The Galeras volcano is in Colombia, and on a fateful day in 1993, it caught many scientists and tourists milling around its crater-rim by surprise with a little mini-eruption. I, too, remember reading the horrific accounts:
“I heard this huge boom, and then rocks the size of televisions started falling around us,” recalled Dr. Andrew McFarlane, a geologist at Florida International University who had got beyond the crater. Dr. McFarlane suffered a broken foot, bruises on his legs and badly burned hands from climbing over burning rocks.
Dr. Williams, fleeing the crater’s rim, pounded by flying rocks, ran as far as he could down the volcanic slope before his broken legs gave way. He took shelter from the weakening eruption behind large rocks. After an hour, a second volcanic blast hurled aloft new boulders that he successfully dodged.’
Dr. Stanley Williams led the party that day, and wrote a book entitled ‘Surviving Galeras‘ in its wake about continuing to press-on despite the tragedy. Excerpt from his book here. Fascinating reading.
Remarkably, like the predictability of extreme weather events, understanding of what helps cause volcanic eruptions is getting much better due to the work of vulcanologists everywhere.
*As a side note…I remember standing across from the Mt. St Helens crater at the Johnston Ridge Observatory, witnessing the scope of destruction some 30 years on, feeling a sense of awe, fascination, a desire for more knowledge, mixed with fear and continuing thoughts at my own sudden smallness and cosmic insignificance when measured against such forces. It can be humbling.
***My uncle tells a story about passing north on I-5 over the Toutle River bridge some days afterwards, and seeing a horse carcass, upright and stuck in the volcanic mud and ash-flow that flowed down from the mountain.
That image has stuck with me.
I found a few Flickr photos of debris in that area.