Volcanos, James Bond, Mountain Chickens, and Montserrat

I now feel totally ignorant. Hands up those of you who thought Montserrat was somewhere in the Mediterranean? Or near Spain?
I was one of those. You smarter people can all stop sniggering now.

300px-Topographic-map-of-Montserrat-en.svgTurns out that what is left of Montserrat is in the Caribbean!!! West Indies. I feel perfectly ridiculous. I say “what is left” because there’s a huge honkin’ volcano on Montserrat that covered half of the island with ash and lava. It’s still simmering now, and the population has wisely moved to the other side of the island. The economy has been decimated, and much of the island lies in waste. Note the size of the “Exclusion zone”. Note the location of the previous capital city.

It has a mixed history. Discovered on the second of Chris Columbus’ jaunts, it became a slave state for a while, producing sugar and yes, rum…captured by the French briefly, returned to the British, eventually turned into a small holders’ lime production place. Limes go well with rum,

Caipirinha - yum!

Caipirinha – yum!

but I digress.

Then the island was decimated by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and covered with ash in 1995. Life’s been a bit grim ever since.

Emontserratense_flower_crop (Main)

orchid shivering in Kew

I am concerned about the Leptodactylus fallax. Otherwise known as the Giant Ditch Frog, it’s apparently critically endangered and the Brits are trying to keep it alive, along with the orchid native to the island (Who is no doubt suffering some transition shock hanging out in Kew).

The frog used to be eaten, probably because it would make a hearty meal. Apparently it grows to 21 centimeters long. (Over 8 inches, says my trusty ruler). That is one big frog. It lives for up to twelve years, and has big and apparently delicious hind legs. According to the “Save the mountain chicken” website, it’s the largest native predator on the island.

How can all these bad things happen to a place where a frog is the biggest predator? It seems wrong, and sad. Like paradise destroyed.


Mountain Chicken (tastes like frog)

Eating it isn’t the only reason for its endangered status. A fungus is helping. The volcano killed off a lot of insects that the frog usually eats. And rats have been introduced to the island and they eat everything. Or just bite it and leave the fungus to take over.

Much like the rest of the world, where rats and their human metaphors destroy whatever paradise that may remain.


montserrat-monastery-wc-cc-gyrofrogOh, and I feel better now. There’s ANOTHER Montserrat, a mountain in Catalonia, Spain, home of the monastery where lives the famous Black Madonna. That must be the one I know from the movies.


There’s even one near Bolton, UK (shudder), which I am CERTAIN James Bond never frequented.

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