Monday, August 06, 2012

Get a Closer Look?

A discussion about visiting White Island, an active volcano in New Zealand, and the greater issue of "volcano tourism."

We're talking here of active volcanoes, not dormant volcanoes such as Oregon's Crater Lake or Washington state's Mt. Rainier (which many people probably aren't aware is a volcano). Most Americans will be familiar with Kilauea in Hawaii, which is an example of an active volcano that is comparatively safe because of the composition of the magma lying underneath it, which is lacking in the gases which cause explosive eruptions. While it is possible to die at Kilauea by breaking through a crust and burn in the liquid lava below, or become trapped by flowing lava, there is little danger of a massive explosion as typified by Mt. St.Helen's back in the 1980's. Unfortunately the gassy, explosive volcano is far more common than the Kilauea-type volcano.

The simplest advice I can give is that if the volcano is in a heightened state of alert because of movement of magma underneath it, it is not time for a visit.

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