MOUNT CAMEROON

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MARCH 1999 Mt. Cameroon erupts for the 6th time this century
Reproduced from BBC FOCUS ON AFRICA

One of the highest mountains in West Africa at 4,100 metres (13,500').

An active volcano, it has erupted six times this century, the latest event being in March 1999.

The last previous eruption was in 1982 during the filming on the mountain of Greystokes The Legend of Tarzan.

The mountain is host to many exotic birds and plants,many of the plants being used for medicinal purposes.

Each year a race is held on Mount Cameroon, where competitors, who arrive from all over the world, run up and down the mountain. The best time to date is about 4.45 hours, and Camerounians have been invincible so far. Tourists can climb the mountain by arrangement. They usually climb to about 900m below the summit the first day, then reach the top the next morning, and descend in about three hours. Only sports gear is required, but it can be very cold near the top (over 13,000 feet). Climbers should take a bottle with a message in it, to leave at the summit. Also be wary of stone throwing monkeys, and please do not souvenir anything from the mountain- it would be offensive to the local people, and bring the ire of the mountain gods. It is truly an inspiring spectacle, and only an hour from Douala.

During this century, a number of aircraft on approach to Douala have crashed into the mountain, the last being in 1963, when a DC6 hit the mountain with the death of 44 on board. The aircraft still juts out of the side of the mountain as a permanent memorial to the crash victims.

The mountain is held in awe by the local villagers, and it is believed that an eruption is caused by either the death of a chief, or the presence on the mountain of outsiders. The scientific explanation holds little credibility in the region. By coincidence a chief has died prior to the last two eruptions, reinforcing tribal beliefs.

Lake Nyos Disaster. In the volcanic region of West Cameroon, Lake Nyos, located in the rim of an old volcano, was responsible for a catastrophe on 21st August 1986. A massive cloud of carbon dioxide gas was expelled by the lake, with such velocity that vegetation and some trees were leveled. The cloud traveled up to 25 kilometres from the site. 1 700 people lost their lives, and 845 were hospitalised. The lake is the subject of ongoing research.

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