Space Shuttle photograph of Mt. Etna. Location: 37.7N, 15.0E Elevation: 10,990 feet (3,350 m) Last updated: June 9, 1998.
June 11, 1998 Extremely intense explosive activity is currently occurring at Bocca Nuova and Voragine craters. This morning, strong explosive activity from Voragine could be heard over 6 miles (10 km) from the summit. Lava fountains were seen jetting hundreds of meters above the erupting vent in the SW part of the crater. Bombs up to ~3 ft (1 m) in diameter were thrown into the air with these jets. Powerful explosions caused ground shaking at the summit cone of Etna and ejected bombs across a wide area far beyond the southern rim of Voragine. Explosions were occurring 1-2 times per second, with large explosions every 1-2 minutes.
One of the most fascinating (legends)involves the Philosopher Empedocles who, it said, disappeared into the crater, leaving only his sandals to be found by his students on the slopes of Etna, darkened from the lava and Volcanic Ash: Revenge for having dared to mock Etna
This refers to the well-known Dutch expression: "Napels zien en dan sterven" ("to see Naples, then to die")
In Europe, this is known as the "Battle of Bastogne" - another good alliteration. Some 50 years later, in 1995, I happened on an article in the Lancaster New Era dealing with the experiences of some of the local Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge. I decided to send them a postcard to thank them for having liberated us Dutch. To my surprise - and theirs, too - the number of articles multiplied, but I consistently mailed off my thank-you's. I was awarded for my efforts by an invitation to attend the formal commemoration of the 50th Anniversary at the Millersville Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Building. Everyone had to give a speech, even "junior" who was more or less adopted on the spot as the "Little Dutch Boy whom we saved". I was as honored as the regimental goat, and made many friends. To my surprise, my favorite Millersville University Dean of Science and Mathematics, Dr. Dick Sasin, already retired, was one of the veterans, too!(A regretful afternote: in 1998, the group became involved in an acrimonious and divisive controversy concerning a motion in support of the Commander in Chief, Pres. Bill Clinton. The motion was ultimately withdrawn , but at least one member resigned.)
I always mixed up "Hay" and "Straw" and even the predecessor of the latter, sheaves of wheat or rye still to be processed. Anyhow, things have changed and become much more automated. That this may entail dangers is dramatized in *this picture of a giant haybale capable of killing farmers...
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Wignjo was one of the 36 Indonesian cadets which were trained in Holland after the Dutch officially granted independence to Indonesia in 1949. Before that, most of them had been "independence fighters" against the Dutch Army and Navy (at that time, called "terrorists" by the Dutch...), some actually having confronted some of our Dutch cadets, many of which had lived and some fought in the Netherlands East Indies.
My first distinct memory of Wignjo dates to November 1950 aboard the "Karel Doorman" in the Gulf of Biscay. I was seasick and lying in an upper bunk. Below me,Wignjo sat on the floor, sorting out a huge stack of dirty laundry. Although seasick Indonesians were alleged to just lie down to die (but usually were disappointed), Wignjo manfully carried on, only occasionally heaving into one of the convenient dirty laundry bags and afterwards smiling at me apologetically.
As an officer in the early 1960's, he was sent to Vladivostok to take delivery of several Sovjet submarines donated to Indonesia.
On the way home, they got a message not to put into Indonesia, but into Singapore; the reason was that uprisings against President Sukarno had resulted in a giant bloodbath, in which thousands of communists and Chinese were killed. Wignjo and his crew sneaked back into Indonesia in civilian dress and laid low until General Suharto had matters under control. Under his regime, Wignjo was sent to the USA for further training by the US Navy....talking about variety!!
He later became Deputy Minister of Agriculture and/or Forestry and retired from the Navy. I visited him and his charming wife Toetie twice, in 1976 and 1987.
Rekso was a gem of a man. He went on to become a high ranking and well respected Flag Officer in the Indonesian Navy.
I recall his tale during my visit in 1987, that the wives of the Indonesian officers who had gone to Den Helder for training still met regularly and talked Dutch to each other - almost 40 years after Independence!