Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A Visit to Wit's End

We owned a farm high in the mountains of Dominica where we planned an organic farming venture. Unfortunately, a massive landslide occurred after the hill beneath our land was undercut just prior to Hurricane Dean. One life has already been lost to this feat of engineering. What is left of our property is now unstable, unbuildable, and unfarmable.

When we bought this property it had many trees that have now also been lost to the slide. You could dig down over two feet and still find the richest topsoil imaginable, perfect for organic farming. And we had a local farmer enthusiastic to start work on our chemical free farm.

But that dream may be lost.

We finally went up again to view the damage at Wit's End. The views remain breathtaking, some of the best on the island.

But landslides continue on a nearly daily basis according to our neighbor, David. His ears are sharply attuned to the sounds of crashing slides, since he will probably lose his brand new house.

David's situation is additionally sad since he acts as foster father to a couple of Dominican children. These kids had just begun to settle into the security of a stable home, but now have to listen for the sounds of the hill falling away beneath their house. It makes your heart ache to see these youngsters who have already gone through so much only to face this.

This is the cliff left after the slide was cleared. This entire area used to be underneath our farm. I have heard this road may actually be opened to the public without the hill being stabilized. I hope that is not true.

The slide has now advanced up to where the build line for our house was located.

We have been out avidly looking for land, only to find that we will probably never again find the special combination of attributes that made Wit's End.

livingdominica: When we die, I hope we will finally go live on our farm at Wit's End and call it Paradise.


Tom said...

From the picture of the cliff, it appears to be dense clay, except for the top 8' which looks almost sandy.

The quickest way to stabilize this would be "benching". I don't think there's enough room though.

Another option would be grouted soil anchors, attatched to mesh and then Gunnited with water relief pipes to release ground water.

Of course all remedies cost money, which is probably the real problem

Is David looking for a new house as well?

Jen said...

Hi Tom!

The plan has been to do benching of the entire hill. Of course that has been said now for months without a start. In addition to money issues, there is an obvious lack of engineering skills. Last I heard they were hoping French engineers from Martinique would do it.

David is not looking fast enough to suit me!

Since you are obviously an engineer type, Tom, would you like to drive beneath this in your tour bus? Yikes! In addition to lack of engineering, they must not have risk management, either.

The Wizard said...

Some perspective on the picture that shows the cliff face. The cliff is approx. 150 ft high and the face has receded back from the original edge of the road, our property line, approx. 80 ft. We have (had?) 900 ft of road frontage, the two slide areas total almost 700 ft of that.