It was an amazing feeling to swim inside the Mount Pinatubo warm water knowing about its history:
It was almost summer of 1995. I had gone to a reunion of friends on our last days of high school. At about 10pm, after our party was over, we left the house and found something interesting. It was gray everywhere... almost like smoke but without a smell. All the cars were covered with this sandlike ash. We did not really pay attention until next morning. Then we learned that Popocatepetl, an active volcano that lies between Mexico City and Puebla, had erupted ans sent ashes everywhere.
This amazing event continued for over 15 years. The ashes ranged from very light and sandlike to almost pebblesized pieces that hurt when they hit you. The eruption produced a huge explosion once in a while and was also mixed with several earthquakes. My parents' house is still located about 30 miles from the "Popo."
I was only five years old when my parents took me and my sister Samantha to Hawai'i for our first big vacation. The scenery provided undoubtedly some of the most striking and beautiful memories of my life. "Paradise" doesn't do it justice. But one activity on our trip stands out amongst the rest, and that is when the four of us ventured down Haleakalā, the world's largest dormant volcano, on horseback and spent the night in the crater.
Please understand that my family is not very adventurous when it comes to nature. We don't do "the outdoors". So riding horses, hiking, and camping in a little hut in the middle of nowhere was not typically on our agenda. It was very risky for my parents, and it paid off.
Although we have volcanoes in Bolivia I believe there has never been an eruption since I remember...I do remember one time in Cochabamba, I think it was in November last year, that there was smoke and fire coming out from the land. Some people thought it was a sleeping volcano, but then geophysicists went there to study the land and they stated that it was only gases accumulating. : ) It was a relief for everyone.
Here's a picture.
I've hiked around a few volcanoes—in Hawaii, Ecuador, Mexico—but the biggest chill I got was a vicarious one while interviewing volcanologist John Ewert for a children's book. He and his team climbed atop a very restless Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in May 1991 to plant monitoring equipment. He told me they couldn't wait to get off that rock.
He and other observers smelled sulfur (the vents were belching gas), felt and heard periodic rumbling, and observed the strewn rocks and cracks of hiccups (a plugged vent exploding under pressure). The seismic recordings showed clear signs of big trouble ahead—which is what propelled the American team to join their Filipino counterparts.
John truly felt that his life was in danger.
What gave him—and me—chills, though, was his memory of the resident Aeta families, oblivious to that danger. Kids, women, men, elderly people—they stood watching the scientists with passive curiosity. John's voice rose and tensed as he told me how he tried to communicate what was about to happen to their mountain home. The language and cultural barriers proved too thick, and the scientists searched for a translator.
With Mount Etna erupting a few days ago (http://bostinno.com/2012/01/05/italys-mount-etna-erupts-watch-sicily-volcano-erupt-online-videos/) I am reminded of the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980. I lived in Seattle at the time and heard a great boom. I interpreted the sound as a car crashing into a building! Here's a link to an amazing video of the side of the mountain sliding away as it exploded (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgRnVhbfIKQ).
Mount Etna is one of the "World's most watched volcanoes" according to the article in the SEED Science Center.