Tag Archives: kamchatka-2021

“The city’s” disappearing volcanoes.

I’ve already told you what a Kamchatkan mirage is, haven’t I? Briefly, again: it’s when a whole volcano can simply disappear. Oh yes. “But surely you mean just the peak of a volcano can ‘disappear’, say – in some mist or fog or in some low cloud, right?” some of you may understandably ask. Actually – no. Whole volcanoes. Whole, gigantic volcanoes! Like, these, for example, next to… ‘the city’:

“Which city is that?” you may also ask…

‘The city’ is in fact Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky – which used to be the only city in Kamchatka. All other settlements on the peninsula are smaller than city-size: like towns (today there are a further two: Yelizovo and Vilyuchinsk), villages, or even smaller. Since Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky was long the only city, it was – and still is, out of habit – referred to by all locals as simply ‘the city’: you never hear its full name uttered. So you hear things like: “I’m in the city”, or “I’ll meet you in the city”, or “there was a bear roaming the city this morning”! :)

Read on…

Flickr photostream

  • Jordan / Nov 2022
  • Jordan / Nov 2022
  • Jordan / Nov 2022
  • Jordan / Nov 2022

Instagram photostream

The ever-changing landscapes of Kamchatka’s Valley of Geysers.

Onward – and further down toward the southern end of Kamchatka…

Kizimen and Kronotsky volcanoes – duly observed; the gurgling of Uzon caldera – duly whiffed!

Next, the Valley of Geysers – another unique natural feature: a valley of hissing, steaming and bubbling water (& volcanism). Moreover – hissing, steaming and bubbling over a large area:

Read on…

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Southern Kamchatka: two more king-‘canoes: Kizimen and Kronotsky.

Northern Kamchatka – done!

Time to slither further down the peninsula to its bottom end, where there are just as many outstanding volcanisms as in the north – if not more…

First stop – another spectacularly splendid volcano: Kizimen, situated some 70 kilometers south of Tolbachik. Austere in appearance; climbing it… no thank you, I’d rather not risk it. For example, here she is in March 2013:

Steep sides, and lots of fumaroles at the top where special protective clothing and gas masks would be needed.

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Greater Tolbachik: Northern Fissure, Dead Forest, and the ‘Star’ nano-volcano with lava tunnels.

One of the unique natural phenomena of mid-Kamchatka is Severniy Proriv – Northern Fissure – a site where, as a result of a ‘fissure’, or crack, which formed during the 1975-76 big eruption of Tolbachik, three symmetrical cones of volcanic slag were left behind.

Such fissures are a rather rare volcanic phenomenon, but this one was predicted by volcanologists based on their constant observations of seismic activity around these parts in the mid-seventies: in 1975 the frequency of earthquakes around Tolbachik sharply increased – which meant that somewhere nearby there was lava bubbling up nearer and nearer the earth’s surface. So an expedition of volcanologists was dispatched there, who were lucky enough to observe the eruption from the very start. As a result this eruption was very well-documented and on the internet there’s a mass of information about it – admittedly, mostly in Russian. Today, the three cones formed by the Severniy Proriv – now collectively called Severniy Proriv (are you keeping up?:) – are still there, and they’re three mega-beauts:

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Some do politics; I prefer the Tolbachiks!

Onward – down the volcanic spine of the Kamchatka peninsula

Next stop volcano – Tolbachik, similarly A-list just like Klyuschevskaya Sopka, Avachinsky (near Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky), and Khodutka and Ilynsky in the south. I’ve been all around it, up and down and across it on five occasions, and it’s always one of two things – OMG-beautiful, or an OMG-ruthlessly harsh experience (due to the weather). It’s like… Russian roulette – will you actually see Tolbachik in all its grandiose glory, or will you see… not much besides fog and rain (aka – Kamchatkan mirages), and fairly freeze while you’re at it.

I’ve been to the very top of Tolbachik tree times out of my five visits, but more on that later. For now, some photos of this distinctive, magnificent, monumental volcano:

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Kamchatka-2021: more mirages – in Volcano Alley.

There’s a ‘Volcano Alley‘ (some translations put it as ‘Avenue of the Volcanoes‘) in Ecuador, which features around a dozen photogenic volcanoes, all of which are at least four kilometers in height. Been, seen, was impressed: a grandiose must-see location for any volcano fan worth their lava. Well, there’s a volcano alley/avenue in Kamchatka too, only here – true to Kamchatkan lack of development modesty – there’s no official title (actually, Ecuador’s isn’t really an official title, but it’s getting there). The heights of the volcanoes here can’t compare with the Ecuadorian ones, but the elegant gracefulness of the constructions – the cones, craters, surrounding vegetation and landscapes – is for sure on a par with that of their South American cousins:

The full length of the alley – some 50km – can be trekked at a steady pace in three to four days: from Bezymianny in the north, down to the southern slopes of Tolbachik:

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Kamchatka-2021: Martian fields and canyon-kunst.

After inspecting Bezymianny, and had our nerves pushed to the limit by a near-miss violent mudflow, it was time for us to head in the direction of Tolbachik volcano…

After eight kilometers of trekking we came to our first rest-stop, which happened to be on the (Kamchatkan) Field of Mars (not to be confused with another Field of Mars, in St. Petersburg). This Field of Mars is so named for its covering of volcanic slag, and also features lava constructions of all sorts of bizarre random shapes, plus (bonus!) a distinctive volcanic cone + crater:

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So, what exactly is a ‘Kamchatkan mirage’?

Why have I use the word ‘mirages‘ more than once already in this series of posts on our Kamchatka-2021 expedition?

Normally this word describes images on a horizon which aren’t really there. Simply an optical illusion: the eye seems to see what isn’t there. Something caused by the bending of rays of light in hot places with distant horizons, like deserts. However, in the case of ‘Kamchatkan mirages’ it’s all the other way round: on the horizon there is (as per a map, for example) a substantial, often uniquely beautiful and meditation-inducing natural geological object – like a volcano, it’s just you can’t see it, as if it simply isn’t there!

For example, the ‘collar’ of Bezymianny volcano is one such Kamchatkan mirage; at least, it was when we were looking for it this year…

Read on…