Today the sky over my little house on the Pampa is not the startling cerulean blue that drew me here. It has been replaced by a glaring pewter shade, presumably from the ash plume spewing from the volcano Chaiten, the sleeping volcano that woke up abruptly May 2 after dreaming for nine millenia.
Several videographers managed to capture the actual explosion--just search for "Chaiten" on youtube.com. One taken from a small plane shows incredible close ups:
For really crisp powerful photos of the volcano and its effects, take a look at this website: http://inglaner.com/volcan_chaiten.htm
And for updates, let me recommend this blog: http://volcanism.wordpress.com/category/volcanoes/chaiten/
Who is affected? While the scant rural Chilean population near Chaiten have been evacuated mostly by boat (take a look at a map to see why!), the Argentine city of Esquel has no way to escape the falling ash.
I deeply appreciate the communications from my US friends, and hasten to assure you that we are 800 miles to the northeast and will probably just miss the bluest of blue skies for a while. The plume is predicted to continue over the Atlantic and on to Africa. Air traffic has been disrupted, including domestic flights and American Airlines flights from Buenos Aires to the USA. We were more affected by the smoke from the island fires, which blanketed the river cities with ash and smoke for three weeks in April, ending when it finally rained.
By the way, Roberto and I have visited the area of lakes and volcanoes in Chile, though not Chaiten, which is not even on our map. As we drove up the smoking volcano Villarica, we were not even tempted by the numerous signs, "Land for Sale--Cheap." We will visit again and resist any temptation to buy land in one of the most beautiful areas on earth.
The loss to to folks in the current geologic disaster is tragic. It is a powerful reminder of how uncontrollable nature can be. There must be a lesson in there somewhere for us beyond the French adage, "Never dance on a volcano." What might it be? At the least I hope it will be an occasion for the two most southern countries to collaborate to ease the suffering and damage. It would be great to see Chileans and Argentinians dancing together after this episode!