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24 February 2009

(1.) the guy was barefoot (2.) the guy was barefoot (3.) the guy was barefoot (4.) the guy was barefoot (5.) the volcano is erupting

Click to see much bigger foot.
The erupting Soufriere Hills volcano also will get bigger.

Montserrat is an island in the Caribbean,
and one of the last actual overseas colonies of Britain.

In 1995, its central mountain, Soufriere Hills, woke up and identified itself as a violent, destructive volcano. Eventually a lahar -- a sudden river of mud -- killed 19 Montserratans. Most volcano deaths are from lahars.

The southern two-thirds of Montserrat are now a Forbidden Zone, people are forbidden from setting foot there. All human activity is restricted to the northernmost third of the island. There is one fairly small "Day Zone," from which people must leave each nightfall.

At the foot of the volcano is the MVO, the Montserrat Volcano Observatory, with a staff of Montserratans and volcano experts from around the world. Their primary job is to warn Montserratans when the volcano threatens to become dangerous again.

Most Montserratans are black descendants of sugar plantation slaves, and speak with an Irish lilt unlike any other Caribbean accent. If you close your eyes, you might think you're in Dublin.


The Montserrat Reporter
Friday 6 February 2009

MVO launches
"Living With Our Volcano"
outreach programme

Government officials, community leaders and school teachers and the media, convened at the Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO) on Thursday, 29 to witness the Observatory reveal its new logo and public education plan for the next two years.

In a Government Press Release it claims, that although the MVO had been involved in education and outreach activities from its inception, the new "Outreach Plan 2008-2010 marks the first time that the Observatory will deliver a comprehensive strategy for providing information on the Soufrière Hills Volcano (SHV)."

The Outreach Plan brands the programme Living with our Volcano as it promotes both safety and education.

Stacey Edwards of the UWI Seismic Research Centre, co-authored the Plan with Guillaume Levieux of the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP). "In developing this programme, our primary focus was to ensure that residents would be educated on the hazards posed by the volcano and that they would understand how to live safely with it," she said.

This programme comes thirteen and a half years later and under its relatively new and current joint management by the UWI Seismic Research Centre and the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris.

Miss Edwards added, "However, it was also very important to us to include a component where Montserratians were encouraged to use the volcano as a learning opportunity.

The results from surveys and meetings with some stakeholders were used to identify target groups, develop messages and select communication tools for the programme. Highlights from the programme will include a refurbished MVO website, development of a SHV Educator's Guide for schools and MVO Information Kiosks.

The MVO also launched its new logo to symbolize the Observatory's evolution throughout its thirteen-year history. Designed by Levieux, the logo's green illustrates the living part of the Emerald Isle while the gray represents the volcano and ash.

Levieux explained: "The ash plume reminds that the volcano is active and the delta is an important part of the Montserratian landscape," while the red seismic signal symbolizes Science.

Edwards added, "This is an important day for the MVO and we look forward to partnering with our stakeholders to implement the Living with Our Volcano programme."

The Montserrat Volcano Observatory was established in 1995 shortly after the eruption began. It monitors the Soufrière Hills Volcano on Montserrat and provides the authorities with advice on volcanic activity and associated hazards. The MVO is a statutory authority of the Government of Montserrat, previously managed by the British Geological Survey (BGS), is now jointly managed by the UWI Seismic Research Centre and the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris.

In its weekly report last Friday, after the escalated activity at the beginning of the new year, the MVO reported: "The lack of significant rockfalls and dome incandescence observable at night suggest that lava extrusion - if any- is minimal. Furthermore, there have been no signs of dome instability."

The Montserrat Reporter welcomes this new Outreach Program, as we believe that it is long overdue, with the hope that it will provide and bring more clarity to the many scientific pronouncement, release and statement, as they are made in regards to the Soufriere Hills volcano and its effects on the lives of the people of Montserrat.

- 30 -

reader comments

Picture please Posted: 2009-02-08 08:09:00 AM

Let's have a photo of Stacey too please, as she's obviously a very important part of this brilliant initative.

Re: MVO Photos Posted: 2009-02-09 3:54:00 PM
A picture is worth a 1000 words. We must let Mr. Levieux know with a loud voice that his way of dressing (Bare foot)is not acceptable. If you want respect you must give respect. We (Black People)cannot present ourselves that way in your country when addressing your people. Shameful, disrespectful and uncivilized.

RE: MVO photos Posted: 2009-02-09 5:11:00 PM
Good point. Maybe Sting used to look like this at AIR studios but this guy is not Sting. He's a government employee (indirectly) at an important public meeting.

You gotta be kidding Posted: 2009-02-10 08:08:00 AM
As a white guy in small town America, I submit that you couldn't show up at a town council meeting dressed like this without being jeered out of the room. Come on show some respect man.

the barefoot vulcanologist Posted: 2009-02-13 11:30:00 AM
I guess you can file this under "minority report" or "dissenting opinion." What people who live near an active volcano should want most from a vulcanologist isn't nice shoes. It's the stuff he or she has inside his/her head. When life-and-death decisions have to be made based entirely on the best scientific knowledge, who cares what the scientists are wearing on their feet? It's a "two cultures" thing -- the culture of professional scientists vs. the culture of government officials. We expect government employees to dress well, and we interpret this as a sign of respect. But as long as there've been scientists, they've been notoriously "informal" dressers. Scientists (even French ones like M. Levieux) have other things on their minds beside style and fashion -- and we should be grateful for this "different" set of priorities. It does not show disrespect to the community. Just the opposite -- they "dress" in knowledge, dedication, even risk and danger, to serve the community. P.S. I've been to Montserrat twice, hope to come back again and again. I wish everyone on Montserrat the very best.

YES, Bare foot Levieux Should leave!!!!
Posted: 2009-02-13 2:44:00 PM
That pompous Levieux should leave the Country. People with his attitude are not welcome here. Mr. Chief Minister, show some backbone, ask this man to please leave the Island. Volcano expert or not, GET OUT!!!! His presence is not doing anything for Montserrat. I am pretty sure there are other qualified, respectful people who wouldn't mind taking his place. He is a disgrace. Thank him for his services and send him packing. Let him go and study some other volcano.

Christians ? ? ? Posted: 2009-02-14 07:58:00 AM
Its amazing that so many people have rushed to judgement. If Jesus returns to minister to the masses and he is barefoot, whom among you shall cast the first stone.

Foolishness Posted: 2009-02-14 08:18:00 AM
The best director/acting director that has been on montserrat in the past 10 years and most of the foolish comments have nothing to do with his competance. Thanks to his intelligence, the foolishness that was imposed upon us by previous administrations did not happen in January. He made the courageous calls that allowed people to remain in their homes until there was significant activity and then he quickly allowed them to return after the event had passed. His value to Montserrat comes from what is on the inside not the superficial appearances on the outside. Be careful what you wish for people. The day may come when you want him back.

RE: The Barefoot (Mr.) Levieux Posted: 2009-02-14 2:53:00 PM
People with this mentality should not be around our young women. The French brought us French fries, French wine, French bread, French kissing and now the government has brought in French Aids.

RE: Foolishness Posted: 2009-02-15 8:54:00 PM
We thank Mr. Levieux for his work. Look at it this way, a person would not drink the clean contents in a glass if the outside of the glass is dirty. Appearance counts.

shallow minded Posted: 2009-02-15 10:43:00 PM
instead of thanking mr levieux for his good work, i can't believe that some people have the time to be so narrow minded and shallow. who cares whether or not he walk's around without no shoes on his feet,the most important thing is that he makes a good call and judgement when the volcano start acting up.he have done so the last the volcano act up safety is the most impotant and not what he wear's

RE: Christians ??? Posted: 2009-02-16 04:20:00 AM
A Christian = One who believes in the Trinity. The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. One of the Ten Commandments= Make no images of (Me) God. Throughout your life all the images you have seen are images of a white Jesus wearing slippers. The truth is Jesus was a Black Man and if He should return to minister the gospel without wearing his slippers you would be the first one to cast the first stone shouting crucify, crucify, crucify.

RE: Christians ??? Posted: 2009-02-16 04:46:00 AM
Should you find yourself walking at midnight around Runaway Ghaut and you hear a voice shouting out of the wilderness, “Wait for me I’m a ghost, I’m coming”, all of your hair on your head would stand up and you would run so fast you would not be able to turn the corner and you would run straight over the cliff and kill yourself.

RE; Appearance Counts Posted: 2009-02-16 06:40:00 AM
The same logic was used on order to enslave masses of people to work the sugar cane fields of Montserrat.

the barefoot vulcanologist (continued) Posted: 2009-02-16 04:05:00 AM
there used to be an old beat-up Fiat in the parking lot at the University of California in Berkeley, it had a bumper sticker: MY OWNER HAS A NOBEL PRIZE He was one of the people who invented the A-bomb. He dressed like the Fiat. When he made his greatest discovery, Archimedes ran through town not wearing any clothes at all. These people have other things on their minds.

shallow minds!!! Posted: 2009-02-16 2:09:00 PM
You people didn't even take the time to see the error in the article, like the small-minded people that we are, we just look for the simplest things we find to humiliate each other. For all those who’ve lived on Montserrat all these years (more so recently) this only shows that we don’t care about what is happening in this country volcano wise. Look at all those who commented on this photo, if you had some great interest in this little island then you would have been to enough MVO public meetings to know that this is not Mr Levieux, but no one seems to give a hoot about who this person is, we just rant on anyway, that is we culture. It seems like this man not wearing a pair of shoes is the major problem in this country. This man is much more highly qualified to do most of your jobs even if he chooses this one and one he is capable of doing very well. NEVER JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER!!!!!!!

Respect Posted: 2009-02-16 2:20:00 PM
There is a right and wrong way of doing things,it seems like people from the islands get intimidated by people from bigger countries.Is like we no have a voice they come in and like take over the whole operation. People there like they been pushed in the back and these folks getting all the credits.what this guy display is no surprise,they all come to the carribean and they think that we don't have any law, nothing but when you go in there country forget it,if we stop act as if we no have sense and stand up for what and who we are they will think different.We are stronger than that yes we need help but we no have to act as if we so down and out that people could come in and take charge, and that Chief Minister he needs to just stay in the medical field which he so good at and leave this for the more experience guy!

Quite Simple Posted: 2009-02-17 12:09:00 AM
The gentleman whosoever he may be was in a public forum in a meeting and he was in a Tshirt, cargo shorts, barefoot and with sunglasses on his head, dressed for a day at the beach. No matter how smart he is or no matter what he is bringing to the table it is not the appropiate way to dress. Am I interested in what he has to say? Yes. Am I grateful for what he has done for the island? Yes. But at the end of the day this is not the way to dress. Plain and simple. Now stop de damn bickering and get back to work and the business of the day

To The Barefoot Vulcanologist (continued) Posted: 2009-02-17 5:02:00 PM
I was taught people who run around naked are called; madmen, savages, barbaric, lunatic, crazy, idiot and that they are mentally challenged. In America when someone is caught naked in public the police would catch them and put them in a straight jacket and take them immediately to a mental institution. I see you admire this man that invented such a destructive device that is threatening your own existence. Everyone is welcome to come to Montserrat,be aware going barefoot is acceptable but if you are caught naked in public our Royal Mounted Police will hunt you down and when they catch you they will take you to the hospital and put you in the mental ward and chain you to the bed. By the way, I think the presenter got the message he would not do it again. And yes, people who run around town naked have other things their minds.

RE: Shallow Minded Comment # 1 Posted: 2009-02-17 8:55:00 PM
I thank the presenter for donating his time and expertise to my people in M/rat for (free). Any one who risk his/her life every day for the safety of my family, friends and my welfare I consider him/her a hero. Much respect. I really do not care if the presenter chooses to walk around M/rat streets barefooted that is his choice. I'm only asking him to respect me and be properly dressed for the occasion. As brave as you are you and I know if you were about to board a plane and you see your pilot with his pants hanging off his butt and his appearance look as if he is going to the mountain you would not go up in his plane no mater how good a pilot your friend tell you he is.

To all comments, from the madman in barefoot
Posted: 2009-02-18 10:09:00 AM

Dear all, First, a very important clarification: the person with the cargo pants, sunglasses and barefoot is Nico Fournier, the MVO acting director at the time, NOT Guillaume Levieux (who was more conventionally dressed for the occasion). So please address all comments to Nico, not Guillaume. Secondly, I am Nico Fournier, so you can address any useful comments to me personally at: nicofournier.volcano (at) This will leave space on this page for some actual comments about the important education and outreach work that Stacey, Guillaume and the MVO are carrying out at the moment. Obviously, at least the person giving the very relevant and in-depth comments about the French may benefit from a little bit more exposure to education. Now, let's talk about the dressing code since this seems to be a major issue. I am actually glad that my dressing code is a major issue since it appears that there are no bigger problems in Montserrat at the moment, trivial matters such as education, economy, transport in and out Montserrat or the volcano. I take this as extremely good news and thank you for sharing this with me. I fully acknowledge that the lack of shoes may have embarrassed some, especially for that particular occasion and bearing the cultural context. What some people may want to realize though, is that at the MVO, our mandate is to make sure that everybody is safe. Yes, one could probably spend more time dressing up for occasion. Yes, one could most likely spend their time in the office and at meetings, well dressed-up. Keep in mind, though, that this is time not spent doing the actual important part of the job: monitoring the volcano. As you can guess, the choice is quite easily made on my side. Yes, inappropriate dress-code may be interpreted as a lack of respect. No, it is not a lack of respect. A lack of respect would have been to spend more time dressing up and enjoying nice dinners at night while the volcano was acting, instead of spending our time monitoring it. A lack of respect would have been to keep people in the haze when activity was escalating and not giving them - you - updated and straight information. A lack of respect would have been to deny responsibility when comes evacuation time. A lack of respect would have been to recommend that evacuated people stayed out of their home when activity allowed it, for the sake of simplifying our work. Respect is to give you my name so that at least you know who is addressing you. Respect is answering your questions in any context. Respect is going live on radio to get some feedback at times when you know that you will take some heat. One may want to think twice before jumping to conclusions. Funnily enough, I did not get any comments on my dressing code during public meetings last December and January when giving updates on the activity and trying our best to assess people safety. Sharp observers may even have spotted one or two coffee stains on my T-shirt after an all-nighter at the MVO. Clearly outrageous. Nor did I get any comments about me being barefooted when we were spending the nights at the MVO during the Christmas season to make sure that everybody was safe and could enjoy the end of the year celebrations with their family. Interesting how things matter differently at different times. I will be coming for the SAC meeting on the 10-12 March so some people will have the opportunity to direct their comments directly to me, in person, instead of here, anonymously. Thanks again for the superb information that Montserrat has no bigger issues to tackle than my dressing code. A few days after Valentine, when love is still all around, it is clearly a bright start for the day. Kind regards, Nico Fournier

Editor apologises Posted: 2009-02-18 10:21:00 AM
We wish to offer apologies to Guillaume Levieux, Volcanology Outreach Officer, IPGP at the Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO). This apology arises out of comments directed at Mr. Levieux as a result of the photographs which appear on line which show his name subscribed to different photographs, in the current story. The first photograph which shows his name is actually that of Nicolas Fournier, Research Fellow (Volcanology), who was the then acting Director at the MVO. We extend thanks to the individual who pointed out the obvious error on the story with two different pictures carrying the same name. Editor, TMR

Disrespect! Nico Posted: 2009-02-18 3:39:00 PM
No Mr Fournier - you should have stopped when you said "inappropriate dress-code may be interpreted as a lack of respect." You were representing the rest of your colleagues and and so you disrespected them and all Montserratians when you in your capacity addressed an audience to launch a communication outreach program. After-all you were carrying out a service for which you are being paid, not provided free, in other words you were not doing anyone a favour. There were some people who expressed appreciation for your service, I did also. The management knows who I am since although I didn't show my name I did leave my email address. Others may have gone beyond but I am sure they too appreciate the work of the MVO, but simply addressed the issue of your "inappropriate" dress. In my opinion, your attitude is totally wrong as exhibited in your response. And yes thank you for clearing up the matter of the identity. Respect

Identity problem Posted: 2009-02-18 7:27:00 PM
The photos suggest that all shaven-headed Frenchmen look alike. Could one of them please grow some hair or wear a wig to help us?

Time to cool it? Posted: 2009-02-18 2:33:00 PM
Nico, try not to sound so bitter about all the o****e coming your way. Ever since 1995 the rule on Montserrat has been that the only thing tougher than the volcano for MVO directors to handle is the islanders. There is a simple reason for this. Imagine France two thirds destroyed by a giant volcano and the remaining population squeezed into the remaining land, with only their memories of their beautiful and prosperous country in the past to console them. You are dealing with a population who have experienced things that nobody can be expected to endure unscathed. Yes, they are scratchy -- but so would you be if, say, Russian scientists directed the volcano observatory that protected what was left of your beloved France. Many previous MVO directors have endured similar personal and abusive criticism. This job is a classic one to recall the old saying, “If you can’t stand the heat, it’s time to get out of the kitchen”. The clear messages coming from all these comments are: (1) A formal event, such as launching a new outreach initiative, is seen by residents as the sort of time and place where everyone dresses neatly (as say for church or a law court). Montserrat is a democracy and therefore the public indirectly employ you and are entitled democratically to set the conventions for dress at such occasions. (2) Of course nobody expects the MVO scientists to dress formally when eruptive events are happening fast and they need to alternate between monitoring work and explaining to and advising government and worried residents. (3) Residents are extremely pleased with how the new MVO team is doing its monitoring work and also with their approach to the difficult issue of evacuations. Maybe it’s time for everyone to calm down and concentrate again on the main enemy, which is of course the volcano.

To the Editor Posted: 2009-02-18 7:48:00 PM
I suspect you may choose not to publish this. I find it strange that you offer apologies to Mr L and not to Mr F. Some of the comments go way beyond any concept of fair criticism or opinion. I am surprised you have not seen fit to exercise your stated "right to remove comments with profanity, personal attacks, ...". I wonder if you have an agenda here, Mr Editor. In all my experience in journalism, I have never seen a photograph cropped like that unless it was intended to provoke comment. Newspaper photographs of people are normally cropped tight around the face.

To The Barefoot Madman Posted: 2009-02-19 03:40:00 AM
God, I repeat God gives knowledge; money Mr. Foumier can give you a little more exposure to education. A person with knowledge knows your action (Being barefooted) speak louder than words but with you, an educated person, it is the reverse (Your comments).

The photo cropping is both fair and good Posted: 2009-02-19 07:19:00 AM
The journalist who posted at 7.48 PM yesterday says; “Newspaper photographs of people are normally cropped tight around the face.” That’s obviously not true. When did you last see such cropping of a football star scoring an acrobatic goal? What he/she means is that this usually happens at formal occasions, such as a political debate, conference or (dare I say it?) the unveiling to the residents and press of a new outreach initiative at somewhere like MVO. Of course the press anywhere would show different images from their usual head-and-shoulders views, if something merited it. What if Obama had been sworn in as President wearing scarlet flippers – would we have been denied all photos of his feet? The image above of Dr Fournier speaking barefoot at the formal launching of the new initiative is totally fair press pictorial comment. The other two “people” photos are also cropped just right for this particular event. Fr. Agger is reading a prayer and showing him doing so reminds everyone what a desperately serious business the eruption has been and remains. Tracey Edwards and Guillaume Levieux are shown around the symbol of modern communications, a computer screen. The entire set of images gives a very clear impression of how the event took place. Surely that’s good journalism?

re: The photo cropping is both fair and good Posted: 2009-02-19 12:11:00 AM
That is exactly my suggestion. The photo was cropped in way it was because the Editor wanted to make a point. Was Fr. Agger wearing any shoes?

Question for Editor Posted: 2009-02-19 07:33:00 AM
Here we go again! Why do you or who whoever allow these ....tic comments. It is beginning to sound like something else other than the issue. And to think that the xxxx suggests he is a journalist. Guess he will never make an editor or a very corritible one! How in the first place the photo or any of them was cropped. And if you are a journalist and knows, what kind are you? Do you know what goes into the production. The previous post shows a lot of understanding of journalism and he claims no knowledge of being one, but commonsense where did it go? Guess we just as bad as you to notice you, pity about freedom of speech how some of us abuse it. Why encourage that Mr. Editor? Trouble is I understand the answer. Ethics and Integrity. Keep it up, some of us understand, but you know some one did say early about taking the heat etc.

re: The photo cropping is both fair and good Posted: 2009-02-19 1:44:00 PM
My point is that a newspaper editor is entirely free to make points, if he/she judges them to be in the public interest (such as revealing Obama to be a flipper fetishist?). It may sound trivial to outsiders but Montserrat is one of innumerable countries where most people are still a bit old fashioned about such things as dress code at public and press presentations held somewhere “official”, like the government-funded MVO. It’s a manners thing.

RE: Good Luck To Dr. Foumier Posted: 2009-02-19 12:39:00 AM
Like America we can extend an olive branch but we have the arrows. Throughout the world Montserratians are known for their warmth and their friendliness. (Dr.) Mr. Foumier on your next visit to our beautiful Island come in peace, I hope you’ll come with a mended heart and enjoy our warmth and our friendliness. Most of the comments may not have been coming from the residents living on the Island. After all M/rat was ounce a colony of France. The spirit of Napoleon‘s Army may still be around but they are at rest. You’ll be working in Salem. Shalom, Salaam, Peace. Like you, I too felt hurt reading your comment “A little more exposure to education” but we all do need it and truly I appreciate your work knowing it affected me and I would not let your choice of dressing come between a friendship. You carried out your duties and your responsibilities well and our country appreciate you. Don’t blow it. Good Luck.

To the Madman Posted: 2009-02-19 6:56:00 PM
Nico, I sense your frustration in the long post. I do hope that residents appreciate the many many hours you and others at the MVO spend to ensure our safety. It was helpful that you included some details of what you do. Please do not be discouraged and keep up the good work. Oh and also, take 10 seconds to slip on some nice sandals for the next public meeting. We owe all of you at MVO a debt of gratitude. All you owe us is a modicum of respect.

olive branch and arrows Posted: 2009-02-21 5:43:00 PM
Dear all, Now that everybody - including me - had a chance to voice their grief, I hope that we can go back to productive comments indeed. Point taken regarding the appropriateness of the dressing code in various occasions. I hope that my message on the fact that the lack of shoes in that particular occasion was not meant to be disrespectful. Only a mere misunderstanding of some cultural differences and of the importance of some specific points. Leaving together is a learning experience. As much for the madman who loves an island and tries to get a grip on a local culture as for the local person who may have to bear with some inadequacy from the madman every now and then and tell him to do better next time in appropriate terms. Before closing all this on my side, just a clarification about my comment about education: the MVO Education and Outreach program is targeted towards sharing more of the MVO knowledge in volcanology since we believe it is an under-used source of knowledge in the domain on island and in the region. It is not meant to be about general education and so weren't my comments. With the exception of my reference to the French lover out there, obviously. Nobody's perfect. :-) Final point: we are eager to get some comments and ideas about the Education and Outreach plan. So please do not hesitate to drop us a line or come to the MVO if you have any suggestion. Stacey, Guillaume and the MVO are putting a tremendous effort on it and we all want it to be as good and adequate as possible. As hinted in the name of the plan, "Living with our volcano", it is all about Montserrat. So we need your feedback. Best regards and see you soon. With some shoes of some sort, I promise. Nico


darex said...

I say keep up the barefooting and do what you feel like. Only an idiot makes himself uncomfortable for the comfort of strangers. What if someone starts to take offense to your hands? Will they insist on your wearing gloves? THEY have the problem with it and need to get over themselves! YOU are fine!

Vleeptron Dude said...

Hiya darex --

In the case of Erupting Volcano versus Dressing Appropriately, your vote has been duly logged -- yup, let the experts study rhe Erupting Volcano first. Nice shoes can come later.

I like Montserrat a lot, and Monterratans have been very warm, friendly and hospitable to me as I've watched these incredibly courageous people (on Montserrat, you have to start being brave at Age 3, the volcano does not give Kiddie Passes) cling to their troublesome volcano island.

But under the volcano are some fascinating cultural and social patterns laid down centuries ago by Irish planters and the British colonial government.

I found this incident a fascinating window into how these traditional patterns can set some very odd Priorities: Shoes first, Volcano second.

Anyway, welcome to Vleeptron. So who are you, where are you, what are you, how'd you stumble into Vleeptron?

Nice use of "your" with the gerund "wearing" -- that's almost disappeared, you had some very fine schooling there.