6 December, 2001
Yesterday I mentioned that today's entry would begin a series of explanations and "interviews" with team researchers to examine the nature of how it is that we come to understand a volcano. Today's emphasis was to be on the many ways that scientists "look." A delay--today I made my first visit to the crater rim, and it is my sworn duty to report....
Jessie Crain needed many pounds of equipment brought to her sampling site on the crater's edge. Several of us backpacked heavy loads of batteries, pumps, lumber, and other equipment up a steep slope to the summit. To be honest, everything about the ascent was miserable! We were climbing at our highest altitude yet, carrying heavy loads. Tough going. The ground is surprisingly soft. It is rock, but rock that crumbles beneath your feet, and the patches of snow were frequently slick ice. To add to our misery, the sulfurous plume blew straight down upon us. It was difficult to breathe, and we were starving for air as it was. When I stopped for yet another rest, I looked up and there it was. The end of it all. The abyss.
There are clear days when you can see into the mouth of the volcano and make out the lava lake and fumeroles spewing their gases. Today was not one of those days. The wind picked up (straight towards us) and it was all we could do to unpack and set up the equipment. We did not stay to sample. At certain intervals there would be a shift in the wind, and sunlight would suddenly reveal the nearly shear walls of the crater beside. I tried my best to capture these moments, but it wasn't easy. I trust that I will have better pictures of this site and others around the area, but I'll share what I can of today's "first." What a strange mix of the awful and the wonderful! It was terrifying in a way, and yet drew me close to see. I should speak to the issue of danger. First, and perhaps obviously, we are extremely careful in this area. To my knowledge no person has ever fallen in. Secondly, the camera makes it appear that I am practically tiptoeing on the edge. I am not. We never make these trips alone, and safety is always a priority. But go ahead and tell me to be careful anyway. I would tell you. .There will be better pictures to come, but here is today's effort.
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