This was explained this to the pilot, a friendly canadian guy, who loved the idea.
There were five of us, two young police officers attached to the observatory, a scientist, the pilot and I, and we jumped in the helicopter and off we went.
The take off was amazing, the pilot made sure we got a roller coaster ride.
We flew from Vue Pointe Hotel, and I got a great picture of the hotel on the
It was a crystal clear day, and the volcano had no cloud over it, just throwing
up little puffs of steam occasionally. We flew to windy hill, where the pilot
claimed you could see the spine, but we couldn't. He went over the ridge at
windy hill very low, then dropped into the valley, turning my stomach as he did.
We continued up to the crater from below, which made for a very dramatic scene
as we rose up the outer wall until the dome came into view above the lip. Two
spines and castle peak were evident.
As we hovered high above the crater, we could see that there were two domes which were joining together, and there was a spine with a large crack in it . This spine, I had been informed had grown seven meters overnight. It was an impressive sight, and we were told on the radio that it had began to lean. It could be seen from Tar River where the scientists on foot were taking measurements. It obviously would not be long before it broke off and collapsed!
We made several passes on each side, so that all of us could get photos. I shot three rolls of film quickly, then sat back to enjoy the ride. The pilot decided to give me some special attention as the others has done this every day, but I was a new guy. He turn around and told me he would give me the tour. As the aircraft flew lower I realised that we were going into the crater . I was shown all the vents named for the date they showed up, and he described in detail that when the mud flow happened he was up there at the time and saw a flow of oil-like mud, very hot, gushing from the vent, and speed down the mountain into the Tar River area at 30 miles per hour, fifty feet wide, twenty feet deep. "You wouldn't get out of the way of that", he laughed. Ha ha, I thought.
Another close call had been when a large Phreatic eruption had tossed boulders a mile and a half away into Long ground. "We were up only a half an hour before that happened, close call", he added. I reminded myself to renew my life insurance policy before joining this team so quickly next time. I had seen a shot of a small pyroclastic flow captured the previous day, as a spine broke off and tumbled down the valley at great speed. Not something I wanted to get in the way of!
So I got to see all the landslides, vents, domes, spines, and the incredible Dante-like landscape covered in ash and rock, where there had been green foliage scarcely six months ago. Would it ever be the same again, I wondered?
soon the ride came to an end, and we sped off to the landing site. I
enjoyed the scenery immensely on this exceptionally clear day.
Next time I hope to bring a video camcorder, after all, getting photos processed in an evacuated town isn't a piece of cake!
Copyright Chris Mason 1995
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