FAR-FLUNG CORRESPONDENTS about the Caribbean island of Montserrat, and volcanic activity there… The sound of the first rockfall was almost faint, like billiard balls cracking together. Next came what could have been the roar of a freight train–so close that it seemed that at any moment the speeding avalanche of rock, superheated gas, and ash would vomit out of the mist to engulf us…. Volcanoes, in direct proportion to their deadliness, seem to attract tourists of a particularly foolhardy sort. Pliny the Elder, who was perhaps the most celebrated of them, suffocated in the eruption of Italy’s Vesuvius in A.D. 79–killed by curiosity… I had come to the thirty-nine-and-a-half-square-mile British dependent territory of Montserrat to see the Soufriere Hills volcano, which, on July 18,1995, had waked up from a four-hundred-year nap… Writer accompanies guide George Skerritt to take microgravity measurements… The island is revered as a nerve center of the international calypso scene and also as the home of the Beatles producer George Martin’s AIR Studios, a recording facility popular with the likes of the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Buffett and Sting… After the eruption began in 1995, an international team of scientists, from Trinidad’s Seismic Research Unit, the United States Geological Survey, and the British Geological Survey, arrived to advise it during the crisis… At the twenty-four-hour monitoring facility, in a vacation villa. Dr. Rick Hoblitt, a visiting U.S.G.S. volcanologist, explained that Soufriere Hills had been steadily building a potentially dangerous lava dome which increased the danger of a sudden violent explosion and a massive pyroclastic flow… In the course of evacuations, some eight thousand Montserratians have been displaced. More than three thousand have left the island entirely… Three times daily, between calypso tunes, activity reports from the observatory are read over the government’s radio station, to which people listen avidly… Despite their precarious situation, the Montserratians I met had not chosen to attribute any “motive” to the mountain’s violence, but instead seemed to be accepting it soberly and practically–perhaps in the hope of calming the volcano by example… If it is the fate of volcanoes to become tourist attractions, then Montserrat is sure to become an A-list destination for thrill-seekers.

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