As expected, eruption number THREE of 2010 began last night, and lava continues to spew from the volcano’s northwest slopes today. (Read about the new eruption and exercise your French geology vocabulary in this article from the local news).
And just in time for the weekend!
UPDATE: Less than 24 hours after it began, the seismic activity and spurts of lava have already died down. The eruption is over, and my hopes for an exciting weekend dashed!
Due to renewed seismic activity at the Piton de la Fournaise volcano in the southeast of Réunion on Thursday morning, authorities have issued yet another imminent eruption alert, preempting what could be the third volcanic event of the year and the second since my arrival in September. Will I be waking up to lava on Christmas morning this year rather than snow? Stay tuned…
The eruption ended last week. But check out this image from the NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day! (the science geek’s answer to cuteoverload.com?)
First it was the volcano. Then came a historic wildfire on the west side of the island. High schoolers around the country are on strike and provoking intervention by riot police. Then Wednesday afternoon I find out Saint Pierre is under a Tsunami Warning?? Apparently a massive swell triggered by the earthquake in Indonesia smashed into the Saint Pierre harbor some time in the middle of the night on Tuesday and sank a large number of boats. The new apartment I have moved into is less than 100m from the shore and somehow I didn’t even know about this until well after the fact. (Here’s an article from the local paper: http://www.clicanoo.re/11-actualites/16-faits-divers/261955-tsunami-une-faille-dans-le-plan-de.html)
Since I last wrote, Reunion Island has gotten a lot more extreme. Natural disasters for everyday of the week and mounting social tension as the French Senate continues passing the controversial Pension Reform. I am supposed to be at school right now, but the teachers have gone on strike, so instead I’m at the beach.
Also, every October the island gears up for a giant race called the Grand Raid which takes place over several days. Its a race for the craziest of the crazies. You start running at midnight on the southeast coast of the island, pass the volcano (mind the lava), traverse the 10,000 foot peaks of the interior, and 165km later descend to the coast on the north side of the island. Several thousand participants come from all over the world (meaning, mainland France) to run it, and it’s either very inspiring or makes you feel very lazy about yourself.
Here are some images from my past week:
A second night on the volcano. We hitchhiked there from Saint Pierre holding pictures of the lava from the local newspaper to solicit drivers going in that direction.
The view from my new kitchen table.
The Volcano (Piton de la Fournaise) at dawn.
Saint Pierre, Reunion
10 liters of gas to drive the sketchy mountain roads of the interior between the hours of 11PM and 5AM: $20
1 bag of imitation European marshmallows, a Reunionese chocolate bar, and “biscuits”: $8
Witnessing the Piton de la Fournaise erupt under the starry southern sky and pretending to make s’mores over molten lava: priceless
Professional photography of the eruption so far:
The Prefecture of Reunion has issued a level 1 alert, signaling a “probable or imminent” eruption of Piton de la Fournaise volcano on the southeast of the island, approximately 20 miles from Saint Pierre where I’m living. Rather than being concerned, this extra vigilance has the Reunionese EXTREMELY EXCITED. Eruptions here happen almost once a year and pose little threat to the safety of the island, or that’s what they say at least. We will see! I have two weeks of vacation starting today, so I have nothing to do but look east towards the volcano (I can’t actually see it from here though). Stay tuned for the latest developments.
I’m finally on the island! Yes, it is paradise.
I haven’t been able to write anything about my trip to Yemen (and Paris), but I’ll offer a quick summary. Yemen is HOT.
In all seriousness, it is very, very, uncomfortably hot. Nonetheless, I had an incredible time getting to know the city of Aden and the extinct volcanic crater in which it sits with my friend Matt, who lives there. I hope winter comes soon for him.
And now, I have settled into the house of an English Teacher I’ll be working with for the next 7 months on the south coast of the island. On the day of my arrival, apparently the very active volcano on the southeast coast began to rumble and the vigilance of local authorities has been heightened towards detecting possible eruptions in the near future. Some sources are calling for an “imminent” eruption. The last eruption was less than a year ago (in January) and lasted approximately 10 days, spewing rocks and lava here and there but not affecting life on the island at all. This seems to be normal?? Here’s an article in French: http://www.lequotidien.re/actualites/en-direct/139118-le-volcan-bouge-encore.html
Speaking of imminent eruptions, I am reminded of the concern one of Matt’s friends in Aden expressed over social and political instability in South Yemen. It is an unfortunate and volatile situation that hopefully will not end in violence. In short, South Yemen was an independent country under a communist regime until unification with North Yemen in 1991. Since then, the capital has been located in Sana’a in the north, and citizens of the south have not responded well to northern control, including a bloody civil war in 1994. There is much more to the story that I do not know about, but recent events in the Hawta region of the South are alarming (see NYTimes article here http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/22/world/middleeast/22yemen.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=Yemen&st=cse). Despite all that, Matt made an interesting observation that he sees nothing on the ground there to suggest that there is any kind of building unrest. Hopefully that is a good sign that, unlike the crater on Reunion, the crater in Yemen will remain quiet.