Houghton Mifflin £19.99
Danger, drama, tragedy, inspiration – no, it's not the latest high-octane thriller from Tom Clancy, but rather the real-life account of a volcano expedition which resulted in the loss of nine lives. In 1993, geology Professor and eminent volcanologist Stanley Williams led a team of experts to the Colombian volcano of Galeras. While the scientists were busy carrying out a series of tests on the summit of the volcano, the unthinkable happened: the volcano erupted.
Caught in the midst of one of nature's most violent and volatile weapons, six scientists were killed instantly as Galeras spat out its lethal white-hot projectiles; Williams himself was fortunate to survive. The eruption left him with a fractured skull, his right leg almost completely severed and, of course, multiple horrific burns. But physical wounds can heal, it is the psychological injuries which are the most insidious...
Whether undertaken as an attempt to inform, to excite or simply for its cathartic value, Williams' account of the Galeras eruption is certainly engrossing. Managing to offset the esoteric jargon of volcanology with an appropriate degree of humanity, Williams and co-author Montaigne commendably resist the temptation to sensationalize the dramatic potential of the experience.
Critics of this book have expressed reservations about Williams' culpability in the tragedy of Galeras. Why was the team up there when evidence suggested that an eruption was imminent? Should Williams not be man enough to accept some responsibility for the loss of six of his colleagues' lives? Admittedly, these are valid questions. Ultimately however, 'Surviving Galeras' is an informative take on the vagaries of nature, and of the people who devote their working lives to the high-risk realm of volcanology.