Two days after a volcano in Iceland erupted, a Sturbridge man and his son who were vacationing in that country shot video from the volcano's upwind side of the billowing ash cloud.
"I can't begin to tell you how incredible it was to be there," John Kittel said. "It was just magnetizing. We couldn't leave it and kept being drawn toward it. We didn't want to get too close because it was scary, but at the same time, it was just so awesome."
The trip to Iceland was a college graduation gift Kittel gave to his son Benjamin, 21. Along with their plans to snowmobile over glaciers, climb through caves, and hike to waterfalls, they had planned to see a smaller eruption on the same volcano, Eyjafjallajokull, that had been occurring since March. When they arrived in Iceland nearly two weeks ago, rainy weather and cloudy skies kept them from seeing it.
When the weather finally cleared, the duo immediately booked a helicopter flight and instead headed toward the new eruption and the ash cloud that made worldwide news when it floated over Europe, forcing the closures of airports and disrupting travel plans for millions.
After the flight, they hopped into their rental car and drove to a spot where they could get another good view of the spectacular cloud.
"We wanted to see it from a different perspective because watching it was just incredible," Kittel said. "It was a very windy day, so the ash and the particles from it were clearly being swept downwind."
Kittel said he and his son didn't take any undue risks. "I'm a safety buff," said Kittel, who works in the insurance industry. "We did this thoughtfully and cautiously."
Benjamin filmed, propping the camera up on lava rocks and pebbles for some shots and steadying it on top of the car for others.
"It's the magnitude of the whole thing," Kittel said. "If you look carefully, you can see an airplane flying right in front of the volcano, and it looks like a fly.