"I witnessed in Aug. 1905 the birth and subsequently the daily developments of the volcano now known as "O Le Mauga Mu"...The "Navigators" or Samoan Islands, lying in the Pacific Ocean in a Lat 13-14 degrees S & Long 168-173 degrees W are, as is well known to you, a group of volcanic origin-the group of Robert Louis Stevenson's fame...

On the evening of Aug. 4th a most terrific explosion brought me to the opening door of my native habitation, about eight miles as the crow flies, from the now famous volcano...I was prepared to find that the numerous earthquake shocks had at last culminated in a grand 'finale' and that I should find on all sides havoc, destruction and great fissures in the earth, in fine all those terrible scenes with which those who have been fortunate-or unfortunate-enough to witness a grand earthquake, are only too familiar.."
Reverend George Furlong, Methodist Missionary, Saleaula, Savai'i, Samoa

On August 4th 1905, my great grandfather Reverend George Furlong, Methodist Missionary in Western Samoa, experienced the full force of the volcanic explosions on the island of Savai'i. In a manuscript, kept by my father, his grandfather describes his experiences and refers to forty seven of his own photographs, now lost, which chart the slow destruction of the village of Salealua. The images explore the gradual immersion of the church buildings and the homes of the people, including three of his own. They are an illustration of his expeditions up to the fiery crater where he witnesses, explosions, fireballs and moving mountains.

Furlong's quest was twofold: to discover the cause and rate of locomotion in preparation for the evacuation of his parishioners to a new life on the island of Upolo and to measure the immediate danger to his people and his own family of three small children.

In 1999, I was awarded a travelling fellowship from The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust which enabled me to take a two month photographic expedition to Independent Samoa. The fellowship allowed me to realise my dreams and explore this microcosm of history through contemporary photographic pracice. With support from a variety of organisations I spent two months on fieldwork, retracing my great grandfathers expedition and living within the relocated community of Saleaula.

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