Friday, April 16, 2010

Volcano Memories

The stories being told about the Icelandic volcano have made me remember our own volcano experience - not nearly as dramatic, but exciting at the time.

We were living in Quito, Ecuador at 9500 feet above sea level. Two volcanoes in the country, Pichincha and Tungurahua became active in 1999. My husband was the administrator of a hospital there and all kinds of disaster plans were written up and even practiced.

We lived about 30 minutes out of town in a relatively safe area. We told our friends they were welcome to come in case of an eruption, but bring water and toilet paper! My husband taught me some basic car maintenance like how to change an air filter because he knew that it would be my responsibility to get the children out of the city and home to safety while he would be busy at the hospital. We carried dust masks with us and used them periodically when the acrid ash clouds fell.

I taught school and what a nightmare that time was. Schools closed off and on as the alerts fluctuated. We had volcano drills instead of fire drills. Elaborate plans were drawn up to ensure the safety of our children. All the teachers made up packets of work for students to keep at home to enable education to continue.

October 7, 1999 school was out, but the teachers were required to come in for a staff meeting. Tim and I left the house around 7:30 am for the 30 minute commute. The children were all still sleeping, happy for a day at home. As we rounded a corner I looked up and could not believe what I was seeing. The mushroom cloud in the photo above had just begun, roiling and boiling above the horizon. Tim pulled over and we watched in awe. Of course, we had no camera. What amazed me was the speed with which this cloud ascended, all the while churning and swirling ferociously. The cloud at the point in the photo is about 15 miles high.

This was just a small explosion but amazing nonetheless. An enterprising photographer took the photo and made copies to sell on the street. I'm so glad I have this.

This extremely unclear photo, snapped with my digital camera from my scrapbook, shows our family in front of the other volcano. All the cloud you see in the background is volcanic. This volcano Tungurahua, showed pyroclastic flows, or lava. We really wanted to see it. So we, along with two other families, packed up our 4 x 4 vehicles (we borrowed one) with camping gear and set out on an adventure. We camped on a ridge opposite the mouth of the volcano which was on the side of the mountain rather than the top. A wide, deep valley separated us from the volcano.

We had a hot dog roast for dinner and then as night fell, we waited for the explosions. The first sign was the trembling of the earth as the rocks made their way up from the bowels of the mountain. We ran to the edge of the plateau to watch, cheering and clapping as molten rocks glowed red and orange, a bright gash against the dark mountain. It was a marvelous spectacle.

In the morning our tents were covered with black ash. We had gritty ash in our hair, our pores and every bit of clothing. Once we got home a hot shower was the BEST thing! Some people thought we were crazy, but I'm so glad we experienced this adventure. It's one of the things we talk about as a family.

Interestingly, I have small bottles of ash from both volcanoes and they are very different. One is grayer and finer, the other coarse and black. One of the memories I have of this trip is of the mighty power of God. Volcanoes are just a hint of his mightiness. And the recent eruption in Iceland is a reminder to me of that power.


  1. What an experience you had Lorrie..cannot even imagine..thanks for sharing..

  2. Now that's an adventurous side of you that your gentle persona hides!!
    What an experience for all of you to remember!

  3. What an incredible experience! I think we're all getting a hint of the Lord's mightiness these days. Thank you for sharing this story with us. I bet your family was taken back in an instant with the news from Iceland.

  4. In the early 90's we took a trip out west and visited Mt. St. Helens. The devastation was incredible! I couldn't get over the pumice rocks all over the place. That's as close as I would want to be to an active volcano!

  5. Good Morning Lorrie,

    I have to say that was VERY adventurous! I bet your family does have lots to recall from that experience.

    I agree that God shows us his majestic powers daily. Sometimes, they are a little more dramatic than others. I think that the earth is in travail, like a woman giving birth. My family lives on the New Madrid earthquake fault which rerouted the course of the Mississippi River. My prayer is that the earth settles down before it aggravates that area of the USA.

    I hope you are getting your house in order! I know that it is looking great.

    Thanks for sharing and have a great weekend.

  6. my thoughts exactly. we kind of forget that God cannot be controlled and He can *interrupt* and *disrupt* our lives when He so chooses. it helps remind me to be in AWE of Him!

  7. Wow, Lorrie. What an amazing experience you had!

  8. I can't imagine trying to teach and keep children focused when Mother Nature was having her way. What an amazing experience. Thanks for sharing. =) Also, thanks for stopping by. I do really appreciate it.

  9. Wow...what an incredible experience! My thoughts immediately went to Mt. St. Helen's...and the ash that descended over here. It's Sunday morning...and it was on a Sunday morning when Mt. St. Helen's blew...and I wondered what the massive explosion was. The force of nature...the awesome might of God...makes us realize how powerless we really are.

  10. Wow! Now that's a story not everyone can tell!

  11. Lorrie, I always enjoy hearing your stories from the mission field. (Catching up a little before going to our church conference this week.) What an adventure for your family. Love seeing the pictures. Yes, these natural disasters of late are great reminders that the Lord indeed is mighty and that our times are in His hands.



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