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A volcanic event on Tristan da Cunha

Posted in Disasters, Famous news stories, Geography, Geology, Historical articles on Monday, 28 November 2011

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This edited article about disasters originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 863 published on  29 July 1978.

Tristan da Cunha, picture, image, illustration

The Tristaners leave their remote island of Tristan da Cunha in 1961 when the volcano started to erupt

A lurid glow filled the sky and a cloud of vapour rose close to the shore of Tristan da Cunha, a remote island in the South Atlantic. The island’s volcano, until then regarded as extinct, was beginning to erupt.

Life on the island had been peaceful for the 300 or so inhabitants until the middle of 1961. Then they received the first warning signals of trouble in the form of a series of earthquake shocks. Experts in Britain felt that there was no serious danger and the Tristaners went about their work, fishing and tending their cattle and fields.

Then, one Sunday evening in mid-September, came a shock more severe than any before. The islanders, gathered at their evening service, felt the little church heave and shake about them.

By the end of the month, pieces of rock began to break off from the mountainside and fall dangerously close to their homes. Livestock were killed and the island’s only water pipeline was fractured.

Cracks began to appear in house walls and deep fissures in the ground. Between the sea and the mountain, a dome of earth and rock was seen to be growing like a huge bubble from the ground.

It was time to go. Fortunately, a refrigerator ship, which called to pick up the islanders’ crawfish, was anchored offshore. This and a fishing craft took the Tristaners to another island from where they were eventually brought to Britain.

None of the islanders was injured. After they had been away for 18 months, most of the islanders returned. They found that little damage had been done to their settlement, except that their newly-built crawfish freezing plant was completely buried. The lava stream had spread into the sea, adding over 30 hectares to the island’s area. Once more the Tristaners settled down on their island hoping that the volcano would not awaken from its slumber again.

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