Fire Mountains or Flatulence?

I have a healthy fascination for volcanoes, and fortunately some of my recent travels have taken me to locations with active volcanoes to feed the fascination. But first…flatulence? Really? While researching this blog post, I read up on some of the myths, legends and theories that surrounded volcanoes, from Pele in Hawaii, who I’ll tell you about in more detail a bit later, and Tamahoi, a man-eating demon from New Zealand. Or the early explorers who recorded sightings of “burning islands” in their ships’ logs. But it was Aristotle who basically theorised that volcanoes were planetary farting.  He thought that the Earth had subterranean winds, that needed to escape from time to time, which resulted in volcanoes: “For we must suppose that the wind in the earth has effects similar to those of wind in our bodies whose force when it is pent up inside can cause tremors and throbbings.”(Source: Fire Mountains of the Islands). Huh, there’s a theory. Maybe I like angry goddesses or man-eating demons more?

Anyway, towards the end of 2014 I headed to the island of Bougainville, an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea, to conduct a work project. Our task was to clear old World War II bombs and munitions in the remote Torokina district, to help make the community safer. Torokina had been the location of an Allied airstrip in WWII, and while the jungle had been quick in reclaiming the land, there were explosive hazards littered all around.
In Torokina’s backyard, constantly steaming away, is Mt Bagana, Bougainville’s most active volcano.

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It had erupted about seven weeks’ earlier displacing a number of communities, who were still being temporarily accommodated in other villages. They had to make the decision to either move back to their original village location and rebuild, or start from scratch somewhere else to try and avoid the lava flows.  For the weeks that we were there, the only volcanic activity we witnessed was the constant steam plume and the (very) occasional rumbling, similar to thunder.  The task was a success (and the explosions we created didn’t “spark” a volcanic eruption, which had been a concern of some community members). The highlight of the trip was a quick loop around the volcano in a helicopter!

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Last post I mentioned my recent trip to Hawaii. During this trip I was introduced to Pele, the Hawaiian Goddess of volcanoes. According to the legends, Pele had frequent moments of anger, which brought about eruptions. She could cause earthquakes by stamping her feet or create lava flows by digging with her pa’oa.She hangs out at Kilauea, the active volcano that looms large over the Big Island.  I took a break from my manta diving to hike around Kilauea, through old craters, past sulfur vents, and surprisingly, through ancient rainforest.

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And for anyone who shares my interest in volcanoes, the National Park Service has a live webcam on Kilauea’s crater. Cool huh?

Next volcano adventure? Maybe this one in Nicaragua : 21 volcanoes in 7 days!! Sounds great.

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