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Given the choice, most people would prefer not to climb a live volcano. But for Hazel Rymer, it's all in a day's work, and she loves her job.
Studying volcanoes is a demanding profession. Hazel Rymer frequently has to struggle through rainforests, climb to the top of mountains, then climb 200 metres into the crater of active volcanoes. But the 38-year-old volcanologist does her best to make it sound less alarming than it is. 'Driving to work is more risky,' she insists. 'And the deepest I go into the crater of a volcano is about 300 metres. I generally just scramble down then scramble back up again', she adds, trying to make it all sound as ordinary as taking the dog for a walk.
Hazel has been studying volcanoes for a long time, so it's not surprising she is used to the danger. Her interest in volcanoes began while she was learning Latin at school. A teacher gave her a book about Pompeii.'I remember reading about the eruption of Vesuvius and the destruction of the city,' she explains. 'The thought of all those Pompeiians just frozen in time had quite an effect on me.' Twenty years later, this fascination is still strong. 'I suppose you sense that volcanoes have this dangerous beauty, and that never leaves you', she smiles. 'I still get excited when I approach one I haven't encountered before.'
Nowadays, volcanoes are getting more and more unpredictable. There have been many changes in sea
level caused by global warming and melting icecaps. These have resulted in some dormant volcanoes erupting, so studying them is more hazardous than ever before. Hazel seems unconcerned. 'I don't take any unnecessary risks and I don't try to make situations dangerous', she says. 'If things happen, they happen.' However, she has had some frightening moments. Her worst experience was on the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily. While she was taking measurements on the edge of the lava flow, she was slowly surrounded by lava. 'I had a choice of walking
hours to get around the lava flow or just walking across it', she explains. She chose to pick a path across the cooler rocks in the lava stream. 'I guess it was 50 metres. The flow was 1,000 °C, so if you hesitated your boots would begin to melt. It was scary, but it really was a practical decision - there wasn't time to do anything else.'
And what about the future? 'I haven't been to the volcanoes in Indonesia yet. And I would love to spend some time working in the Antarctic', she says. 'I would
also like to know why quiet lava flows erupt from some volcanoes and why other volcanoes go bang.' In other words, Hazel Rymer won't be exchanging her volcanoes for the relative safety of driving to work just yet.
Sainsbury's The Magazine
Multiple choice questions
Now choose the best answer to questions 1-5 below.
1 According to Hazel, which activity is more dangerous?
2 When did Hazel first become interested in volcanoes?
a when she was visiting Italy
3 What does 'these' in line 26 refer to?
b when she was at school
c when she was twenty
d when she saw Vesuvius
a melting icecaps
4 When Hazel was on Mount Etna she had to:
b changes in sea level
c volcanic eruptions
d higher temperatures
a walk fort ten hours around the mountain.
5 In the future Hazel wants to:
b take an unnecessary risk.
c leave her boots behind.
d take a dangerous route.
a revisit volcanoes she knows.
ANSWERS: 1C 2B 3B 4D 5D
b go on holiday to the Antarctic.
c find a less dangerous job.
d discover new things about volcanoes.
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