Friday, April 15, 2005



If you have seen a picture of Jamestown you will realise that it is situated in a narrow, steep valley. What most pictures do not make clear is the number of rocks that overhang the valley, and the fact that, after rain, they can become unstable and come crashing down.

Not long ago a 3 ton rock put the Ann’s Place restaurant out of action for a month by crashing through the roof, and one afternoon we were evacuated from the bank while the Rock Guards investigated some above our part of town. It’s been raining again and we now have a few more rocks to worry about.

Since yesterday Ladder Hill, the main route out of Jamestown to Half Tree and the east, has been closed because of a group of precarious rocks above China Lane, the point at which Ladder Hill arrives in Upper Jamestown. All traffic on that side has had to use Shy Road, an older and much narrower route. Yesterday, in an attempt to prevent accidents, the police set up a one-way system: traffic could only leave Jamestown between 4pm and 4:30pm, and could only travel down between 4:30pm and 5pm. They would have set up temporary traffic lights but the island doesn’t have any (it doesn’t have any permanent ones either).

To make matters worse, at about 6pm a lorry (carrying guess what – yes, rocks) overturned on Side Path, the other route out of Jamestown, and blocked the road for two hours. It didn't help that the lorry was, according to Saint FM News, 50% overloaded.

Then, at 5:15 this morning a large amount of rock fell down the hill just above the landing stage and landed in the back of the (old) customs offices. The fishermen had set off only a short while before and, as there are no ships in at present nobody was around. If it had happened yesterday, during the loading or unloading of the cruise-ship load of elderly tourists, we could have had a major emergency on our hands.

So far it seems there have been no significant injuries from any of this. I gather the lorry driver had a few bruises, though he might have had a few more if the people who were stuck for two hours had known what caused the accident.

The Rock Guards run regular patrols to check for unstable boulders and then evacuate the area and try to send them down in a ‘controlled’ way, though the extent to which 200 tons of falling rock can be said to have been ‘controlled’ is a matter of some dispute. Currently for the China Lane operations they have been collecting scrap metal and old tyres and trying to form a barrier. Everyone who has an old rusty container in their garden (which a surprising number do) has been asked to sell it to the government for use as part of the barrier. What they plan to do afterwards with a collection of squashed containers has not been announced.

As a PS, I just had to retype some of this because, in the process of trying to power down the area of the rock operations, someone pulled the wrong lever and blacked out half of Jamestown. I may save up and buy them some sticky paper to label the switches.

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