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Suhanto Kastaredja

Look at this picture of Mount Etna in Sicily. The photograph was taken the day the volcano
last erupted, 23 April 2012. The volcano threw up rivers of lava and thick black smoke,
showing the world the awesome power of nature.
Mount Etna, the highest active volcano in Europe has erupted thrice in the last month,
depositing a blanket of ash over the snowy higher slopes. Yet the four people in this
photograph seem happy to risk their lives to get the closest of views!
Standing nearly 11,000 feet high, Etna regularly emits lava which flows in streams onto the
plains below. However, a quarter of Sicily's population takes the risk of living on its slopes.
Their crops and vines thrive in the rich volcanic soil. In fact, the volcano has erupted 24 times
since January 2011, but no life has been lost because the lava moves so slowly. Tunnels and
ditches have been dug to protect the mountain villages from the flow of lava.

The power and beauty of Etna have been captured in photographs almost every time the
volcano has erupted.
In fact, astronauts on the crew of Expedition Five, on board the International Space Station,
were able to observe the eruption. Commander Leroy Chiao who took more than 24,000
photographs from space said, "The beauty of the Earth was very inspiring, and I tried to find
new ways to capture that beauty." Here is Etna, from outer space, with the billowing clouds
of smoke from the trails of fire going down the 11,000-foot mountain.

Jules Verne wrote his famous science fiction story called Journey to the Centre of the Earth
many years ago. In it, he imagined a wondrous journey. The journey begins from a secret
tunnel inside a dormant volcano in Iceland. The German leader of the team is Professor Otto
Liedenbrock. His two companions on this adventure are his nephew Axel and an Icelandic
guide called Hans. Having made a direct descent on ropes from the top of the crater into the
volcano, the three soon find the tunnel entrance
"Now, Axel," cried the Professor with enthusiasm, "now we are really going to the centre of
the earth. At this exact moment the journey begins. Now, march!"
Just as I entered the dark gallery, I raised my head. I saw for the last time through the length
of that vast tube, the sky of Iceland, which I was never to see again.
The lava, in the last eruption of 1229, had forced a passage through this tunnel. It still lined
the walls with a thick and glistening coat. The light from our electric lamps reflected off the
walls as we descended.
The only difficulty in going forward was in not sliding too fast down a slope of about fortyfive degrees. Luckily, the old lava had formed in lumps and bumps.

We were able to use some of these rough steps in the rock to help us. As we made our way
down, we let our baggage slip down in front of us from the end of a long rope.
Overhead, the lava had formed stalactites. Crystals of dark quartz hung from the high, arched
roof-like chandeliers. They seemed to light up as we passed on our way. It was as if the gods
of the underworld were lighting up their palace to receive their guests from above ground.
"It's magnificent!" I shouted. "What an amazing sight! The colours of the lava go from
reddish brown to bright yellow. And these crystals are just like globes of light."
"Ah, you think so, do you, Axel, my boy? Well, you will see greater splendours than these, I
hope. Now let us march!"

People feared, respected and worshipped volcanoes for centuries. There are well known
myths and legends about many famous volcanoes. Here is a Mexican legend about the twin
volcanic peaks which tower over the city of Mexico.
Iztaccihuatl (ees-totch-see-wahtuhl), beautiful daughter of a powerful Aztec emperor, was the
only heir to his throne and glory. When her father became weak with old age, his enemies
began to wage wars against him. He called to his aid the bravest of the young warriors of his
tribes, and offered his throne and the hand of his daughter to the one who would vanquish his
enemies. Among those who went into the fight was Popocatepetl (poh-poh-kateh- pay-tuhl),
the bravest of all. He had been in love with the Princess for years, and she with him.

The war was long and cruel. When it was about to end and Popocatepetl could return in
victory to claim his bride, his rivals sent back the false news that he had been killed. The
Princess then fell seriously ill. Neither the witch doctors nor the priests were able to cure her.
She became very weak and died.
When Popocatepetl returned and found her dead, he was full of grief. He did not wish to go
on living, so he constructed a great pyramid upon which he laid his beloved Iztaccihuatl, and

next to it another for himself, where he stood holding a torch to light her eternal sleep.

During the years that followed, the snows covered the bodies of the princess and the warrior.
But the snows never extinguished the torch, which continues to burn, like the love of
Popocatepetl for his princess.


Nature is the endless sky,

the sun of golden light,
a cloud that floats serenely by,
the silver moon of night.
Nature is a sandy dune,
a tall and stately tree,
the waters of a clear lagoon,
the billows on the sea.
Nature is a gentle rain
and winds that howl and blow,
a thunderstorm, a hurricane,
a silent field of snow.
Nature is a tranquil breeze
and pebbles on a shore.
Nature's each and all of these
and infinitely more.