Monday, September 12, 2011

Ash Tuesday

There's a drawback to living within 15 miles of an active, spewing volcano. For most of the time that I've been in Kagoshima since the March 11 earthquake, the wind has been from the northwest, so I've been spared from the majority of the ash. Recently, though, the wind has shifted and it's blowing straight over the volcano and east directly at central Kagoshima. My apartment has to be at least 3 miles from the cone, but that's not helping much. I've been told by one of my students that she lives on Sakura-jima, and has had to shovel bags of ash off the house, sidewalk and driveway, so she's got it a lot worse than me. But, still...

A few days ago I decided to participate in the Kagoshima Gurutsu stamp rally. There are 28 stamp points, but only 9 unique stamp entries on the collection sheet (in a tic-tac-toe pattern) representing different districts in a 25 mile radius of the city. The four stamp points on Sakura-jima are spread across the island, and I only needed to get to the closest one - the visitor center near the ferry port. Getting on the ferry and heading out over the water really made it obvious just how much ash is being blown across the bay. It was just this huge gray cloud rising up from sea level a few hundred feet into the air. I was thinking about taking a photo, but the air was already dirty enough to be a threat to the camera, plus it wouldn't have made a good shot. Actually on the island, it was raining, making the hike to the visitor center rather miserable. So, I returned back to Kagoshima fairly quickly, and the rain ended just a couple of hundred feet offshore. But, even though I had my mouth closed and was breathing through my nose, I was chewing on grit all day

Kagoshima is the first city I've seen that has designated days and pickup points for public volcano ash disposal. Each bag is filled with several pounds of ash.

There's a web page reporting the number of times Sakura-jima has erupted per month since 1982. It had dropped down to 15 times for the year in 2005. Then a new vent hole opened in 2007 and there were over 1000 eruptions in 2010. There have been 121 eruptions just for the first 13 days of this month. That's almost as many as 2002, 2003 and 2004 combined. By tomorrow, you can include 2005 in that total and possibly 2006 as well. Sigh.

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