PUBLISHED: 18:20 21 April 2010 | UPDATED: 11:39 23 August 2010
DARING students on a geography field trip in Iceland headed to the volcano that crippled flights for a once in a lifetime lesson. The 54 pupils from Gravesend Grammar School took a coach to Eyjafjallajökull volcano on Saturday just days after the initial
DARING students on a geography field trip in Iceland headed to the volcano that crippled flights for a once in a lifetime lesson.
The 54 pupils from Gravesend Grammar School took a coach to Eyjafjallajökull volcano on Saturday just days after the initial eruption hit the headlines.
Led by head of geography Dr Jason Wood, the GCSE and A-Level students have been stranded in the country due to the Europe-wide 'no fly' zone triggered by the dangerous volcanic ash cloud.
But while desperate holidaymakers face spiralling bills and airline bosses count the cost of the unprecedented incident they watched the awesome spectacular unfold.
Dr Wood said they were stopped by a police road block about 10km from the volcano but posed for pictures on the nearby Snaefell Peninsula.
Speaking from their hotel in Iceland on Tuesday, he said: "We've taken them to the world's most famous volcano.
"It is a contemporary event and we were very interested as geographers. It was making the best of an opportunity in a safe, managed situation." continued on page 3
Physics teacher Simon Williamson revealed the area was being evacuated at the time but scores of onlookers headed for the volcano to capture the masterpiece.
The group was due back home on Sunday, but at 6.15am yesterday (Wednesday) they boarded a flight in Reykjavik and were due to land at Gatwick four hours later.
Their hotel, in Iceland's capital, was 200 kms away from the volcano and the cloud was miraculously blown away from them by north-westerly winds.
Provisions had been made to stay at the hotel for longer and money was set up to be transferred over if the flight failed to leave.
He added: "Everyone is safe and well and we have been given good advice by the tour operators. We have been making the most of it."
Ben Pearson, a 15-year-old Year 10 student studying for GCSEs, managed to contact his anxious parents back in Britannia Drive, Gravesend.
His mother Maria, 45, a services manager said: "Although we are not worried because he is in good hands it was a bit daunting because of not knowing exactly when was coming home.
"On Tuesday the children phoned their parents to say they would be up at 2am and waiting to fly out after several delays.
"They have had a whale of a time. He telephoned on the Sunday and said the school has organised everything and the Icelandic government had given them all what are called freedom passes.
"Those allow them to get into tourist attractions and go swimming free, and he has been to the zoo and been swimming. If they were stranded until Thursday they were thinking of possibly trying to get a boat to Scotland."
The GCSE and A-level students and five staff travelled to Iceland last Wednesday and were due back at Gatwick at 10.50am on Sunday.
Headteacher Geoff Wybar told the Reporter that the group was out on field work - doing glacier work and studying coastal features - during Monday and they were waiting to get the first available plane.
He said: "Everyone is well and continuing to enjoy their extended stay.
"In a sense you couldn't get better for a geography field trip - to see something like this first-hand is amazing."
St John's Catholic Primary School, which is next door to the Grammar School, was closed on Monday when it was found that 11 out of the 21 staff were unavailable.
But its 690 students won't be losing a day's school - managers re-arranged it as a staff training day instead.
Headteacher Ann Marie Ratcliffe said the school would be open Tuesday "as the majority of staff will be back in school having travelled by boat and train rather than being able to utilise air travel."
At Thamesview School, Thong Lane, Headteacher Miss Rhiannon Hughes was stuck in America, seven teachers out of 80 staff were unavailable at St George's in Meadow Road, and six teachers out of 72 at Northfleet Technology College in Colyer Road.