So screw lockdowns. Why not trek out to play dodge ball with stinkin’ hot lava?
06 April 2021 | RACHEL NG \ PHOTOGRAPHS BY CHRIS BURKARD |
National Geographic (original link)
In late March 2021, thousands of people in Iceland hiked into the Geldingadalur valley to watch fiery lava splutter and spill from the crater of the Fagradalsfjall volcano after it erupted for the first time in nearly 800 years.
As white ash clouds puffed above trails of glowing, molten rock inching through craggy black stones, some visitors took photos, others sat in quiet awe, and a few toasted marshmallows over the lava flows.
Photographer Chris Burkard, who captured the eruption for National Geographic, was transfixed by the ominous-but-beautiful landscape, too. “It was mesmerising,” he says. “I never thought something as simple as molten rock would get me this excited.”
The aftermath of eruptions has created famously fertile ground for tourism.
Japanese tourists have bunked at onsen ryokans (hot springs inns) in villages near volcanoes since the 8th century.
The ruins of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, preserved by a blanket of ashes when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79, lured countless sightseers on the European Grand Tour in the 17th and 18th centuries.
But the steam, crackle, and pop of active volcanoes has an allure all its own. “They’re one of the most primeval forces of nature that we can observe,” says Benjamin Hayes, chief of interpretation and education for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island. “You feel the power of Mother Earth near this lifeblood of the planet.”
Travelling to an active volcano isn’t without risks and ethical questions. It can be the thrill of lifetime—or a fatal attraction. Before you get fired up to see one, here’s what you should know.