Ponderings on an Ash Cloud

[The main reason for me visiting Europe was to see some friends of mine who are currently living in Europe.  Another reason was to shoot some new travel videos for a website called Tripfilms.  As I’ve been using my printed itinerary as scratch paper these days, Tripfilms asked me to blog about my current experience for their site.  I figured I’d post it here, too.  So here goes:]

When I got on a flight from Los Angeles to Dublin April 12th, I wasn’t thinking I’d get stranded in Ireland because of an Icelandic volcano.  I was thinking about how I didn’t have enough legroom and how the lady next to me was hogging the armrest.  The last time I even thought of the word “volcano” was probably three years ago when I watched the Pierce Brosnan film Dante’s Peak.  Volcanoes were not a top priority for me last Monday.  Now my entire future rests in the hands of a volatile, geothermal pimple on the surface of the earth.

What are the odds? What are the odds 97,000 flights would be cancelled because of a volcano erupting?  The last time this volcano erupted was in 1821.  I’m no statistics major, but I think the odds weren’t great.

For me, this situation means more time in Ireland.  Not the worst problem to have.  I’ve seen more of Cork, the seaside town of Kinsale, and the western town of Galway.  I was intending to travel around Europe for a while.  What’s another six days in Ireland?  For tens of thousands of others, though, this means they’re missing work in foreign countries, they can’t deliver their perishible products, and they can’t attend important celebrations.

We may never fully understand the ripples caused by this volcano.  For every wedding missed, two strangers stuck in an airport might meet and get married.  For every rotting shipment of lamb, a delivery supervisor might smell the meat and follow his true calling as a vegan restauranteur.  I’ve met new friends during my delay that I will correspond with the rest of my life.  If I flew out as planned last Friday, I would never have had a wonderful afternoon with Pilar in Galway and learned about cutting edge Spanish film directors.

Humanity’s history has been one of technological innovations, of harnessing earth’s powers for human’s wants and needs.  But still, even in 2010, all of our advancements can’t battle something from prehistoric times.  Thoreau said something once about how we don’t ride the railroad, that the railroad rides us.  Now instead of trains riding us, it’s airplanes.  How far we have come.

So what does the world do now?  How can we prepare for another ash cloud?  It’s not like volcanoes fit through an airport X-Ray machine.  We can prevent guns from getting on a plane, but we can’t prevent ash from entering the atmosphere.  Does this mean we return to the days of sea travel?  More ferries departing from ports?  Do we build long bridges?  More chunnels?  With billions of dollars already lost by this ash cloud, how many billions more will governments be willing to spend to prevent more billions lost?  Or will they just play the odds?  The world was safe from this volcano for 189 years.  What are the chances it will happen again?

I don’t have any of the answers.  As a normal civilian, I don’t have much say in those decisions, especially since I don’t even live in Europe.  I do know I will continue to travel the world despite this volcano.  Like the threat of terrorism, I won’t let the threat of a volcanic eruption prevent me from experiencing the joys of traveling.  That’s not the way I want to live, voluntarily stranded in America.  I will approach my journeys a bit differently in the future, though.  On my next trip, I’m buying travel insurance.

Apr 2010
POSTED BY travelbugrobert

One Comment

  1. […] Oh, and I think I finally understand why an Icelandic store might put up a sign like this.  They’ve had enough ash in the air from all the volcanoes erupting. […]

    Pingback by What would Don Draper say about this? | Travel Bug Robert on September 1, 2011 at 10:20 am

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