Ever since our planet formed from a cloud of condensed stellar dust, the dense heat of our interior has created a molten core surrounded by a thin candy shell of solid rock. That shell continues to evolve, leaking magma via cracks in its moving surface, via events both quiet and violent.
Such is the continual evolution of our planet. It’s a beautiful process, assuming you’re looking at it in a photograph, rather than while running in fear from the bottom of the mountain where it’s occurring.
In April 2010, the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull spewed great ash clouds into the sky and caused enormous disruptions to air travel in Europe. The eruptions are best remembered for this inconvenience, but photographer James Appleton managed to capture the event in a different way. In the weeks before the disturbances, a vulcanologist friend of his alerted him to the unfolding volcanic drama, and Appleton travelled straight to the Icelandic mountain before it was closed off. Risking his life to battle extreme cold, high winds, and seismic activity, Appleton captured a rare but gorgeous scene: the glowing lava from an Eyjafjallajökull fissure with the Northern Lights—Aurora Borealis—overhead. These are two very different light sources, so “the photograph needed parts of the scene selectively blocked for sections of the exposure to balance the contrast,” Appleton recalls. “A Mars bar wrapper came in handy for this!”
These Pacific parakeets nest in holes inside the crater of Volcán Nindiri in Nicaragua. A human could barely tolerate such toxic conditions, but somehow the birds manage to survive there. (Untamed Americas - NGC)
August 24, 79 AD: Pompeii and Herculaneum Destroyed in Mount Vesuvius Eruption
On this day in the year 79 AD, over 16,000 people died from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the Gulf of Naples, Italy. The volcano spewed molten rock and pulverized pumice at 1.5 million tons per second, releasing a 100,000 times the thermal energy released by the Hiroshima bombing.
As a result, the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum and their citizens were nearly instantly buried beneath a thick layer of volcanic material.
Join geo-archaeologists in Secrets of the Dead’s “Herculaneum Uncovered” as they examine how the eruption devastated Herculaneum in a very different manner than to Pompeii.
Photo: Mount Versuvius, Library of Congress, 1872.
Pumice rafts drifting from Tonga to Fiji during August - October 2006. The source of these pumice rafts was Home Reef (ephemeral island built by a submarine volcano), which was first observed to be in eruption on 9 August and was clearly building an island by 12 August.