During a volcanic eruption in 1961, the Tristan islanders were evacuated to England for two years. While the inhabitants of Montserrat, a British island near Antigua in the Caribbean, didn’t have to leave their island when the Soufrière Hills volcano began to erupt, two-thirds of the population had to flee the southern half of the island. Nearly 20 years later, the island’s southern half remains an uninhabitable, restricted-access “exclusion zone.” The old capital, Plymouth, was buried under more than 40 feet of mud. Satellite views of the island are dramatic, clearly showing the gray south and the lush, green north of the island. Plymouth eerily remains a ghost town, a Caribbean Pompeii.
Unlike most other islands in the Caribbean, Montserrat’s economy is based very little on tourism. Prior to the volcanic eruption, the island was home to the recording studio of George Martin, notable for his involvement on each of the Beatles’ original albums. Duran Duran, The Police, Jimmy Buffett, and others all recorded albums there. Since the eruption, the island’s economy has stagnated, restricted mostly to construction aggregate. Given the havoc wreaked by the disaster, the United Kingdom extended full residency rights in 1998 and British citizenship in 2002. About 5000 people remain in the “safe zone” of the northern part of the island.
Read more about Montserrat at Slate/Atlas Obscura.