Recently I got what felt like a once in a life time experience. I got to see a volcano erupt. I got to stand under the ash cloud and have a rather idyllic lunch. My professor said that for him it this had happened four times before. This doesn’t happen very often.
As an aspiring geochemist/petrologist with a bent in volcanology, this was just incredible. Not to mention that I got to see an erupting volcano whilst carrying out research for my masters thesis, which involves studying old lava flows in Argentina. You spend a lot of time learning about these things in books, seeing pictures and written words, and all of a sudden my subject came to life right in front of me.
It smelt like rotten eggs. We could smell it from a few kms away. We saw the eruption from several 100 kms away, a small cloud shooting up from the ground. We pulled over, my field partner, professor and I, and we discussed if we had time to go and chase this volcano. It seemed that we did, though barely. We drove about 3 hours until we finally saw the volcano again. Three hours of excitedly scouring the landscape with our eyes as we drove closer and closer in the direction we thought the volcano might be in, hoping that we got it right.
And then we turned a certain bend, and there she was, erupting away. Then we saw the river, depositing iron oxide minerals as it flowed away from the volcano staining the riverbed an orange red colour. It was beautiful. Hard to get a picture of in a moving car though. Then the smell hit us. Sulfur, rotten eggs.
Then we got closer and saw the lakes. They were so blue. The camera did not do them justice. The thing about volcano’s is that the colours are just so intense, so vivid. Then we got out of the car and we climbed up a hill that gave us a good view, without us being too close to the eruption (too close being relative. I’m sure my mother thought I was far too close when I told her about it).
We sat there, ate our lunches and just watched the ash cloud billowing out, the snow on the volcano stained grey by falling ash.