Saturday, February 25, 2006

Man tells story about how he survived volcano eruption while climbing the volcano!

THE title of his Huddersfield talk is a flamboyant one: How To Get Blown Off A Volcano In Ecuador!

But Richard Snailham, from Windsor, is very much in the tradition of reticent British heroes.
It was August 1976 when he was one of a party of six Britons caught about 1,000ft from the top of the Sangay volcano in Ecuador when it suddenly erupted.

Official accounts state that the explosion dropped blocks up to 14in in diameter on the group.
Richard says matter-of-factly: "We slithered 2,000 ft down."

The lucky ones were Richard and one of his fellow climbers. They only had arm injuries. Richard says he broke his right elbow: "I have never had an elbow on that arm since."

But at least they were mobile. They spent some time in a ravine but eventually they emerged from the smoke, ash and dust on the 17,154ft mountain into sunshine.

Of the four people left behind on the mountain, two later died from their injuries.

The isolated Sangay volcano, about 25 miles north-west of the town of Macas and its 30,000 inhabitants, is considered by many to be the most active one in South America and indeed currently one of the world's more active volcanoes.

Because of its remoteness records are poor but it is known to have had periods of almost continuous eruptions from 1728 till 1916 and from 1934 to present times.

During the day it is often seen as a smoking snowcapped volcano, while at night a reddish halo exudes from inside the largest of its three craters, the one from where eruptions take place.
The following year, 1977, Richard wrote The Sangay Tragedy in Geographical Magazine and in 1978 brought out his book Sangay Survived: The story of the Ecuador volcano disaster.
Some 20 years later, at the insistence of his wife Christina, a medical doctor, he went back to Sangay to exorcise the ghost of the tragedy.

You can't help wondering if that was strictly necessary.

For Richard, who worked for 25 years as senior lecturer at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, is today a seasoned traveller as well as the writer of several books on his adventures.
He has taken part in expeditions to Mongolia, Honduras, Chile and Zaire and now leads tour groups to Bolivia, Peru and Ethiopia.

For six years he was honorary foreign secretary of the Royal Geographical Society. Now he is chairman of the Anglo-Ethiopian Society.

He's friends with famous explorer adventurers like John Blashford-Snell - and he has a good few Huddersfield connections.

Another of his explorer friends is Peter Drake of Brockholes - and he will be staying with him during this Huddersfield visit.

And his words in Bath in 2000 at a Royal Geographical Society lecture on Ethiopia inspired John Broadbent, of Golcar, into a personal crusade to trace the footsteps of his great grandfather, colour sergeant John McGrath, who fought at the battle of Magdala in Ethiopia in 1868.

John is a leading member of the Huddersfield and Halifax branch of the Geographical Association who will be hosting Richard's lecture - along with the Royal Geographical Society.

It will not be the first time that Richard has spoken to the Geographical Association.

He gave the first lecture of the 2002-2003 season with a talk Out Of Bolivia about an expedition he shared with Col John Blashford-Snell in 1998-99.

The idea was to prove that there must have been contact between the Tiwanaku people on the shores of Lake Titicaca deep in South America, on the Peru-Bolivia border, and the ancient Egyptians thousands of miles away.

What other explanation could there be for tobacco and the coca plant turning up in ancient Egypt many, many centuries before Europeans found them in the New World?

The expedition proved that the native reed boats could navigate their way from the high Andes to the Atlantic coast of South America.

The world is still waiting for some intrepid navigator to fill in the last part of the puzzle by proving that it is possible to sail - as Thor Heyerdahl famously did earlier with transatlantic reed-boat voyages - round the Cape of Good Hope to the Red Sea.

* The illustrated lecture, How To Get Blown Off A Volcano In Ecuador! by Richard Snailham, is being held at Huddersfield University at 7.15pm on Tuesday, Feburary 28, in the W5/10 Technology Building.

Visitors are welcome and pay £1 per lecture

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