Travel Inspiration - Volcanoes











Vesuvius looms over Pompeii: Italy, December 2007

When Gail and I climbed Pacaya, Guatemala, in December 2009 it seemed quite a dangerous, but exciting, thing to do.  We could get as close as we dared to the 900 degree Celsius lava flow but walking on the cooler lava from the day before.  It had solidified sufficiently to take our weight, but there was still red hot rock in the cracks below our feet.  Gusts of misty air which blew into these cracks were quite explosively repelled.

Just five months later, a state of emergency was declared after Pacaya erupted killing at least one person and forcing the international airport to close!

A prominent demonstration of the power of volcanoes was given when the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull erupted in April 2010.  Most of Europe's air space was closed in case the fine ash stalled jet engines.  The airlines lost millions (probably over a billion dollars) and hundreds of thousands of travellers were stranded.

But volcanoes are not all bad.  Some of the most fertile soils have volcanic origins.  In Java, Indonesia, 140 million people live on the fertile volcanic soils created by numerous volcanoes, more than 30 of which are active.

Buddha contemplates Merapi, Borobudur, Java.


Popocatepetl, Mexico

Volcanoes remind us of the awesome power of nature.  Lake Toba in Indonesia is what remains of a super-volcanic eruption 74,000 years ago, which almost wiped out the human race and, no doubt, many other species.

Even more powerful is the supervolcano that is Yellowstone, USA.  It's last major eruption was 640,000 years ago and it is still active.  The Yellowstone caldera was not identified until the 1960's when satellite photographs became available.

by Charlie Nelson
May 2010