Tuesday , December 6 2022

Landslide shows that more monitoring is needed

The Daily Herald writes that five geologists from universities in Amsterdam and Utrecht took a boat trip earlier this week, to survey the results of a landslide that occurred on the leeward side of the island in the vicinity of Tent Bay. Also in the boat were Commissioner of Environmental Affairs Chris Johnson, Harbour Master Travis Johnson as well as Marine Park Manager Kai Wulf.
The landslide occurred on Sunday morning and was reported to the Saba Marine Park by the crews of local dive shops. Whilst small landslides in that area are not unheard of, due to the topography of the terrain, the commissioner decided to visit, because of the magnitude of this particular landslide. Since Sunday, the hillside has continued to erode, but with much smaller events. Similar events could clearly be seen while the group was on the boat. The landslide occurred close to a dive site in the Marine Park known as Hot Springs. Dive shops have been notified of the ongoing erosion, but they continue to operate at the many other sites in the marine park. Signs will also be posted prohibiting persons from traversing the area until it is determined that the situation is stable.
After the visit to the site, the commissioner had the opportunity to discuss the situation with lead geologist Manfred van Bergen, from Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. He said the landslide was most likely caused by “an interaction of gas and water, which changes the composition of the material.” The geologists explained that volcanic activity, hot sulphurous vapours and water are slowly corroding the rock of the cliff below Parish Hill, eventually causing it to deteriorate in a process called fumarolic alteration. This can easily be observed by the specific, pale colour of the rock and the dying vegetation surrounding the area. This area is located near a natural underwater hot spring.
The geologist also said that there was a need for more monitoring, because of the volcanic nature of the island. He said not just seismic monitoring was necessary, but also more advanced scientific monitoring, which could determine whether there was expansion or contraction of the earth. This monitoring would provide a basis which could indicate if there was increased volcanic activity that is different from what is normal.
Commissioner Johnson said that this “definitely” has the attention of the island government and he would bring up the issue of monitoring to the relevant ministries in The Netherlands when he is there for the annual Caribbean Netherlands consultation next week, because more resources need to be directed towards this area. He asked the geologists to provide him with further documentation, which he would provide to the ministries.

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