I am fascinated by volcanoes. They are the vessels through which the Earth’s crust was built, and through which it continues to expand. The rich volcanic soil they produce is responsible for our flourishing plant life. Although majestic in nature, volcanoes represent beauty, fear, rage and awe. There are simply magnificent edifices which, although occasionally violent, are necessary for the Earth to thrive.
Volcanoes have a multitude of personalities, and here are some volcanoes that are really worth knowing.
Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii is the world’s largest volcano that is so huge, having a volume of 3,2000 square kilometres, that it depresses the ocean floor beneath it. Although it rises to a height of 4,207 metres (13,803 ft), most of it is underwater, so it measured from its base to its summit Moana Kea actually has a height of 10,200 m (33,500 ft). It last erupted 4,500 years ago.
Kilauea, Moana Kea’s near neighbour, is one of the world’s most active volcanoes and has been continually active since 1983 producing great rivers of lava which flow to the sea about 50 kilometres away.
Mt Etna on the island of Sicily in Italy is Europe’s most active volcano. It is a shield volcano with a summit height of 3350 metres and has the longest period of documented eruptions on the world with locals on constant standby in case of eruptions.
Nyamuragira in the Democratic Republic of Congo is Africa’s most active volcano. Located in the Virunga National Park it often emits lava and ash, though fatalities are rare. Since 1882 there have been more than 40 eruptions.
Mount Pinatubo is an active stratovolcano on the island of Luzon in the Philippines, northwest of Manila, which had a dramatic eruption in 1991. It ejected so much matter into the atmosphere that it changed the Earth’s climate for several years.
Mount Fuji, Japan, is certainly a contender for the world’s most beautiful volcano with its symmetrical summit. It is certainly the world’s most climbed volcano with thousands reaching its summit each year. Other contenders for world’s best looking volcano are Mt Taranaki in New Zealand, Osborn in Chile, Arenal in Costa Rica and Mayon in the Philippines.
Mt Cotopaxi in Ecuador, which forms part of the Andes Mountains, is also a contender for most attractive volcano. It also has the title of highest volcano, reaching an altitude of 5,909 m (19,388 ft). The name cotopaxi poetically means “smooth neck of the moon.”
Mt Yasur on Tanna Island in the Pacific nation of Vanuatu is not only one of the world’s most active volcanoes, it has erupted many times per hour for at least 800 years, but it also one of the most approachable as you can quite easily walk right up to the crater. People do walk right up to the edge of the crater to peer in, but it is also an incredibly dangerous activity given the volcanoes total unpredictability.