly Montserrat Airways. Docking facilities are in place at Little Bay, where the new capital town is being constructed; the new government centre is at Brades, a short distance away.
In recognition of the disaster, in 1998, the people of Montserrat were granted full residency rights in the United Kingdom, allowing them to migrate if they chose. British citizenship was granted in 2002.
Montserrat, like many isolated islands, is home to rare, endemic plant and animal species. Work undertaken by the Montserrat National Trust in collaboration with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has centred on the conservation of pribby (Rondeletia buxifolia) in the Centre Hills region.
Until 2006, this species was known only from one book about the vegetation of Montserrat. In 2006, conservationists also rescued several plants of the endangered Montserrat orchid (Epidendrum montserratense) from dead trees on the island and installed them in the security of the island's botanic garden.
Montserrat is also home to the critically endangered Giant Ditch Frog (Leptodactylus fallax), known locally as the Mountain Chicken, found only in Montserrat and Dominica. The species has undergone catastrophic declines due to the amphibian disease Chytridiomycosis and the volcanic eruption in 1997.
Experts from Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust have been working with the Montserrat Department of Environment to conserve the frog in-situ in a project called "Saving the Mountain Chicken",and an ex-situ captive breeding population has been set up in partnership with Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Zoological Society of London, North of England Zoological Society, Parken Zoo and the Governments of Montserrat and Dominica.
Releases from this programme have already taken place in a hope to increase the numbers of the frog and reduce extinction risk from Chytridiomycosis.
The national bird is the endemic Montserrat oriole (Icterus oberi).The IUCN Red List classifies it as Critically Endangered. Captive populations are held in several zoos in the UK including: Chester Zoo, Zoological Society of London, Jersey Zoo and Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.
The Montserrat galliwasp (Diploglossus montisserrati), a type of lizard, is endemic to Montserrat and is listed on the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered.A species action plan has been developed for this species.
In 2005, a biodiversity assessment for the Centre Hills was conducted. To support the work of local conservationists, a team of international partners, including Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Montana State University, carried out extensive surveys and collected biological data.
Researchers from Montana State University found that the invertebrate fauna was particularly rich on the island. The report found that the number of invertebrate species known to occur in Montserrat is 1,241. The number of known beetle species is 718 species from 63 families. It is estimated that 120 invertebrates are endemic to Montserrat.
Montserrat is known for its coral reefs and its caves along the shore. These caves house many species of bats, and efforts are underway to monitor and protect the ten species of bats from extinction.
A species of tarantula simply called the Montserrat Tarantula is native to the island. It was first bred in captivity at the Chester Zoo in August 2016
Montserrat's national dish is goat water, a thick goat meat stew served with crusty bread rolls.Montserrat cuisine resembles the general British and Caribbean cuisines, as it is situated in the Caribbean zone and it is a British territory. The cuisine includes a wide range of light meats, like fish, seafood and chicken, which are mostly grilled or roasted.
Being a fusion of numerous cultures, such as Spanish, French, African, Indian and Amerindian, the Caribbean cuisine is unique and complex. More sophisticated meals include the Montserrat jerk shrimp, with rum, cinnamon bananas and cranberry. In other more rural areas, people prefer to eat homemade food, like the traditional mahi mahi and local breads.
Montserrat is home to the Montserrat Yachting Association.
Cricket is a popular sport in Montserrat. Players from Montserrat are eligible to play for the West Indies cricket team. Jim Allen was the first to play for West Indies and he represented the World Series Cricket West Indians. No other player from Montserrat had gone on to represent West Indies until Lionel Baker made his One Day International debut against Pakistan in November 2008.
The Montserrat cricket team forms a part of the Leeward Islands cricket team in regional domestic cricket, however it plays as a separate entity in minor regional matches,as well having previously played Twenty20 cricket in the Stanford 20/20.Two grounds on the island have held first-class matches for the Leeward Islands, the first and most historic was Sturge Park in Plymouth, which had been in use since the 1920s.
This was destroyed in 1997, by the volcanic eruption. A new ground, the Salem Oval, was constructed and opened in 2000. This has also held first-class cricket. A second ground has been constructed at Little Bay.
Surfing was introduced by two American brothers in 1980, Carrll and Gary Robilotta. They were also responsible for naming the surfing spots on the island. Carrll wrote for the surfing newsletter The Surf Report, which was used by surfers around the globe. They both made Montserrat their home for 12 years.
Montserrat has its own FIFA affiliated football team, and has competed in the World Cup qualifiers five times but failed to advance to the finals from 2002 to 2018. A field for the team was built near the airport by FIFA. In 2002, the team competed in a friendly match with the second-lowest-ranked team in FIFA at that time, Bhutan, in The Other Final, the same day as the final of the 2002 World Cup. Bhutan won 4–0.
Montserrat has failed to qualify for any FIFA World Cup. They have also failed to ever qualify for the Gold Cup and Caribbean Cup. The current national team relies mostly on the diaspora in England and in the last WCQ against Curaçao nearly all their squad played and lived in England.
Montserrat has competed in every Commonwealth Games since 1994.
Basketball is growing in popularity in Montserrat with the country now setting up their own basketball league.The league contains six teams, which are the Look-Out Shooters, Davy Hill Ras Valley, Cudjoe Head Renegades, St. Peters Hilltop, Salem Jammers and MSS School Warriors.They have also built a new 800 seater complex which cost $1.5 million.