The Surviving Storms | Caribbean Cyclone Cartography
project maps hurricane hazards,
and repair in the island
of Dominica, Eastern Caribbean.
On the 18th September 2017, Dominica was struck by category 5 Hurricane Maria. Lives were lost, families traumatised, homes and livelihoods were damaged.
Months later Dominica’s government vowed to make the island the world’s first ‘climate resilient nation’ by strengthening emergency response systems, infrastructure, house building and tourism facilities.
As the years roll on and lives are reassembled planetary warming continues to produce longer and more intense hurricane seasons there. So there is a need to better understand how Dominican people prepared for, survived and recovered from Maria and earlier storms – like David (in 1979) or Erika (in 2015). This site is a transdisciplinary public archive. I reveals how islanders understand the hazards embedded in their mountainous landscape, as well as prepare for and recover from storms.
The site features a map – which contains stories and hazard data – to stand as an archive of risk and repair, an open-source prototype which fellow Small Island Developing States can apply to tell their own stories of, and for, survival in a warming world.
Like tributaries to a river the project is divided into 6 streams, each with its own distinctive focus and methods:
Surviving Storms Past
Draws on archival research and female farmers’ oral histories to understand historic hurricane experiences and processes of recovery
Still Standing: The Ti Kai Survey
Uses photography, architectural drawing and inhabitant interviews to tell the story of Dominica’s hurricane-adapted vernacular dwellings, or ti kais (kweyol, ‘small houses’)
Dominica Story Project
Applies ethnographic filmmaking techniques to tell community-based stories of post Maria repair
Showcases arts-based interventions that have emerged in the wake of Maria, Ericka, David and other storms, by documenting the work of visual artists, calypsonians and poets.
Mapping Hurricane ‘Resilience’
Uses GIS mapping to locate and visualise cyclone related hazards, vulnerabilities and adaptations in select communities.
Water Harvesting Project
Supports community households and farmers in building affordable hurricane hardy water tanks for harvesting and filtering potable rainwater.
The project Team
Dr Annabel WilsonResearch Associate & Project Manager Goldsmiths University of London
Farah NibbsResearch Assistant Disaster Research Centre
Adom Philogene HeronPrincipal Investigator Lecturer in Anthropology, Goldsmiths University
Abibat KareemProject Administrator Goldsmiths University of London
Gabrielle C AbrahamGIS Research Associate UWI Mona Geoinformatics Institute
Ava MaxamDeputy Director UWI Mona Geoinformatics Institute
Schuyler EspritFounding Director of Create Caribbean Research Institute & Research Officer School of Graduate Studies and Research at UWI Open Campus
Cecilia A. GreenAssociate Professor Department of Sociology, Syracuse University
Surviving Storms Past: archives and oral history
Led by Cecilia Green
This area of work has two sub-streams:
I. Archival research to create a digital special collection of historical records about past hurricanes in Dominica, furnished with a series of contemporary reflections by an archive-based intern who is surveying these records
II. Oral history research to create an archive of Dominican female farmers narratives of how they have navigated historical storms, banana export demise, and the long-term effects of planetary warming. This sub-stream partners the North Eastern Women’s famers group with the I Have a Right Foundation (a local girlhood empowerment NGO) by training the latter in research methods who will gather the oral testimonies of the elder female farmers.
Still Standing: the ti kai survey
Co-led by Adom Philogene Heron, in collaboration with Dominican Architect Olive M. Bell, SHAPE (a Dominican heritage NGO) and local architecture students
This survey of Dominica’s vernacular ti kais (kweyol: ‘small houses’) uses photography, inhabitant interviews and architectural design to tell the story of these hurricane adapted and sustainably built traditional dwellings.
The Dominica Story Project
Led by Schuyler Esprit
This workstream applies ethnographic filmmaking techniques to tell community-based stories of post-Maria survival, recovery and repair. The goal is to invite community members to participate in the ethnographic practice of documenting their experiences and increase public education and awareness around the impacts of the climate emergency on Caribbean communities.
Co-led by Schuyler Esprit and Adom Philogene Heron
This workstream showcases arts-based interventions that have emerged in the wake of Maria, Ericka, David and other storms, by documenting the work of visual artists, calypsonians and poets. We invite these artists to reflect on the significance of the work – its engagements withs such themes as repair, trauma, hope, humour and restoration, in the context of climate change. This work aims to make more visible the connections between art, expression and social justice as we consider the possibilities/limits of climate resilience.
Mapping Hurricane ‘Resilience’
Led by Ava Maxam and undertaken by Gabrielle Abraham at Mona Geoinformatics Institute (MGI, University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica)
This workstream surveys cyclone related hazards, vulnerabilities and adaptations in select communities. The team will create multi-layered maps which identify flood, landslide, sea surge and other storm related hazards; it will locate homes, farms, infrastructure, churches businesses and so on, that may be affected by them; as well as highlighting localised adaptative responses to limit damage/support recovery. The workstream uses maps and data visualisations to supports local populations and disaster response agencies to better understand hazard hotspots, high risk communities and promote awareness of the specific dangers hurricanes pose at a local level.
Rainwater Harvesting Project
In the wake of hurricanes safe drinking water is often scarce. Dominica has many fresh springs (referred to as the ‘sous’) but these may be difficult to access for some communities; and as climate change presents prologued droughts, there may be a scarcity of fresh water for farming too. This workstream, led by Farah Nibbs, supports community members in building affordable hurricane hardy water tanks for harvesting and filtering rainwater. We will host practical workshops to build two water tanks from accessible materials (cement, sand, chicken wire etc); and develop a practical guide on how to build them.