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.
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.