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on 19 August 2015
I have refrained from commenting about the Galeras tragedy for many years. I personally knew several of those involved and it still pains many of us that someone who claims to be interested in saving life was so reckless with the lives of others. Williams for a long time after claimed that he and he alone survived Galeras's explosion and even went so far as to refer to others who had survived as liars. I don't like his book for it is record of someone who seeks glory for himself. What came out of the incident (which Williams tries to claim as his doing) - was several mandatory requirements for volcanologists when working on or near active volcanoes. A hard hat and fire-proof clothing (which Williams considered "Sissy"), a radio system to enable people to keep in contact, early entry into a crater and restricted time spent in it, and out before dark, a First Aid kit and training in treating burns, a record of who entered the crater, the numbers entering the crater restricted and most of all a check before on the seismic record. Williams KNEW that "Tornillo's" - long period seismic signals that resemble a tapering screw were being observed - but he failed to disclose their existence to others, but he claimed that no seismic indications were observed which has since been proved to be wrong - He knew!. Even though the science behind the tornillo's was in its infancy it had been shown to be accurate in indicating that a volcano was about to explode. His own ego would not let him contact the one person who could have clarified the situation, even if he didn't want to he could have asked someone else to make that contact, but he didn't! The science did not suit Williams - so in a typical manner it became "NOT DISCOVERED / INVENTED BY ME, THEREFORE OF NO USE." My own opinion is that Williams is a disgrace to the scientific community, he should have been stripped of all academic appointments, he should have faced a trial and been made to explain why he as leader of the expedition ended up with 9 people dead. He has to live with his actions. This book should be in every volcanologist's library as a lesson on how not to organise a field trip. For anyone contemplating a career as a volcanologist this book should be compulsory reading and you should be able to recite the reasons why it went so tragically and horribly wrong. The lesson of Galeras is simple - treat all volcanoes with respect. If you want a true and detached account of the tragedy I would recommend that you read "No Apparent Danger" by Victoria Bruce.
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on 18 April 2007
This book is truly fascinating and a must read for those wanting to study volcanoes in the field (even if it is just to provide some perspective on the dangers) and also for those who just want to learn more about this little appreciated field of endeavour.

The actual account of what happened on Galeras is truly frightening, it is also rewarding if harrowing to hear the real graphic details of what happened and how the survivors different accounts vary. The account of his life after the incident and how he perhaps took to much fame from the incident, which lead to segregation from the scientific community, as well as how his brain injuries meant that he just seemed unable to produce the quality of research he had previously is interesting - not to mention the deterioration of his relationship with his wife.

Perhaps most interesting is the descriptions of how field volcanology was done only a few years back in the mid-90s that perhaps made the situation worse than it was - for example virtually no one was wearing hard hats and heat resistant clothing, it is tragic this incident had to occur to change this.

There are however a few things missing from this book (and perhaps understandably), most importantly is the fact that Stanley Williams was a volcanic gas specialist (along with most of the volcanologists on Galeras) and he appeared to ignore some seismic precursors before the eruption, that probably wouldn't have been by volcanologists. Whilst it is unlikely he did this deliberately, some responsibility has to be partioned due to ignorance. This subject is not really touched on in the book, for this read 'No Apparent Danger'.

On a more general note the book also suffers some off-the-point waffle about volcanoes, mythology etc that to be honest can be found in any popular science volcanology book, so add nothing to this book. It would have been better with just the account about Galeras and the aftermath, this would have lead to a shorter, harder, more readable account deserving of 5 stars I believe.

I recommend the reading of this book with 'No Apparent Danger' by Victoria Bruce to hear both sides of the aftermath and make up your own mind about it.
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on 18 April 2007
This book is truly fascinating and a must read for those wanting to study volcanoes in the field (even if it is just to provide some perspective on the dangers) and also for those who just want to learn more about this little appreciated field of endeavour.

The actual account of what happened on Galeras is truly frightening, it is also rewarding if harrowing to hear the real graphic details of what happened and how the survivors different accounts vary. The account of his life after the incident and how he perhaps took to much fame from the incident, which lead to segregation from the scientific community, as well as how his brain injuries meant that he just seemed unable to produce the quality of research he had previously is interesting - not to mention the deterioration of his relationship with his wife.

Perhaps most interesting is the descriptions of how field volcanology was done only a few years back in the mid-90s that perhaps made the situation worse than it was - for example virtually no one was wearing hard hats and heat resistant clothing, it is tragic this incident had to occur to change this.

There are however a few things missing from this book (and perhaps understandably), most importantly is the fact that Stanley Williams was a volcanic gas specialist (along with most of the volcanologists on Galeras) and he appeared to ignore some seismic precursors before the eruption, that probably wouldn't have been by volcanologists. Whilst it is unlikely he did this deliberately, some responsibility has to be partioned due to ignorance. This subject is not really touched on in the book, for this read 'No Apparent Danger'.

On a more general note the book also suffers some off-the-point waffle about volcanoes, mythology etc that to be honest can be found in any popular science volcanology book, so add nothing to this book. It would have been better with just the account about Galeras and the aftermath, this would have lead to a shorter, harder, more readable account deserving of 5 stars I believe.

I recommend the reading of this book with 'No Apparent Danger' by Victoria Bruce to hear both sides of the aftermath and make up your own mind about it.
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on 16 April 2007
This book is truly fascinating and a must read for those wanting to study volcanoes in the field (even if it is just to provide some perspective on the dangers) and also for those who just want to learn more about this little appreciated field of endeavour.

The actual account of what happened on Galeras is truly frightening, it is also rewarding if harrowing to hear the real graphic details of what happened and how the survivors different accounts vary. The account of his life after the incident and how he perhaps took to much fame from the incident, which lead to segregation from the scientific community, as well as how his brain injuries meant that he just seemed unable to produce the quality of research he had previously is interesting - not to mention the deterioration of his relationship with his wife.

Perhaps most interesting is the descriptions of how field volcanology was done only a few years back in the mid-90s that perhaps made the situation worse than it was - for example virtually no one was wearing hard hats and heat resistant clothing, it is tragic this incident had to occur to change this.

There are however a few things missing from this book (and perhaps understandably), most importantly is the fact that Stanley Williams was a volcanic gas specialist (along with most of the volcanologists on Galeras) and he appeared to ignore some seismic precursors before the eruption, that probably wouldn't have been by volcanologists. Whilst it is unlikely he did this deliberately, some responsibility has to be partioned due to ignorance. This subject is not really touched on in the book, for this read 'No Apparent Danger'.

On a more general note the book also suffers some off-the-point waffle about volcanoes, mythology etc that to be honest can be found in any popular science volcanology book, so add nothing to this book. It would have been better with just the account about Galeras and the aftermath, this would have lead to a shorter, harder, more readable account deserving of 5 stars I believe.

I recommend the reading of this book with 'No Apparent Danger' by Victoria Bruce to hear both sides of the aftermath and make up your own mind about it.
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In his quest for knowledge that could save thousands of lives, Williams entered where most would fear to tread, the crater of an active volcano. Like others before him, he was caught by whimsical nature of this most awesome phenomenon. It erupted, taking the lives of six of his colleagues; Williams was perched just over the rim of the crater. Williams, to his own amazement, survived, but remains of some of his friends and co-workers were never found. This book is a testament to the few courageous scientists around the world who climb and investigate these capricious mountains. Williams captivates the reader with the subject of volcanology and descriptions of those who brave the risks to study the goddess Pele's offspring.
In telling his own story of risk, injury and survival, Williams recounts his life and his colleagues' around the world. They come from many lands - Russia, Italy, Columbia and other regions beset by earth's upheavals. Williams, almost an anomaly as a native of Illinois - far from any volcanic activity [except, perhaps, politically], is intensely dedicated to the science. He describes the various volcanic processes and the impact volcanoes have had down the ages. The aim of the studies is to learn how to forecast eruptions. A major success in that endeavour was the saving of thousands of lives when the Philippine mountain Pinatubo erupted in 1991. Galeras, the Columbian volcano that nearly took Williams life, is neighbour to a town of three hundred thousand, Pasto. Attempts to instill evacuation programmes there was met with derision and resentment - it would hurt business.
Williams' accounts of volcano disasters make enthralling reading. From Pliny the Younger's attempt to rescue his uncle during Pompeii's famous outburst to modern eruptions, the failure of human populations to accommodate the threat are vivid examples of short-sighted views. Williams stresses the obvious threats, lava flows, "pyroclastic" flows of mud, ash and rocks mixed with toxic gases. He also recounts poorly recognized after effects the debris can evoke - chemical poisonings and crop and herd losses. Famine is a regular result of volcanic activity. Volcanoes are capable of global climate impact, the most famous being the 1815 Tambora explosion resulting in New England's "Year Without A Summer" which devastated crops and herds over wide areas. Williams attributes the wave of Western expansion to the impact of an eruption "a world away."
As a combined personal account and scientific study, there are few faults in this book. One can only hope someone derives a synonym for "pyroclastic flows" someday. Williams feelings about the event and the subsequent lives of the survivors are told with intense feeling. One can only sympathise with his distress at losing friends and co-workers and how the families bore up under the stress. His historical accounts cover both fact and mythology. Strangely, although Williams describes many of the gods associated with vulcanism, he omits the only American deity - Pele. As capricious as the Hawaiian goddess is, Williams reminds us that the island volcanoes don't threaten explosive eruptions. While that might offer some mild comfort to that State, Mammoth Mountain in California remains an unheralded threat to thousands in the Golden State. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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on 29 August 2001
I devoured this book over 2 days. Stanley Williams and his co-authour have written both a clear and sensitive account of the explossion on Galeras and an excellent introduction to vulcanology. He is careful in trying to place the event in the context of the lives that were lost and affected by the relativly small yet so destructive erruption in 1993. The historical information given on previous explossions from numerous other volcanos is extremely interesting especially their global effects on weather and even social history.
There is also a clear explanation of the formation of volcanos that I can now describe to my children!
My only critisim might be that his desire to learn more about the families of those killed could appear a little intrussive.
In conclussion a highly interesting book that gives a picture of an event from many different perspectives
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on 1 September 2014
good read holds the interest
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on 1 March 2015
Good price, okay condition
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on 2 August 2001
This book kept me glued for the weekend. It not only describes the horror of trying to survive a volcanic eruption, but is also very informative and contains a wealth of historical references to volcanoes through the ages.
It was upsetting to read what the volcanologists endured whilst trying to escape the Galeras eruption, but it also shows the true bravery of these people. A profession that, on the whole, goes quite unrecognised.
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on 7 August 2001
This book kept me glued for the weekend. It not only describes the horror of trying to survive a volcanic eruption, but is also very informative and contains a wealth of historical references to volcanoes through the ages. It was upsetting to read what the volcanologists endured whilst trying to escape the Galeras eruption, but it also shows the true bravery of these people. A profession that, on the whole, goes quite unrecognised.
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