I was always fascinated by volcanoes but living in Austria, my opportunity to see and study them was limited. The internet gave me a totally new possibility, which i neglected to notice for the longest time. Then in january 2010, i came across Dr. Erik Klemettis blog Eruptions, while looking for images of volcanoes. He announced that this icelandic volcano, with the odd name Ejyafjallajökull, might get ready for an eruption, i bookmarked the site and came back on a more regular basis. But real life kicked in and so i missed the first actions with the eruption in Fimmvörduhals. I happened to come back on April 17 and here you can see a few screenshots from the Mila and Vodafone webcams i took. (Some links would not be usefull because they lead nowhere nowadays.)
From this moment on i was absolutely hooked on watching volcanoes via internet and join the friendly banter that was going on among the blog communty. I mostly lurked because i did not have much to contribute.
There was even lightning to be seen. Granted not the most spectacular image but still, i got lightning on a screenshot from my couch back home while this was happening so far away.
I am working in a museum in Austria and we have a BioLab there with many rather expensive microscopes, among them a SEM ( scanning electron microscope.) We are supposed to show a lab-in-action, and i was gathering pollen, insects and all kind of materials to do exactly that. I checked for SEM images online and found this which shows a grain from Mount Saint Helens.
Oh wow, now that would be something to see. So i went and asked if someone in Iceland would be so nice and send some ash to me. Jón Frímann and Chris mailed some samples. ( Thank you very much)
So i started to get to work to provide images quickly.
First came Chris ash, and this was the very first glimpse i took of the sample.
Hm there is something odd in the lower left side. Zoom in on that. And zoom in even more.
At a magnification of 15400 fold i could not go in farther. What this thing is, i still have not the slightest idea. Nothing after this looked only remotedly alike.
I also checked on the ash with the other microscopes but that did not turn out all too well, because the ash was rather magnetic and tended to form heaps and i am no expert and did not fully know what i was doing.
You can check out the full set of images on: http://www.flickr.com/photos/birgitha/sets/72157628927002689/
The chemical composition can be found at http://earthice.hi.is/page/IES-EY-CEMCOM
The experience with my very first eruption watched live over the internet provided me hours and hours of entertainment, especially since no humans were in danger, and many nights of disturbed sleep for my mate, who came running out of the bedroom ever so often, after i yelped, shouting: “Everything OK?” Yeah sure, it just so stunningly beautiful right now….Arg, i dont think he will ever fully share my fascination with watching volcanoes on the internet.
Later i was allowed to hold special talk in the museum´s special presentation room Deep Space along with o. Univ.-Prof. Dr. Steinacker from the Institut für Meteorologie und Geophysik of University in Vienna. Why am i mentioning this? At first the officials in the museum were not so enthusiastic with my participation because i have no name, i did not study anything relevant which would qualify me as an expert. But the professor insisted. He said especially in the field of geology so many things were discovered by enthusiastic layman who became experts after a while. So there is a chance for us all of us.