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06/08/2012 - Greg Smith and David Cavell (Solomon Islands)

posted 6 Aug 2012, 02:05 by Joel Gill   [ updated 6 Aug 2012, 02:07 ]

In a few days we will be departing to begin a six day spell on Savo Island, an historically active volcano in the Solomon Islands arc. It lies just 35km away from Honiara, the capital of the Solomon’s, so assessing the hazards it may pose is crucial to safeguarding lives and infrastructure in the area.

Once on Savo, we will be staying in Lemboni village, situated on the NE coast of the island. With this as our base, we will study the block-and-ash flow deposits (those left by pyroclastic flows at previous eruptions) in the vicinity to get a better idea of Savo’s eruption products, their behaviour and the hazards they pose to the islands population.

Our work can essentially be divided into two separate project areas.

The first one involves the study of the coastal fan deposits created by block-and-ash flows as they have exited the various valleys on the island (we will be focusing on the Rembokola valley above Lemboni village, whose deposits have been allocated to a period of activity during the mid-19th Century). Through logging, sampling and studying these deposits we hope to better understand the nature and behaviour of BAF’s on Savo and how they may behave in future eruptions.

The second project involves assessing the risks such hazards may pose to coastal villages such as Lemboni. This will involve analysis of how hazards move down the Rembokola valley and how a major life threatening hazard would interact with the villages and local environment. This could lead to the construction of a hazard assessment map to indicate “safe zones” in the area where villagers may go to seek shelter from such a destructive event. We will also aim to assess the preparedness of local residents by surveying the population of Lemboni, as well as its infrastructure, to test the strength of its evacuation plans and local education about the dangers that Savo poses.

To aid in this, Greg and I have been practicing our Pijin (the local dialect), which we hope will allow us to interact better with the villagers and more easily understand their perceptions and worries about the volcano.

Both of us hope this work will be worthwhile and give as much benefit to the communities we visit as it does to us.
We’re waiting on the Survey’s boat to return from the Western Provinces to ferry us over to Savo (this should be sometime between Thursday and Monday, as the survey have to check it over from its last trip before we leave. We will have a personal attaché from the Geological Survey Division for the trip and have been put up in Lemboni by Chief Melchoir, the head of the village.