Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Boom bang-a-bang

I don't doubt that many of the hundreds of thousands of people stranded by the unpronounceable volcano ash have had a miserable and expensive time of it. Shockingly - and I find this hard to believe given the coverage - some of them are not even British.

We all know people who have not been able to get back. My parents have been delayed in Cyprus for a week, my boss hasn't made it back from Tenerife and I've just had a lunch cancelled today with our features editor on the spurious grounds of her still being in South Africa. Oh yes, we've all suffered. It's a sandwich for me today.

But aren't all these tales of trauma a bit wimpy? Eyjafjallajokull is a mouthful of an opportunity, a chance of adventure, not just an inconvenience. When the snows grounded planes in January, I was meant to be travelling to Spain and France on a story. Instead, I went by train and it was fabulous fun, not least because I could introduce my Telegraph colleague to Bridge.

Sure, people are being fleeced for car hire and train fares, but there are always ways round it. Hitch-hike, steal a horse, buy a car (cheaper, surely, than paying £2,000 for a taxi), or just stay put and do some sight-seeing. Be adventurous.

If the Eyjafjallajokull stranded think they have it tough, be glad that this was only a baby volcano. The excellent Iconic Photos blog had this rare snap of Krakatoa (east of Java, southewestish of Borneo) exploding in 1883. Now that was a real blast.

The volcano erupted for four months, with four particular big bangs being heard as far away as western Australia (2,000 miles off), with a force 13,000 times the bomb that landed on Hiroshima. Ships a dozen miles away reported 10cm chunks of pumice falling on their decks.

Tsunamis from the sinking island spread ten miles inland and killed 36,000 people. Higher waves than normal were even detected in the English Channel. A thousand died under a cascade of hot ash. Global temperatures cooled by 1.2C for the next five years. We had some really cool sunsets.

Now that is a proper volcanic eruption. A bit of floating ash and a week extra on the beach is not quite the same ball park.

1 comment:

Angus Donald said...

Krakatoa is to the WEST of Java – the film title is wrong. I used to have holidays on the west coast of Java in the 1980s and we could see Krakatoa from out holiday cottage. Nice beach, actually.