First up: “The Man who lived through Doomsday!”
On May 8, 1902, Mt. Pelee in Martinique erupted, destroying the city of St. Pierre and instantaneously killing more than 30,000 people. The city’s sole survivor was Ludger Sylbaris, a felonious drunk who was rotting in this cell.
On the night of May 7, Sylbaris was arrested for fighting and was thrown in the pokey. His cell was tiny, stone, partially underground, and contained only a tiny slit for air. Sylbaris had picked a prime night to act rowdy, as hell would come to St. Pierre the next morning.
And from Atlas Obscura:
Mt. Pelee exploded and a cloud of smoke darkened the sky for fifty miles around. A cloud of superheated volcanic gas and dust rolled out of the volcano at hundreds of miles per hour destroying everything in an eight mile radius. Within a single minute the 1,075 degree pressure wave had flattened every building in the city of St. Pierre and anyone unlucky enough to be in its way instantly caught fire and burned to death. Even those in shelter were suffocated as the wave of gas, hotter than fire, burned up the oxygen and replaced it was deadly gases. People lungs were burnt to a crisp form taking a single breath, and after the eruption the city burned for day. The explosion instantly killed the over 30,000 residents of the island.
Except that it didn’t, not quite. Ludger couldn’t have been more lucky. He was found four days after the eruption by a rescue team who heard his calls. Despite being in the safest place on the island was horribly burned as the air in his room had flash heated to over 1000 degrees. Ludger described the experience of seeing the light coming through the slit grow dark, and then the superheated ash flying in. He peed on his clothes and stuffed them in the slit, but it didn’t stop the heat.
I would highly recommend that you read the rest of both articles because, well, they’re just absolutely fascinating. The io9 one is written by Cyriaque Lamar, who heavily references the Atlas Obscura one, where the pictures come from.
“We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach.”
He feels that attempts at alien contact, SETI and the like, are “a little too risky” and compares it thusly: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”
The Wow! signal.
Monserrat’s city of ash.
Scientists eager to climb on and study Iceland’s volcano.
Is there life on Mars?