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August 1999 Vol. 14, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Fiji and Saba Warnings

from the August, 1999 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

The diver’s world is full of surprises, and some recent ones concern the possibility of volcanic eruptions in places long considered low-risk. In Fiji, New Zealand geologist Dr. Shane Cronin recently announced that the Pacific island of Taveuni, known as the garden island of Fiji, is a sleeping volcano that’s due to erupt at any time. At 183 square miles, Taveuni is the third largest of Fiji’s 360 islands, but up till now the island’s topography, which lacks the typical volcanic “cone” shape, has disguised the volcano hiding below. Taveuni’s last major eruption was supposedly 300-400 years ago, but Cronin says the island has had regular eruptions about every 60 years and that the next eruption is overdue. Warning signs could emerge as late as days before an eruption unless a seismograph network is installed to give residents more notice. Discovery of Taveuni’s volcano is not only bad news for divers; it also could throw a wrench in the plans of hundreds of international visitors who are expected to travel to Taveuni’s location astride the International Date Line for millennium parties.

There may also be volcanic threats closer to home. Recent studies of groundwater temperatures on the fringe of Saba’s dormant Mount Scenery volcano have gone up 50°. The government plans to set up an observatory on St. Maarten this fall to monitor both Mt. Scenery and St. Eustatius’ Quill Volcano, two of the Caribbean’s 14 known volcanoes, so that island populations can be given advance notice and have time to evacuate if an eruption is imminent.

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