Student experiences full force of nature with eye witness account of Cumbre Vieja volcanic eruption in La Palma

“Incredibly humbling” – the words of North East student Rosie Rice as she witnessed first-hand the “immense” force of nature as the Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma in the Canary Islands erupted.

Tuesday, 28th September 2021, 3:52 pm
Updated Tuesday, 28th September 2021, 3:54 pm

Rosie, 20, whose mother Elaine hails from South Shields, was in the region studying volcanoes as part of her geography degree at the University of Cambridge.

She said: “We have been within a couple of kilometres of the eruption and it’s incredibly humbling to witness nature in action with the inside of the earth churned out in front of you.

"It sounds like you are in a war zone. It makes you think about the incredible power that the earth has and gives you a completely different perspective on your relationship with the planet.”

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Eruptions of lava from the Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma in the Canary Islands. Photograph: Rosie Rice

"The main thing we’ve seen is the lava fountains, with jets of orange material making the sky glow red like the most extreme firework display.

"There has been ash plumes going into the atmosphere – ash is in the air 24/7. We’ve had to wear face masks and it constantly gets into your hair and when you’re in the car it sounds like rain but it’s actually ash falling on the windscreen.”

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Classed as a Strombolian eruption, which is generally less violently explosive in nature, there have been no recorded fatalities. However Rosie has witnessed first-hand the devastation caused to local people.

Geography student Rosie Rice has been in La Palma to witness the eruption first-hand. Photograph: Rosie Rice

She said: “There has also been a very moving human side to what has happened. I’ve witnessed people in tears as their homes have been destroyed by the lava flows.

"We were observing the eruption from a viewing platform and one local man asked if he could use my binoculars to see if his home was still standing. This is the third eruption since 1949 and local people know the risks and are used to living with the hazard”

Rosie was in Tenerife when news of the eruption on the neighbouring island began to emerge. While many people’s instincts may have been to avoid the area, Rosie was determined to grasp the chance to witness the eruption up close.

She said: “This was a once in a lifetime opportunity and along with another two undergraduates we got the ferry across to La Palma and have been staying just north of the town of Tazcorte.

Ash plumes from the Cumbre Vieja volcano. Photograph: Rosie Rice

"It has been incredible to see something which I learned about in text books brought to life.”

The opportunity to travel to study the volcano was facilitated by the travel company Geo Tenerife who specialise in organising field excursions in the Canary Islands.

Whilst in La Palma, Rosie has been supporting the company in collecting data on social media posts to help ensure the information being reported is accurate.

Rosie added: “Once I finish my degree I would like to study to be a Volcanologist and have switched my final year dissertation to analysing the social media response and reaction of the local people to this eruption.”

With the airport now reopened, Rosie is due to fly home this weekend before travelling to Cambridge to start the final year of her degree. She grew up in Wallsend and attended St Thomas More Roman Catholic Academy in North Shields.

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