Surviving the Volcano: Hear My Story
Surviving the Volcano: Hear My Story
The Volcanic Explosivity Index- or VEI- measures the size of volcanic eruptions. It measures the height of the ash cloud, the amount of tephra ejected, and the strength of the blast to determine the VEI. Nonexplosive eruptions are measured at 0, the lowest end of the VEI. Super eruptions are given a VEI rating of 8, at the highest end of the index. Volcanic eruptions that are rated at VEI 7 or higher are rare. They happen about once or twice in 1,000 years. The last VEI 7 eruption was the Mount Tambora eruption, which took place in 1815. It killed 92,000 people.
The timely “Disaster Diaries” series offers readers a bit of a different twist on the usual books about natural disasters. Its nonfiction chapters alternate with stories, fairly graphic in nature, told from a child’s perspective. Though the children and their families are fictional, their stories are gleaned from personal accounts of natural disaster survivors. In this regard, the subtitles of the books are somewhat of a misnomer for the stories represent less than 40 per cent of the entire text. Each title is comprised of 13 chapters as well as a table of contents, a glossary, an index, and a list of books and web sites for further study. The main body of the text describes the causes and effects of the specific disasters, where on the planet the disasters happen, scientific research, disaster prediction and preparedness, government involvement with respect to new building rules and regulations, and relief efforts. One common thread running through the series is the role that global warming is playing in each of these devastating events. For example, the California wildfire season has increased by 78 days since the 1970s. Additional text boxes provide information about the victims (humans, animals, buildings, infrastructure and entire towns) lost or affected by these tragedies.
Much of what is found in the main body of the text is available in other books, but what makes this series compelling is the first person narrative of (fictional) boys and girls from various parts of the world. Their “recollections” convey the panic they experienced as they and their families tried to flee their homes, find shelter and locate lost relatives, and their sadness over the loss of friends, family, and their homes and villages. For some, the damage to their sense of safety and security will never be repaired. The text is enhanced with abundant colour photographs, maps, diagrams, sketches and satellite images. (A free downloadable teacher’s guide is available, but the activities mainly involve basic recall and presenting facts to the class.)
Luis’s story is featured in Surviving the Volcano: Hear My Story. Living in the town of Armero in Columbia 64 km away from the Nevado del Ruiz volcano, Luis was not concerned when rumblings coming from “the Sleeping Lion” went on for months. However, after almost a year of minor earthquakes and steam emanating from its crater, the volcano erupted violently, burying Luis’s town in a thick blanket of mud. Luis and his family were rescued from a hilltop by helicopter. Of all of the series titles, this one, in its fictional account, devotes the most space to the relocation efforts, specifically those of the citizens of Armero. Other topics in this title include the types of volcanoes and how they erupt, forms of devastation, the work of volcanologists and their tools such as seismographs and tiltmeters, emergency preparedness, and the possible link between volcanic activity and the Earth’s orbit (a topic not usually covered). Of note is that a town’s distance from a volcano determines the cause of the victims’ deaths: less than 5 km away, the devastation is caused by volcanic bombs; from a distance of 5-15 km there are avalanches of hot rock as well as ash and gas; and further than 15 km there are mudflows and tephra along with the possibility of tsunami formation.
Informative and educational, the “Disaster Diaries” series’ combination of facts and personal recollections proves that two is sometimes better than one.
Gail Hamilton is a former teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, Manitoba.