Thursday 5 December, 2019

PM signs own iconic photo of 1979 La Soufrière eruption

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley replaces his signature on a photo he shot of the La Soufrière volcano eruption in 1972.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley replaces his signature on a photo he shot of the La Soufrière volcano eruption in 1972.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley reminisced his time as a volcanologist when he paid a visit to the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre (SRC) on Friday, where he was invited to replace his faded signature on a now-famous photo he took of the eruption of the La Soufrière Volcano in St Vincent in 1979.

As his original signature had since faded, the SRC invited him to sign the photograph again.

During his visit, he chatted with old colleagues and met and interacted with some enthusiastic young professionals.

Seated in a low-flying aircraft on April 17, 1979, Rowley captured the iconic shot – one of several of the powerful eruptions of La Soufrière, which has the distinction of being the youngest volcanic centre on St. Vincent.

According to the SRC, during the past 4000 years the volcano has had an average of one explosive eruption every 100 years. It occupies the northernmost third of the island and is considered to be the only volcano that is likely to erupt in the future.

In a Facebook post on Friday, Rowley recalled that he was part of a team involved in reconnaissance work when the eruptions occurred.

The image in question, which now hangs in the entrance of UWI's Seismic Research Centre was featured on the cover of the American Association for the Advancement of Science magazine in 1982.

The caption on the photo as it appeared in the 1982 magazine reads as follows:

Tier of smooth skirt clouds rims eruption column (about 2 kilometers in diameter) from Soufriere Volcano, St. Vincent, West Indies, 17 April 1979. The turbulent column, produced by the most powerful explosion of the 1979 activity, was observed to rise at an average velocity of 50 meters per second to an altitude of about 18 to 20 kilometers. The rising column apparently entrained and deformed preexisting subhorizontal layers of moist and less-moist air from lower altitudes and carried them to levels where the moist layers condensed to form the visible skirt clouds. See page 1105. [Photographed by K. C. Rowley, University of West Indies, from a low-flying as craft piloted by Duncan Richardson]

The Prime Minister holds a BSc. Geology (First Class Honours), Geography (First Class Honours) from the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica; and an MSc in Volcanic Stratigraphy, UWI, St. Augustine.

He is a Volcanologist who obtained his Doctorate in Geology, specialising in Geochemistry.

Rowley, who first entered politics in 1981 when he contested the Tobago West seat, was a Research Assistant at the SRC where he held the positions of Research Fellow and later Head of the Seismic Research Unit at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine.

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