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Surviving Galeras

by Stanley Williams Fen Montaigne

Through a harrowing first-person account of an eruption and its aftermath, SURVIVING GALERAS reveals the fascinating, high-risk realm of volcanology and explores the profound impact volcanoes have had on the earth's landscapes and civilizations. In 1993, Stanley Williams, an eminent volcanologist, was standing on top of a Colombian volcano called Galeras when it erupted, killing six of his colleagues instantly. As Williams tried to escape the blast, he was pelted with white-hot projectiles traveling faster than bullets. Within seconds he was cut down, his skull fractured, his right leg almost severed, his backpack aflame. Williams lay helpless and near death on Galeras's flank until two brave women -- friends and fellow volcanologists -- mounted an astonishing rescue effort to carry him safely off the mountain. The tale of how Williams survived Galeras is the framework for a groundbreaking book about volcanoes, their physical and cultural impact, and the tiny cadre of scientists who risk their own lives to gain knowledge that might one day save many others' lives. Volcanoes unleash supremely powerful, unpredictable forces, and we have paid dearly for our understanding of their behavior. Even with ever more sensitive measuring tools and protective equipment, at least one volcanologist, on average, dies each year. Yet Williams and his fellow scientist-adventurers continue to unveil the enigmatic and miraculous workings of volcanoes and to piece together methods for predicting their actions. Volcanologists often put themselves in peril, not only because the discipline attracts risk-takers but because they know that volcanoes threaten as many as 500 million people worldwide. For Seattle, Tokyo, Mexico City, Naples -- and for volcanologists -- the clock is ticking.

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