I was filled with excitement as we climbed up the volcanic mountain. We were climbing up the Barren Island, India’s only active volcano. After my sixth standard examinations my family (my parents, brother and me) had come to the Andaman and Nicobar islands for a trip. The only way to reach Barren Island, which is around three hundred kilometers from port Blair, is by a two day journey and I was so seasick, I delayed our tour for a day. We were not the only ones climbing the volcano. There were around a hundred more people trekking, climbing from different parts of the wide volcano. There were also two hundred people just sitting near the volcano’s foot and taking selfies with the volcanic mountain in the backdrop.
By far, we were ahead of all the groups who were scaling the mountain. I wanted to have the peak all to myself before the others came. After an hour of climbing we reached the peak. We were the first to reach the peak and the crater was empty. The surface felt hot but our guide said that the surface around the peak was always hot. I took a selfie with my mother, the volcano’s crater in the background. When I took the mobile to see how the picture was, I felt something was unusual. I zoomed in when I saw small, minute patches of red. When I showed it to my father, he said that he couldn’t see anything. I zoomed in again but this time I couldn’t see anything.
I thought that I had imagined it and I turned behind to see one of the most beautiful scenery I had ever seen comprising of the deep, almost transparent, blue sea, the clouds, as white as snow, which were hovering just a few hundred feet above. Then I turned around t0 see that there were already around fifty people who were within fifty feet radius. They were taking pictures, chatting and the guides who were pouring out all the information they had learnt by heart (which I figured out as all of them were saying just the same thing with a gap of around six or seven seconds).
Then, with a small tremble, the volcano all of a sudden blew out a puff of smoke which made all of us gape and several of the tourists screamed. The rest, who were busy in photography, turned back to see what caused the sudden change in sound. There was one more tremble which sent out a larger and darker puff of smoke. The guides who were telling the people not to worry suddenly went dumbstruck at seeing the new puff of smoke. I felt the surface grow hot. I peeped into the volcano to see hot magma before a third smoke cloud made my spectacles fall into the volcano.
Then things turned worse. The surface was as hot as burning metal. People were running down the volcano and a few tripped and rolled to the foot of the volcano and taking a few others with them into the sea. My mother grabbed my arm and pulled me, right when I was walking towards the crater. Then to my horror, she suddenly slipped and fell, taking my family hurtling down, to the side opposite to where the boats were. A man who was close by tried to help me but instead fell into the crater.. I was filled with guilt as he lost his life trying to save me. His spectacles lay on the surface sliding down the slope. Since I was unable to see clearly, I took his spectacles which were godsend and wore it. The power of the spectacles was higher than what I usually wore so the vision was poor, yet better than wearing none. I started to climb down and search for my family. On the sea, there were around hundred boats so my aim was to get to the boats with my family.
I searched for my mother everywhere as I continued to climb down. Then I spotted her, on the other side of the volcano with my family. I ran to them as fast as I could. Then I heard the volcano explode. The sound almost made me deaf. What I saw was indescribable. It was a double mushroom cloud, in the colours of red, orange, black, grey and white. It started to rain rocks everywhere. Lava overflowed from the crater almost as fast as water. Suddenly a rock in the size of a cricket ball, hit me on my spine. I fell, rolling on the ground. I had almost reached my parents. Clutching my spine and wondering why they were moving so slowly while I ran at my top speed.
When I thought I was a few meters away, a rock which was in the size of a rugby ball landed on my foot. Pain shot through my body like a bullet and I rolled over, to the place where I thought my parents were standing, clutching my foot. A pair of hands grabbed me and took me somewhere. I opened my eyes and saw my parents looking anxiously at me. My mother said, “We are in a cave under the volcano to shield ourselves from the explosion. We have a boat which we will use to leave this island after the explosions stop.” My father pointed towards the boat in the sea which was right in front of the entrance of the cave.
Minutes later, rock, ash and lava fell on the platform in front of us. It felt like hours since the explosion had taken place. We were wearing our life jackets which we wore during our journey to the island, when suddenly huge chunks of burning rocks fell on the boat and sank it. After a few seconds of waiting, the pieces of rock gradually decreased, and after some time it stopped completely. We ran out of the cave and I climbed the volcano a little, and spotted another group of people pushing a boat out of another cave. We ran with all our might but my broken foot slowed us down.
Suddenly out of the blue there was the second explosion! My eyes were filled with terror as this explosion was twice the size of the previous one with three huge mushroom shaped clouds. We ran towards the people who were now pushing the boat on the water. My parents shouted at them to wait for us. That was when I realized that my brother was not there with us. I asked my mother about him but I knew the answer before she could reply. Tears rolled out of her eyes.
The boat was waiting for us. We had reached it within ten seconds of the explosion. I sent my parents to board the boat before me. A rock fell into the sea just ahead of us which rocked the boat forward. I tried to jump into the boat but missed it due to my broken leg. I swam ahead and held onto the boat. My father and one more person pulled me up but someone switched on the motor. The boat moved ahead a few meters before someone stopped it. I swam farther and by now the water was deep but due to the lifejacket I managed to remain afloat.
Just then a huge burning rock fell on me and burnt a huge hole in my life jacket and penetrated further to burn my skin. Then I couldn’t move. My mother was crying and I began to lose consciousness and things started to turn black. “Move the boat, he’s dead”, someone shouted. I forced my eyes open and swam under water as I heard the boat’s engine revving and the boat moved ahead. The life jacket pulled me back up and so I unstrapped it and swam below. All the rocks fell in the water with great splashes but were slowed down due to the water and were harmless by the time they reached me.
Unsure of whether the explosion had ended, I swam up, as I couldn’t hold my breath any longer. I held on to my life jacket, half torn apart and half burnt and came up. I took a long breath and went underwater again, bobbing up and down, coming up for breath, going down again. When finally the explosion seemed to have stopped, I slowly swam back to the island. In a few hours there would be geologists here to see what damage has been done and I would be saved. I drifted off to sleep and when I woke up I was in a hospital, my mother beside me holding my hand and my father smiling at my tired face. Apparently, my mother had fought and convinced the boat driver to turn and come back for me.
The nightmare was finally over!