Meet ‘lava chasers,’ who head toward volcanoes when others are fleeing


For most individuals, the sight of lava making its means toward them means keep effectively away. However for a choose few, the response is the exact opposite.

These are so-called “lava chasers,” individuals who really search out energetic volcanoes, stand precipitously on the sting and a few who even head inside craters.

With the elevated exercise of the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii these previous few weeks, you’ll find Demian Barrios someplace close to one of many fissures spouting lava. Usually lava flows in predictable routes in Hawaii, however with this new eruption, Barrios stated he is been pressured to chase it. However’s all price it.

“It’s totally intense on the market, clearly the lava could be very sizzling,” Barrios instructed CBC Information. “There’s a very small hazard getting inside that proximity to the lava itself and it is a mixture of feelings. It’s totally thrilling to see the volcano creating new land.”

Kilauea is an effusive volcano. As a substitute of taking pictures lava violently into the sky, it erupts in fissures, openings in cracks within the floor the place the magma bubbles as much as the floor — and is then known as lava — and strikes slowly alongside the bottom. It is this ongoing exercise that created the islands themselves. 

[Volcanoes] give us fertile soil; they offer us a few of the finest actual property on Earth. However the entire presents that are given could be revocable with nearly no discover.– George Kourounis, nature adventurer

Hawaii is thought for its volcanoes and lakes of lava, however from time to time — as now, the primary time since 1955 — new areas of lava are being shaped.

That is to not say that Kilauea does not have explosions: For the reason that new exercise started three weeks in the past, authorities have warned of accelerating hazard from one thing known as a phreatomagmatic explosion. In these violent occasions, magma interacts with water under the floor, constructing stress after which sending ash and rock skyward.

Kilauea sends plume of ash and particles practically 9,000 metres up 0:49

Kilauea has been sending up small phreatomagmatic explosions for a couple of week now, with bigger explosions over the previous few days.

“We did have a number of explosions throughout the previous couple of days that had some large lava bombs, principally large molten rock being ejected out of the fissure vents they usually fly a number of hundred toes within the air,” Barrios stated. “When these begin falling on the bottom, you do not need to be wherever round these.”

However Barrios does not keep away. He says he has respect for Pele, the fireplace goddess of Hawaii. He ensures that he takes precautions. Amongst his different instruments, he wears a respirator to guard in opposition to the noxious sulphur dioxide gases in addition to a helmet.

Chasing volcanoes worldwide

George Kourounis, from Toronto, is one other such journey chaser: He was married together with an energetic volcano in Vanuatu and spent his honeymoon at Kilauea throughout an eruption.

George Kourounis sits at Kilauea, Hawaii, in 2006 throughout a go to to the volcano. (George Kourounis)

Kourounis, initially a sound engineer, skilled his first volcano encounter with Erta Ale in Ethiopia in 2005. He was hooked.

“They’re a lot like visiting one other planet,” Kourounis stated. “Only a few issues stay on these volcanoes they usually have this lunar form of panorama. And to see liquid rock and to really feel the warmth is the form of factor that I am simply inquisitive about. I’ve at all times been fascinated by extremes of nature.”

He pictures and data his shut encounters, as seen under.

Since then, he is misplaced depend of the volcanoes he is visited, however he says it is probably within the realm of 25: in Hawaii, Iceland, Ethiopia, Vanuatu, Italy, New Zealand, Indonesia and Guatemala, to call however a number of.

Now he chases full-time, and never simply volcanoes: Additionally tornadoes, hurricanes, fires and different excessive occasions.

And although he loves all of it, volcanoes have held a selected fascination.

Adventurer George Kourounis stands by the Nyiragongo lava lake within the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2006. (George Kourounis)

“Civilization and people generally, we now have this relationship with volcanoes,” Kourounis stated. “They provide us fertile soil; they offer us a few of the finest actual property on Earth. However the entire presents that are given could be revocable with nearly no discover. Pele’s presents are fickle.”

Whereas Kourounis is not in Hawaii now — he does not need to waste a visit if he cannot get shut sufficient since authorities are warning individuals away — in June he is headed to Vanuatu once more as a information to another thrill-seekers. 

Dire penalties

Each chasers perceive the dangers and take their security critically. Nonetheless, volcanoes aren’t precisely predictable.

In one of the well-known cases, Maurice and Katia Krafft, two seasoned French volcanologists, had been killed in a pyroclastic circulation — a fast-moving circulation of fuel and volcanic particles — on Mount Unzen in Japan in 1991. Forty-one different individuals had been additionally killed, together with volcanologist Harry Glicken and a number of other journalists protecting the eruption.

“You are able to do the whole lot proper and nonetheless get into bother,” stated Kourounis, who as soon as discovered himself in a crater with a gas-powered carry whose starter got here off in his hand  Luckily for him, it broke after it began. Of  course, he was geared up with backups.

Chasing lava, descending into craters, standing on the sting of lava lakes…all of it feels like a unnecessarily silly threat. However for Barrios and Kourounis, it is the love of nature that fuels the chase.

“I do know it is not for everyone,” Barrios stated. “Lots of people are working the alternative means, and we’re working into floor zero.”



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