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I have always been fascinated by volcanoes. I remember being so impressed when, as a kid, I read that story of a farmer in Mexico who in 1943 saw some steam coming out of his corn field through large cracks that opened in the Earth... He and his family witnessed the birth of a new volcano! The Paricutin now stands 424m tall over its surroundings. Just imagine having a volcano pop up in your backyard... This volcano has now been dormant since 1952.
Later on, spectacular images of volcanic activity in Iceland (birth of the Island of Surtsey), Hawaii (lava flows reaching the ocean) or Reunion had such an impact on me that I wanted to go and see with my own eyes these manifestations of the living Earth.
My first trip on a volcano was in Sicily on Mt Etna, as a student.
Shortly after this first visit to Etna, I was going to study a volcano in Colombia, the Galeras, next to Pasto in the Narino province. Unfortunately for me (or should I say fortunately...) there was a change in plans and the Colombian Geological Survey INGEOMINAS decided that a Colombian student who was already familiar with that volcano would be doing that research project. I was very disappointed when I heard this, however it made sense.
A few years later the Galeras was the scene of a tragic accident that struck the scientific community. In January 1993, an international volcanology symposium was held in Pasto. During a field trip on the volcano, with no obvious signs of warning, it erupted and six scientists plus three tourists were killed! The volcanologist I had climbed Galeras with was one of them! It was a terrible tragedy. Had I been the one doing that research project, I most probably would have been present on the volcano on that day...
After these events there was a big controversy regarding whether or not such a catastrophe could have been prevented. Two books that I know of have been written on the subject: "Surviving Galeras" by Stanley Williams who led the excursion on the volcano, and "No apparent danger" by Victoria Bruce.
Climbing volcanoes should not be taken lightly...
The volcanoes (active or dormant) that I have climbed in South America:
- Purace (4650m)
- Galeras (4276m) a road goes up to the top of Galeras, but then it is a steep descent along fixed ropes down the caldera, followed by a climb to the crater
- Cotopaxi (5895m)
- lliniza (5126m)
- Tungurahua (5023m)
- Carihuayrazo (5018m)
- Chiles (4761m) along the border with Colombia
- Rucu Pichincha (4627m)
Other volcanoes that I have been to:
- Parinacota (6348m) in Chile
- Chimborazo (6268m) in Ecuador
- Kilauea (1247m) in Hawaii (watching the lava reach the ocean on Kilauea was just awesome!)
- Arenal (1657m) in Costa Rica (because of the heavy rains I did not get a chance to see the summit and the lava flows)
- Santorini in Greece
- Massif Central in France.
In this blog I've put together my favorite photographs of these turbulent giants.