La Grande Soufrière

La Grande Soufrière (English: “big sulfur outlet”), is an active stratovolcano on the French island of Basse-Terre, in Guadeloupe. It is the highest mountain peak in the Lesser Antilles, rising 1,467 m high.

The last magmatic eruption was in 1580±50 during which the current lava dome was emplaced. More recent eruptions have been phreatic in type. On February 8, 1843, an eruption of La Grande Soufrière caused by an earthquake killed over 5,000 people.

In 1976 a large amount of seismic activity led to a mass evacuation of the island’s 72,000 residents. There was a bitter, and well-publicized, controversy between scientists Claude Allègre and Haroun Tazieff on whether evacuation should occur. Allègre held that inhabitants should be evacuated, just in case, while Tazieff held that the Soufrière was harmless. The prefect decided to evacuate, erring on the side of prudence. The volcano erupted on August 30, 1976, but was less severe than had been predicted. There were no fatalities, owing to the complete evacuation.

While the island was deserted, the German filmmaker Werner Herzog traveled to the abandoned town of Basse-Terre to find a peasant who had refused to leave his home on the slopes of the volcano. His journey is recorded in the film La Soufrière.

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia