Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Ash Cloud That Ate Northern Europe!

I was interested when story of the Icelandic volcano first broke a few days ago, but I've become so attuned to "natural disaster" stories that I wasn't prepared for it to still be going on half a week later. It's usually earthquakes, tsunamis, tornados: one big violent blast and then it's time to piece up the pieces and rebuild. But to have northern European airspace closed for three days, and read that it could just as easily go on for another week - two weeks, who knows? That sort of slow-motion nature story isn't that common. Even a hurricane has a long buildup but a relatively quick resolution.

Today I read that Prime Minister Harper is not going to be able to attend the funeral of the Polish President in Krakow - just too difficult to get there and back in the time frame.

I don't fault anyone for being cautious; volcano ash is very dangerous to airplanes, as the following dramatization/documentary shows. It's from one of my favourite TV shows, "Mayday", which is a Canadian documentary series about air disasters. It's been marketed abroad under the title "Air Crash Investigation", but it's the same show. This program is one of their best; it portrays the case of British Airways Flight 9 from Kuala Lumpur to Perth in 1982. It passed through a volcanic ash cloud while flying over Indonesia, and all four of its engines became choked with the sediment and flamed out. The plane was very nearly lost in the Indian Ocean, but a combination of excellent flying skills on the part of the crew and an amazing chemical reaction managed to save it.

This is the entire "Mayday" episode, with just a few slight differences from the Canadian TV version and the replacement of the narrator with one with a British accent; I assume this was made for the UK market. Anyway, it's an excellent series, and this is one of their best episodes.


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