Consider this short essay about Pagan, a Pacific island 2,670 km from Manila and 840 km from Iwo Jima, discovered in 1669 by Diego Luis de Sanvitores:
The tallest mountain range in the world is underwater – where the Pacific plate converges with the Philippine plate in the Marianas Trench, several kilometres deep – and its smoking volcano cones rise out of the ocean.I am offering a giveaway of this paperback to a reader of this blog. Sign up below and I will use random.org to choose a respondent December 15, 2014. Happy holidays!
Pagan is a double island of two of these volcanoes held together by a land mass. At its narrowest point, it is only a few hundred metres wide.
The village of Shomushon lies at the foot of Mount Pagan in the north. Its people want to be evacuated because smoke has been rising from the summit for some time, and there have been earthquakes. But no one takes any notice. They say the volcano is not dangerous.
On 15 May 1981, it erupts, spewing fire, hurling rocks and shooting fountains of lava into the air. The sky turns black; it rains ash and smells of sulphur and burning earth. The raised huts in Shomushon shake, and a flood of lava spread though the palm trees. Soon the first crackle of fire in the village is heard. The mayor sends a message by short-wave radio - This is it! Come get us! – before the sixty villagers flee, crossing the narrow neck of land to the south. They take refuge behind a mountain ridge and pray to be spared from the glowing river.
When they are evacuated by air shortly after, only the rooftops of Shomushon can be seen above the layer of brown ash. On Pagan, there are now 20 million tonnes of tuff stone, the material of the Colosseum, the Pantheon and the Baths of Caracalla.
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