Tuesday 19 June, 2018

Kick ’Em Jenny alert: A quick history of the volcano

On Monday officials in Grenada issued an Orange alert for the Kick ’Em Jenny Volcano because of heightened activity and asked ships in the area to observe a 5 km/3.1 mile exclusion zone. Loop answers some key questions:

What’s Kick ’Em Jenny?

It’s an active submarine volcano that lies off Grenada’s north coast and south-west of Ronde Island in the Grenadines. The top of the volcano lies below the water, so it can’t be seen from land or the air. The volcano is about 1,300m high and 300m wide at its summit, which is currently thought to be about 200m below the surface of the sea, according to the University of the West Indies (UWI) Seismic Research Center. It’s the only live submarine volcano in the Eastern Caribbean and has erupted at least 14 times in the last eight decades, the UWI says.

How active is it?

It first came to public attention with a major eruption in July 1939. The force of the eruption reportedly sent steam and debris flying high into the air. Since then Kick ‘Em Jenny has erupted several times but on a smaller scale – signs have only been seen on the surface twice since 1939, with other eruptions captured by seismographs. Most recently, the volcano erupted in April 2017.

What are the dangers?

The UWI says that during an eruption, water near the volcano can become rough and ships could be damaged by the ejection of rocks and ash. An extreme example of this happened to a Japanese research ship south of Tokyo in 1952, which was destroyed when it sailed over the vent of the erupting Myojin-sho volcano.  

What about tsunamis?

The UWI says while it is probable that large explosions or landslides at Kick 'Em Jenny could generate tsunamis, the threat “has been largely over exaggerated”. It says “not all eruptions at Kick 'Em Jenny will generate tsunamis and not all tsunamis will be large”. It said eruption tsunamis could become more likely in the future, however, if the volcano vent starts to grow closer to the surface of the water.

And gas emissions?

There’s a hidden danger for shipping. Volcanoes often emit large volumes of gas both during eruptions and before and after them. A concentration of gas bubbles can lower water density and so make it less buoyant – meaning that ships can sink. Scientists think this may explain what happened to the Island Queen, a wooden schooner carrying more than 60 people which disappeared without trace as it travelled between Grenada and St Vincent in August 1944. Because of this issue, a permanent 1.5 km maritime exclusion zone is in place around Kick ‘Em Jenny.

Where’s its name from?

The volcano was named after a nearby island called Diamond Rock. The UWI says the island used to be called Kick ’Em Jenny and the name is possibly related to the rough waters in the area.

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