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Item #: BK210-789
NO APPARENT DANGER: THE TRUE STORY OF THE VOLCANIC DISASTER AT GALERAS AND NEVADO DEL RUIZ Bruce 2001 1st edition
By Bruce, Victoria
Price: $26.00


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2001, 1st edition. 239 pp, photos. On January 14th 1993, a team of scientists descended into the crater of Mt. Galeras, a restless volcano in southern Colombia. Several hours later, Galeras erupted, killing nine people instantly. Two geologists, Marta Calvache and Patty Mothes, raced into the rumbling inferno to save, among others, expedition leader Stanley Williams. For Calvache and her fellow scientists, this was the second Colombian volcanic disaster in less than a decade.

No Apparent Danger links the events surrounding those two eruptions - beginning at Nevado del Ruiz, where 23,000 people were killed in 1985 - to tell a story of adventure and survival in which clashing cultures and scientific arrogance contributed to unnecessary loss of life. Dramatic and powerfully written, it is an unforgettable narrative about the deadly results of human folly.
 
The fight currently raging within the volcanological community, sketched by the discrepancies between Bruce's work and Stanley Williams and Fen Montaigne's Surviving Galeras (reviewed below), concerns what is known about predicting eruptions, and particularly about Galeras when it blew, and why nine people died in that eruption (see PW, Book News, Feb. 12). In Bruce's harrowing depiction of the 1985 Nevado del Ruiz eruption, which killed 23,000 people, scientists and survivors describe bureaucratic foolishness, scientific discovery and human strife. In her presentation of the 1993 eruption of Galeras, another Colombian volcano, numerous interviews illuminate further human folly, and particularly Williams's pariah status among geologists.
 
Seismologist Bernard Chouet's testimony discredits Williams's assertion that there was no warning of the eruption. Previously, Chouet had successfully predicted two eruptions from seismographic patterns also visible when Galeras erupted. While Williams says this was never brought to his attention, Bruce notes that leading a team into an active volcano without checking available data hardly seems responsible scientific practice. Chouet claims he presented his prediction technique, with Williams present, in 1991.

Further, expedition members contend that, despite Galeras's signs of activity, Williams ignored advice to shorten the visit. One survivor says Williams took no safety precautions and mocked his colleagues who wore hard hats. Scientist and journalist Bruce traces the fascinating recent history of Colombian volcanoes and the scientific community's politics, wherein intellectual property generates fame and near-fortune, in an insightful, spellbinding account. Hardcover, DJ, New.

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