Tag Archives: volcanism

Paramushir: the island of gray ash and silent volcanic hiccups!

The next northern Kuril Island on our expedition was Paramushir. If you look southwest from Kamchatka you can’t miss it – dwarfing, and just to the left of, tiny Atlasova where we were the previous day. It’s more than 100km in length and up to 30km across. The whole of the island’s surface is covered in volcanism both old and new – and very active, with its main volcano having erupted as recently as in 2016. That volcano was Ebeko – whence came the towers of smoke and ash we saw back in 2018 over on Kamchatka while walking along the shore of the Sea of Okhotsk.

To climb up Ebeko on a clear day had been a dream of mine ever since we made it to the top in 2014 in horrendous conditions: cold, wet, windswept, and visibility down to next-to-nothing. But this year – just the opposite: warm, dry, windless, and visibility up to scores of kilometers. Hurray!

First – a bit of factual background on Ebeko. It’s a stratovolcano of a multi-faceted structure with several craters at the very top. In fact, the topology of the volcanic activity is so complex that one of the craters was found to be a separate, independent volcano. Not that that really matters. The main thing was that it was a clear sunny day; that meant one thing – we were off up Ebeko and it was going to be a heavenly experience!

This is where we were headed:

Read on…

The ‘Olympic Rupture’ of Alaid Volcano on Atlasov Island – Exclusive Drone Footage!

If the internet is to be believed, there are a total of 56 Kuril Islands, not including the many separately standing and/or grouped rock formations. In all I’ve walked upon 14 Kurils, which doesn’t sound much; however, I chose well – they’re among the most interesting.

As I mentioned earlier, we were going from the northernmost to the southernmost Kurils. The first, northernmost Kuril is Atlasov Island, which is basically a volcano-island, the volcano itself being called the Alaid (pronounced A-la-eed).

The Alaid is 2285 meters high, making the island not only the tallest of all the Kurils – but also of all Russian islands (didn’t know that; isn’t the internet just great?:). And since the depth of the Sea of Okhotsk around these parts is around 800 meters, the total height of the volcano from the bedrock under it is a full three kilometers. An impressively colossal construction!

But enough of statistics. The main thing about this volcano-island is how it looks. It’s just so smoothly spherical. So much so, our guides told us how many Japanese who visit say it’s even more beautiful than their sacred Mount Fuji!

I could write at length describing the stunning symmetry of Atlasov-Alaid, but, as I often say, why bother when I’ve lots of photos – plus a video (of the time-lapse variety, no less)?! Here you go ->

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Azorean volcanism.

The Azores Islands – and that includes its biggest and best, São Miguel Island – are, as mentioned, very volcanic. Rumblings, steamings, smokings, stones flyings, even sometimes lavas flowings. Re the latter though – it’s been a while since there’s been any of that – the last eruption was around 300 years ago (in the westernmost part of the island). Between the rare appearances of lava, the fumarole activity on the islands is constant and busy – just how we like it: bubbling mud and hot springs.

The largest fumarole site is at Furnas, which I mentioned earlier. Of course, these aren’t as grand as the fumaroles in Kamchatka (Mutnovka) or New Zealand or in fact many other places, but they are still gurglingly impressive.

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Azorean calderean – but no swimmean.

The parks and botanical gardens of the Azores I’ve already told you about. Now for something else no less important – the islands’ volcanisms; in this post, about two of them – the Sete Cidades Massif and Lagoa do Fogo (Lagoon of Fire).

Volcanism No. 1 – the Sete Cidades Massif – a stratovolcanic complex made up of a volcano, a caldera, and a lake in the caldera:

The caldera has a complex structure. It is some 5km in diameter (imagine the eruption involved to create that!), and inside it there are seven partly destroyed and very overgrown younger volcanic cones. Sounds amazing? Looks amazing! ->

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Quito’s volcano: we couldn’t say no.

Since Ecuador itself and also its Galapagos Islands are both crammed with snowy-peaked volcanism, you might have expected that, after a full two-week expedition there, we’d have been to the top of at least some volcanoes. Well, I guess I would have expected the same too. However, we were on a take-it-easy, contemplative/meditative trip – not a high-octane, stamina-stretching, intense, head-down, onward-and-upward marching one. And one other not unimportant reason – actually, more important than the one just given – is the fact that the snow-capped peaks here are all almost stratospheric – clocking in mostly above five, and sometimes even six thousand meters high. And as any keen volcanist knows – that means acclimatization needs taking very seriously and lots of specialized kit is required; but, like I said – we were in chill-mode throughout the whole expedition, not serious-mode.

However, we did get one teenie-weenie bit of volcanism in – up the ‘easy’ volcano that shrouds Quito: Pichincha. Here are some pics therefrom:

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Ecuador-2019: Cotacachi/Cuicocha, Otavalo, Puertolago.

Our tour of the Galapagos was over. All that was left to do was fit in our traditional few days of ‘decompression’ after the extreme part of our expedition before we were to head back home. This was to take place back on mainland Ecuador…

…So much for the ‘decompression’ bit: for our next Ecua-dish on the menu was… volcanism ). Yes, we headed over to Cotacachi Volcano and its lovely caldera/lake called Cuicochahere – around two hours drive from Quito.

The height of the caldera differs depending on whom you ask – among locals, various internets, and our own GPS locators. Our locators gave us figures which tallied with what the locals told us: from 3100 to 3450 meters, making the lake around 3km above sea level! And it all looks something like this:

A fairly easy path runs the full way round the lake, which takes around four or five hours if walking at a gentle pace (decompression, remember?:) – or six or seven hours if non-stop-stopping for snapping the super scenery, which is of course what we did. It’s a wonderful day’s walking, and the path is helpfully dotted with clear signs:

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GALÁPA-GOSH – PT. 8: PENGUINS… AT THE EQUATOR!

I think this day was the most Ecuad-awesome of all during our boat-based excursion of the Galápagos Islands. Two islands in one day: one with brightly-colored iguanas; the other – with similarly wonderful wild animals and sensational sunsets. The latter wonderful wild animals – I’d been expecting them sooner or later as I’d heard about them before, but here they finally were, in the flesh – Galápagos penguins! Yes, you read that right: penguins! Who’d have thought it – on the equator of all places?!

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GALÁPA-GOSH – PT. 7: Volcanism, Darwinism, Puerto Ayora-ism…

Hola boys and girls!

Herewith, a continuation of my reportage from the Galápagos Island of Santa Cruz, on which we’d already seen: cacti that defy, surfaces with tortoises, and banana iguanas. Next up… – my favorite: volcanism! In particular: lava tubes. (‘A lava tube is a natural conduit formed by flowing lava which moves beneath the hardened surface of a lava flow. Tubes can drain lava from a volcano during an eruption, or can be extinct, meaning the lava flow has ceased, and the rock has cooled and left a long cave.’ – Wikipedia.

I’d been in such constructions before, in Kamchatka, Sicily, on the slopes of Mount Etna, and in Hawaii. I think that probably most relatively fresh volcanoes in the world feature such lava tubes – and that includes on the Galápagos Islands:

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Three days on the Condor.

My pals and I love a spot of trekking in remote places around the globe. Just two or three days normally does the trick: enough to get in plenty of gawping at luscious landscapes, plenty of exercise, plenty of curiosity satisfaction, and of course plenty of pretty photography.

And our New Year trip to Ecuador proved no exception. With small rucksacks on our backs (and accompanied by horses carrying the larger items like tents and so on) we walked along a lengthy stretch of the Condor Trek.

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