By Marion Ali, Staff Reporter
Kick ’em Jenny, an active underwater volcano five miles north of Greneda in the Caribbean Sea, has started to give off warning signs of probable eruption, an event that scientists say could sink ships in its vicinity.
Officials have raised its threat level to orange – the second highest warning notice which means possible eruption in less than 24 hours.
The Seismic Research Centre at the University of the West Indies says Kick ’em Jenny started stirring on July 11, and has produced more than 200 small earthquakes since then.
Kick ’em Jenny poses a hazard to ships and Grenadians, even though it is about 600 feet below the ocean’s surface.
Scientists have set up an exclusion zone for ships to navigate around the volcano to reduce risks. Recreational ships must stay at least three miles away from the summit of the volcano.
If it erupts, Kick ’em Jenny could displace seawater and produce a tsunami, though scientists say the risks of that are relatively low. If an eruption causes a tsunami, it is likely to be small and confined to nearby islands. But other risks to shipping and marine vessels in the region are especially significant.
Underwater or submarine volcanoes release huge amounts of gas into the sea during eruptions and at times, in between eruptions, during a process called degassing. Such gas bubbles lower water density and can cause ships to lose buoyancy and sink.
In addition to putting ships at risk of sudden sinking, an eruption could throw hot rocks up through the water and three miles into the air and these can significantly damage or destroy ships.
Grenada’s worst maritime disasters occurred as a result of degassing from the Kick ’em Jenny volcano when it erupted in 1944. At least 60 people died when a ship sank with them on board.
Kick ’em Jenny has erupted a dozen times since it was discovered in 1939 its last eruption occurring in 2001.