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The Daily Volcano Quote: the rock band and the volcano 14 July 2011

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Perhaps the most incredible Weather Control story involves the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980. The Dead was reportedly playing at Memorial Coliseum in Portland, Oregon. A short way into the second set, the Dead played the song “Fire on the Mountain”. Legend has it that while the band was playing a particularly “hot” version of that song, the volcano erupted. When the show was over, Deadheads emerged to find volcanic ash falling everywhere. Though it was never explicitly said that the Dead “caused” the mountain to erupt, everyone agreed that the intensity of the song and the eruption were somehow connected. In fact, the Dead did not actually play in Portland until June 12, 1980, almost a month after the major May 18 eruption of Mount St. Helens, but they did play “Fire on the Mountain” at that show, probably as a tribute to the volcano. This legend shows how history and folklore combine very quickly — in this case within ten years — to create a memorable story.

Revell Carr, ‘Deadhead tales of the supernatural: a folkloristic analysis’, in Robert G. Weiner (ed.), Perspectives on the Grateful Dead (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999), pp. 209-10. The Grateful Dead may not actually ever have made a volcano erupt, but they could have done if they had wanted to.

The Daily Volcano Quote: from Monday to Friday, a new eruption of volcanic verbiage each day.

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The Daily Volcano Quote: Vesuvius bubbling away 13 July 2011

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Vesuvius, which for some time back has been giving exhibitions of Nature’s methods of illumination, is growing even more demonstrative.

Its eruptions are accompanied with strange rumblings and tremors of the earth, and there is an abundant outflow of scoria.

At Sanvito a slight earthquake has occurred.

It appears that the splendid phenomena visible around the cone and reflected on the clouds at night are so many indications that the lava in the heart of the mountain is in a boiling state. The loud explosions heard every few minutes are merely the effects of this ebullition, and correspond to the bubblings of boiling water in a pan.

No danger is apprehended at present, but the conditions are considered to presage a great reawakening of volcanic force and action.

The new cones formed are expected to fall in.

‘Vesuvius getting up steam’, Daily Express, 1 December 1900, p. 1. Despite its lava bubbling like ‘boiling water in a pan’, Vesuvius did not get around to erupting until July 1913. EDIT: this is quite wrong, see Boris Behncke’s correction below.

The Daily Volcano Quote: from Monday to Friday, a new eruption of volcanic verbiage each day.

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The Daily Volcano Quote: Dr Erik Klemetti on Yellowstone 12 July 2011

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To celebrate the Eruptions blog reaching 1,000 posts, here’s its only begetter, Dr Erik Klemetti, puncturing, in typically measured and well-informed style, one of the favoured obsessions of the disaster-mongers and doomsday-lovers: Yellowstone.

Sometimes I think that people have an unhealthy obsession with Yellowstone Caldera. Sure, it is big, powerful and the stuff that disaster movies are made, but in terms of a volcanic system that poses a high threat to life/property in the U.S. on a daily basis, it is relatively low. I know what you are thinking (well, some of you): “How can you say that? Look at how big the past eruptions were?” Yes, indeed, the previous eruption from the modern Yellowstone Caldera were indeed big, some of the biggest we have identified on the continents (it is still no Fish Canyon Tuff), so I’ll give you that. However, looking at the recent volcanic history of Yellowstone, you’d see that these big “doomsday” eruptions are only a very small piece of its activity, so even if tomorrow the caldera began to show signs of imminent eruption, there is a very good chance that it would be a relatively minor eruption – possibly on the scale of the 2008 and onward Chaiten eruption in Chile. … And if you ever worry, Yellowstone is also well-wired to see all the real time data, including earthquakes in the region and in the park, temperatures of hot springs, webcams, deformation within the caldera and hydrologic changes in the area. You would expect that if Yellowstone were headed towards an eruption, we would see lots of rapid inflation, lots of constant seismicity that gets shallower through time, a change in the temperature/composition of the hydrothermal systems and possibly even cracks forming in the land around the caldera. In other words, there will be lots of signs. So, the next time you see a doomsday article about Yellowstone, remember, calderas are busy places and the media loves its disasters.

Erik Klemetti, ‘Yellowstone: the public and media obsession with the caldera’, Eruptions, 25 January 2011.

The Daily Volcano Quote: from Monday to Friday, a new eruption of volcanic verbiage each day.

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The Daily Volcano Quote: the legend of Katla 11 July 2011

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Once it happened that the Abbot of the Monastery of Thykkvabœ had a housekeeper whose name was Katla, and who was an evil-minded and hot-tempered woman. She possessed a pair of shoes whose peculiarity was, that whoever put them on was never tired of running. Everybody was afraid of Katla’s bad disposition and fierce temper, even the Abbot himself. The herdsman of the monastery farm, whose name was Bardi, was often dreadfully ill-treated by her, particularly if he had chanced to lose any of the ewes.

One day in the autumn the Abbot and his housekeeper went to a wedding, leaving orders with Bardi to drive in the sheep and milk them before they came home. But unhappily, when the time came, the herdsman could not find all the ewes; so he went into the house, put on Katla’s magic shoes, and sallied out in search of the stray sheep. He had a long way to run before he discovered them, but felt no fatigue, so drove all the flock in quite briskly.

When Katla returned, she immediately perceived that the herdsman had been using her shoes, so she took him and drowned him in a large tubful of curds. Nobody knew what had become of the man, and as the winter went on, and the curds in the tub sank lower and lower, Katla was heard to say these words to herself: ‘Soon will the waves of milk break upon the foot-soles of Bardi!’

Shortly after this, dreading that the murder should be found out, and that she should be condemned to death, she took her magic shoes, and ran from the monastery to a great ice-mountain, into a rift of which she leaped, and was never seen again.

As soon as she had disappeared, a fearful eruption took place from the mountain, and the lava rolled down and destroyed the monastery at which she had lived. People declared that her witchcraft had been the cause of this, and called the crater of the mountain, ‘The Rift of Katla’.

Jón Arnason, ‘The Legend of Katla’, from Icelandic Legends (London: Richard Bentley, 1864), pp. 134-5.

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The Daily Volcano Quote: one woman against the volcano 8 July 2011

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At about midnight Matupi volcano started to blow its head off; the gurias [earthquakes] always seem to come in at night. The whole of the furniture and crockery in my house was rocking, and I looked out the window and saw that the mountain had a huge fiery peak. All around the house hundreds of frightened natives were chattering and crying in terror. I went straight out in my nightgown carrying a lantern and did my best to pacify them. But I had a difficult task, as many were overcome by superstitious fear. As a matter of fact, the present upheaval would probably cause hundreds of natives to die through sheer fright. They are a very simple childlike people. I gave aspirin tablets to those who were most badly affected, telling them that it was medicine stronger than the guria. They believed me implicitly, partly on account of my red hair, which they tried to imitate and thought was in some way sacred.

‘Woman who braved Matupi volcano’, The Australian Women’s Weekly, 12 June 1937, p. 4. The woman in question was Mrs Ray McPherson, ‘who for several years was the only white woman on Matupi Island, near Rabaul’, and who provided the account given above. Matupi is another name for Tavurvur, a volcanic cone within the Rabaul caldera, which (with Vulcan cone on the opposite side of the caldera) erupted destructively from 29 May to 2 June 1937 — the ‘present upheaval’ referred to by Mrs McPherson. Matupi or Matupit Island lies just west of Tavuruvur.

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The Daily Volcano Quote: reflecting on Mont Pelée 7 July 2011

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The latest Vulcanian throes have caught the attention of the reading world. Measured by volume of material cast out, or by force of explosions, the recent Antillean outbreaks rank below many others on record — far below the stupendous outbursts of later geologic periods; yet measured by mortality, the eruption of Mont Pelee on the morning of May 8, 1902, ranks among the most appalling catastrophes of history. And never before was news of disaster so quickly spread; quick thinkers jotted the details, and cables and swift ships carried them to every country within a few hours — yet not so speedily but that history’s brightest example of practical sympathy overtook the echoes of calamity. The prompt charity was not emotional merely, but a material outpouring of national assistance; and it was no less rational, as attested by the presence on the relief ships of a corps of scientific students whose aim was to dispense knowledge with food and apparel, and to acquire better knowledge against future emergencies. Measured merely by mortality, Mont Pelee marks one of the darkest chapters of human history; measured by the upwelling of human sympathy, it stands for one of the brightest chapters; and measured by the prompt and effective inauguration of research, it must be said to open a new chapter in vulcanology.

Dr W. J. McGee, ‘The Antillean volcanoes’, Popular Science Monthly, July 1902, pp. 272-3.

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The Daily Volcano Quote: Azores too volcanic for telegraph 6 July 2011

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We need say nothing of the Azores. Their volcanic character is so notorious, they have given so many oft repeated warnings, in the shape of short lived islands, the jets of volcanic fire, as well as in the fearful destruction of towns and changes in the surface of the land, that the advocates of ocean telegraphy evince no desire to approach them with a cable, preferring to adopt a very respectful distance from such company. But, alas, how far must they be left? for we are told that the volcanic fires of Iceland may be reasonably connected with those of the Azores.

‘The Atlantic Cable’, The Nautical Magazine and Naval Chronicle, July 1860, p. 347.

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The Daily Volcano Quote: Victoria’s volcanoes 5 July 2011

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Victoria has probably more extinct volcanoes than all the other [Australian] states put together. … When white men came here little more than 100 years ago they found no legends among the blacks about the extinct volcanoes having been active. These were all cold before the arrival of the human being. We must be grateful to those old volcanoes, and to the lava that just oozed out of cracks in the ground, for the best soil we have in Victoria. We should feel glad, too, that these volcanoes are very dead and not at all likely, in the opinion of our geologists, to break out into eruption. We have enough troubles in the shape of eruptions caused by human-made appliances dropped from aeroplanes at the moment.

‘Extinct volcanoes of Victoria’, Camperdown Chronicle, 27 March 1941, p. 4.

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The Daily Volcano Quote: volcano gods in Japan 4 July 2011

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Though Japan has one hundred volcanoes, of which half are more or less active, the feelings excited by volcanic phenomena have left little trace in the religion. The Kojiki, Nihongi, and Norito do not recognize any worship of volcanoes. Perhaps the Aso-tsu-hiko and Aso-tsu-hime of the Nihongi are to be reckoned an exception. These are no doubt personifications of Mount Aso, a remarkable volcano in the province of Higo, which is frequently referred to in later history. The drying up or overflowing of a lake within its crater was supposed to portend famine, pestilence, drought, or the death of the sovereign.

W. G. Ashton, Shinto: The Way of the Gods (London: Longmans, 1905), p. 147. The highly active Aso caldera retains its crater lake, and remains ‘a remarkable volcano’ today.

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The Daily Volcano Quote: volcanoes the safety valves of the globe 24 June 2011

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We regard the existence of volcanoes as evidential of divine benevolence … we refer now to active and not extinct volcanoes. And these, we are aware, are almost universally regarded as exhibitions of the displeasure of God, rather than of his benevolence. It is indeed true, that they are often terrific exhibitions of his power; and when he employs them as penal inflictions, they signally manifest the sterner features of the divine character. Yet we maintain that the design of volcanoes is to preserve and not to destroy. They have been denominated ‘the safety valves of our globe;’ and this quaint expression conveys a forcible idea of what we mean by the benevolent design of this mighty agency. If it be indeed true, as most geologists now admit, that even at this day the earth contains extensive accumulations of intensely heated matter, embracing perhaps all its central parts, then may it be literally true that volcanoes are the safety valves of the globe. For if such molten reservoirs do not occasionally have vent, the vapour and gases generated within them, would burst the globe asunder. The phenomena of earthquakes admonish us of the consequences of closing these valves; for they are produced by the struggles of these vapours and gases to escape; and until they do escape through volcanic vents, they heave and fissure the solid strata over whole continents; and in past days they have been far more destructive to property and life than volcanoes. But so soon as the force is sufficient to lift the safety valve, that is, to uncap the volcano, the earthquake ceases. Let the valve be heavy enough, and the earth would ere long be blown to atoms. To prevent such a catastrophe, God has scattered more than two hundred of these safety valves over its surface.

‘The divine benevolence: illustrated by facts drawn from geology’, The Scottish Christian Herald, vol. 1, no. 23 (6 August 1836), p. 358.

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