woensdag 13 februari 2013

Surviving Galeras - Stanley Williams - Fen Montaigne

When I was at mt Stromboli and felt the ruble of the earth shaken my feet and heard the sound of the blast of the eruption, seeing the violent force of the magma exploding from the crater, yellow and red from the heat in the pitchdark night, the wind whistling around me and holding my blue helmet for dear life, I wondered weather we were supposed to be there, on the top of a vulcano. The forces at work are so extreme, it is so unworldly, that maybe, we humans, should not be there, and leave the powers of the middle earth to do what they want to.

Reading this book I was suprised really at how ill prepared the scientist were in case of an eruption. They did not wear helmets, or fireresistent cloathing. They did not bring anything warm, like a thermoblanket or something, in case of an emergency and had really no idea what to do in case of an emergency. Suddenly, scientist were bolting in all directions. "No one said run, and no one said anything about the vulcano," recalled Marta. "But people just started to run." Some scientist even came on sneakers to climb the vulcano. They were sent back, but they should have know better.
Even on the rescuemission, when the vulcano had erupted and no one knew if it would erupt again, the two ladyscientist who climbed the vulcano in an attempt to save the others, were not wearing anything protective.
Not that any of this would have saved the scientist in the crater or on the southern rim, but maybe the wounded would have been less wounded. As someone said in the book "we did not pay any respect." She meant this, according to Stanley Williams, in a sort of mystical way, but I feel she was right in this. They did not pay any respect to the danger, to the fact that you can climb the vulcano, but it is still your master. The border between being a scientist and being a thrillseeker is more than just collecting data.
Having said this, I did like the book. Its gripping, although egocentric, and has a good combination of history of vulcanic eruptions and the story of the eruption of Galeras (a really small one, as Stanley Williams states himself) and the rescue of some of the scientists. Some of the persons on the vulcano did stay more or less that, persons on the vulcano, the scientist with the gravimeter, or gassbottleguy, etcetera.

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