by A21 Reporter Andy Clems
International Rescue faced one of their toughest missions yet on the fiery peak of Mount Eos off the New Zealand coast in the early hours of this morning.
The alarm was raised when noted volcanologist Robert H. Rule and his team were trapped close to the summit of Mount Eos while conducting an extended survey of the mountain. The team were not expecting an eruption and the expedition was purely routine.
Rule elaborates, “We had been studying Eos for years and there was no indication that it was going to erupt any time soon, but that’s exactly what happened. Fortunately for us it wasn’t a big one, but there was plenty of lava flowing around and that was the main problem, it cut off our escape route.”
Luckily Rule’s team were equipped with a radio system and International Rescue were soon on the scene. Pilot of Thunderbird 1, Scott Tracy, described the severity of the situation, “Time is a critical factor in most rescues. As soon as I arrived, I could see those folks were running short of it. The heat levels were fantastic and I knew if I didn’t get to them immediately, the lava wouldn’t matter, the heat alone would finish them.”
Tony Morrow, Rule’s assistant, describes the moment he saw Thunderbird 1 descending as, “One of the greatest sights I’ve ever seen in my life. The International Rescue pilot got that ship down until he was no more than 20 feet above our heads. It was some smooth flying on his part as visibility was poor and he was very close to the lava outlets. We were getting really desperate by then. All of us were in a bad way.”
Rule continued, “I could see Tony and Wanda were struggling as much as I was. Thank goodness International Rescue got that rescue harness down to us. Another few moments and I wouldn’t like to think about what might have happened.”
As Thunderbird 1 prepared to depart, it narrowly avoided being scorched by a fountain of lava that burst from the side of the mountain as the craft gained altitude. Fortunately there was no damage to the International Rescue aircraft.
Rule’s team have fully recovered from their ordeal and intend to make another survey of Mount Eos as soon as it is safe to do so. Speaking on behalf of International Rescue, Scott Tracy added, “Volcanologists perform vital work in helping predict volcanic eruptions, which could save lives in the future. The nature of the job means there will always be risks, but thankfully International Rescue aren’t often called on to intervene in these matters.”