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The Daily Volcano Quote: a narrow escape at Santorini 14 March 2012

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Dr. Schmidt happened, with his colleagues, to be on the summit of Nea Kameni when a fearful thundering eruption of stones and ashes began, which lasted from two to three minutes. Leaving their instruments behind them they fled to the N.W., seeking as far as they could to shelter themselves from the shower of red-hot stones. They were all more or less hurt and burnt. The steamer Aphroessa was struck heavily by a shower of stones; the deck was stove in, only one yard from the powder-magazine, and the engineer’s cabin was set on fire. At the mole lay a vessel, which was instantly set on fire by the stones and her captain killed on the spot by a falling block. Many of the sailors of the Aphroessa were hurt; but only one, a petty officer, seriously wounded. After the explosion the steamer changed her anchorage, and landed her powder for fear of further accidents.

‘Papers relating to the recent volcanic eruptions in Santorin’, Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of London, vol. 10, no. 3 (12 March 1866), pp. 119-20. Dr Johann Friedrich Julius Schmidt was Director of the Royal Observatory at Athens from 1858 to 1884, and had travelled with his colleagues on the Aphroessa to Santorini (called here ‘Santorin’) to observe and study the 1866 eruption.

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The Daily Volcano Quote: Aleutian volcanoes 13 March 2012

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A complete chain of active volcanoes exists along the whole line of the Aleutian islands, and serves to connect the volcanoes of Kamtschatka and Cook’s Inlet. Near the latter sea rises the Ilaman mountain, to a height of 12,066 feet (1,000 feet higher than Aetna), emitting fire and smoke incessantly, yet covered with perpetual snow … Every island in the Aleutian chain is a volcano, either extinct or active. Each is liable to frequent earthquakes, and on each may be found sulphur, lava, and stones displaying evident traces of fire. The active volcanoes are on the following islands: Konushy, Atkha, Seguam, Yunasko, Tshetirekhsoposhnoi, Oonalashka, Akutan, Akuna, and Oonimack, on which there are no less than three … New volcanoes, it appears, are constantly breaking out, and others becoming extinct, along the Aleutian chain.

‘Russian America’, The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Miscellany, 1 June 1843, p. 153.

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The Daily Volcano Quote: on the summit of Etna 12 March 2012

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Smoke was belching out continuously as if from a furnace and, where the surface of the mountain had been split by a long line of fires, under pressure from the winds inside (which on that day were raging quite violently), it also forced an exit for itself in many places; sometimes it even broke out beneath our very feet and would not let us stay still. It also happened that we might be watching some place particularly closely because it was encrusted with stones which had only just been poured out and were still smoking and sulphurous, when it would crack open somewhere, and a stream of fire would flood it, while the stones shot out with this would scorch our feet.

Pietro Bembo, De Aetna (1496), xxvii; from Pietro Bembo: Lyric Poetry, Etna, edited & translated by Mary P. Chatfield (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005), p. 223.

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The Daily Volcano Quote: a basic goal of volcanology 9 March 2012

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It is a basic goal of volcanology to investigate what causes the change from an inactive or weakly active state to an active phase, as well as the accompanying phenomena, We can only deduce from observations and plausible arguments that over the long term, increased activity is a consequence of the rise of a batch of magma from the depths. We cannot know why, when, where, or how big.

Rolf Schick, The Little Book of Earthquakes and Volcanoes (New York: Copernicus Books, 2002), p. 142.

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The Daily Volcano Quote: a missionary’s view of Tongariro 8 March 2012

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It will perhaps at first sight be thought by some of your readers that an article on volcanoes has little to do with missionary work; and so it has, and I only entitle the contribution I am sending you ‘Tongariro Volcano’ because of the close connection that mountain has with the Maori superstition of ‘Tapu’. If any spot was considered tapu, or sacred, by New Zealanders it was the Volcano Tongariro … The volcanic fires of Tongariro were kindled by no hand of man, but by supernatural agency; its various natural phenomena, so mysterious and awful, were accepted by them as auguries and omens, and foretold future destinies by the periods of its rumbling and activity; war and calamity were supposed to be predicted; and when it was silent and its fires at rest, peace and prosperity.

T. S. Grace, Jr., ‘Tongariro Volcano’, Church Missionary Gleaner, 1 October 1874, p. 110.

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The Daily Volcano Quote: the angry gods of Bali 7 March 2012

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When Java was lost to the Mohammedans 485 years ago, so the legend goes, the disgusted Hindu gods hunted around for a new home. They chose the island of Bali, and since their exalted rank demanded a high dwelling place, they created a chain of mountains. On the most sacred eastern end of the island, the gods erected the highest of Bali’s mountains, the 10,308-foot volcano of Gunung Agung, regarded by the Balinese as “The Navel of the World.” Halfway up the slope of Agung, the pious Balinese built the huge mother temple of Besakih, and every hundred years they have held a solemn rite there to rid the island of ghosts. Last week, in the midst of the once-a-century festival, Agung erupted with catastrophic fury. Agung gave fair warning. Only last month, after more than 100 years of inactivity, it burst forth with a shower of smoke and brimstone that killed 17 persons. There was worried talk on Bali that the gods were angry because the people had not asked permission to hold their festival. But the priests and their disciples stayed on to pray. At 7 o’clock one morning, Agung erupted again. The villages of Sebudi, Sorgah, and Sebih were engulfed by a lethal black cloud of searing 230° ash that roasted hundreds where they knelt. Rivers of grey-black lava boiled over Agung’s southern lip and flowed in fiery rivulets down stream beds, raising clouds of steam; heavy rains, possibly caused by the heat of the volcano, mixed with the sulphurous ash to form an acid that killed plant life for miles around.

‘Bali: the gods speak’, Time, 29 March 1963, p. 26. The eruption of Agung described here took place on 17 March 1963 and was a VEI5 event, one of the largest volcanic eruptions of the twentieth century. Approximately 1500 people were killed and widespread devastation was caused by pyroclastic flows and lahars. The Mother Temple of Besakih, however, survived the eruption.

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The Daily Volcano Quote: seawater necessary for volcanic fermentations 6 March 2012

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What is the nature of that mixture which gives birth to these eruptions, that produce lava and throw up mountains? What we observe as certain is, that the introduction of the water of the sea is necessary to excite these fermentations, as containing marine acid and other salts, which, united to the sulphuric acid, the bases of which are contained in abundance in the subterranean strata, determine these fermentations, which produce the disengagement of fire and other fluids, and all the grand effects that are the consequence.

G. A. Deluc, ‘Observations on volcanoes and their lava’, The Philosophical Magazine, vol. XXI (1805), p. 268.

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The Daily Volcano Quote: great circum-Pacific eruptions 5 March 2012

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The series of great circum-Pacific eruptions began with the explosion of Krakatoa in 1883, and of Tarawera, New Zealand, and Niauafau in the Tonga Islands in 1886. In 1894 was the first great eruption of Ambrym since about 1820; in 1902 began the eruptions of Savaii, which were repeated in 1905 and 1906; in 1902 happened the explosive eruptions of Mts. Colima and Santa Maria in Central America, followed by those of Mts. Pelée and St. Vincent in the Atlantic border of the West Indian area; in 1906 occurred the eruptions of Topia and Fanua-lai; in 1908 that of Puna in Hawaii, and in 1909 that of Korintzi, Sumatra; in 1912 the explosion of Katmai in Alaska caused sunset glows in Europe; Sangir Island, on the edge of the Pacific, between the Philippines and Celebes, broke into eruption in March, 1913, followed by that of Ambrym in December of the same year.

J. W. Gregory, ‘The Ambrym eruptions of 1913-14’, Geological Magazine, vol. 4, no. 12 (December 1917), pp. 538-9. The belief that the period after about 1880 represented a marked increase in global volcanic activity after decades of quiescence was widespread in the early twentieth century.

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The Daily Volcano Quote: bombing Mauna Loa 2 March 2012

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From the Army’s Hickham Field outside Pearl Harbor huge bombers departed five weeks ago on a new kind of mission. Their assignment was to bomb the famed volcano, Mauna Loa, on the island of Hawaii, 200 miles away. On April 26 restless Mauna Loa had rumbled into new activity, hurling tons of molten rock into the Pacific sky. Two days later, fountains of lava spouted from two fissures in the moutain-side, a few thousand feet below the summit. Like red snakes, twin lava rivers coiled down Mauna Loa’s skirts, piling up great ramparts of hot rock, firing forests, imperiling the city and harbour of Hilo, and threatening to dam its water supply. To divert these angry streams Army airmen dropped bombs in their path … By May 10 the disturbance had slackened, Hilo was safe, and Mauna Loa had subsided again into smoky slumber.

‘Army bombs Mauna Loa volcano to divert lava flow from Hilo Harbor’, Life, 1 June 1942, p. 36. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory has an account of the 1942 eruption and the attempt to divert the lava by aerial bombing, noting that ‘Though most appeared to hit their mark, the bombs had little or no impact on the eruption or on the flow’s direction’.

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The Daily Volcano Quote: the Vesuvius-Perthshire connection 1 March 2012

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It is a remarkable fact that the eruptions of Vesuvius have, almost in every case, been preceded by alarming indications of the volcanic activity in Perthshire. About a month ago, it will be recollected that some smart shocks were felt at Crieff and Comrie. It now turns out that, almost immediately afterwards, Vesuvius became convulsed. It thus appears that there must be a chain of strata, of uniform sympathy, stretching from the Grampian and Ochil Hills to Italy.

‘Scientific Notices’, The Charter, no. 44, 24 November 1839, p. 13.

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