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Wave Knight visits volcano-hit Caribbean island

31 August 2016
Cadet Phillip Corner, RFA Wave Knight’s CO Capt Nigel Budd and Roderick Stewart, director of the Montserrat Volcano Observatory pose against the backdrop of the island’s most stunning – and deadly – natural feature: Soufrière Hills.

The observatory was one port of call for a team from the tanker as she dropped anchor off Montserrat on the latest stage of her Caribbean patrol.

Wave Knight is in the region to assist Britain’s overseas territories – or any other national or island for that matter – in the event of a national disaster.

At this time of year, that ordinarily means tropical storms – although as of the end of August, thankfully any hurricanes had largely skirted the West Indies – so Wave Knight’s specially-embarked disaster relief team gave Montserrat authorities an insight into the help the ship could provide in an emergency.

Thanks to the threat posed by Soufrière Hills (presently at its least active state), Montserrat’s disaster management organisation is very much on the ball.

Two decades ago, two thirds of the island was evacuated – including the capital Plymouth – when the volcano erupted with full force.

Some 20 years on, much of Montserrat remains off limits, while a new capital has been established at Little Bay on the north side of the island, plus a port, to sustain the 5,000 inhabitants.

Vulcanologists at the observatory showed the Wave Knights some of the sophisticated kit they use to monitor activity in the bowels of Soufrière Hills, as well as a presentation on the 1995 eruption.

Meanwhile, the tanker’s command team met the island’s police commissioner and director of border security to discuss the challenges facing international authorities tackling drugs trafficking across the Caribbean, some of the suspected smuggling routes and how Wave Knight and her Lynx supports the crime-fighting mission.

Although there was no hurricane, bad weather forced Wave Knight to cut short her visit, cancelling some of the activities ashore – but she’s due to call in again later in the deployment.

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