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  Field Notes From
Strangest Volcano on Earth?

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On Assignment
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From Photographer

Carsten Peter

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photograph by Carsten Peter


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Strangest Volcano on Earth?

Field Notes From Photographer
Carsten Peter
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Climbing this mountain was like a journey to another planet. On top I felt as if I was in this otherworldly place. It was so wonderful seeing the pale orange glow of lava flowing under the full moonlight. At times the glow was so dim that I could barely get it into focus. The lava is very unique. It's viscous and runs fast like oil. The landscape of craters and spines has pulled me back time and again. I've become addicted to this mountain.

Rumbling announced that something was going on inside one particular cone. It looked solid enough that we didn't think we were in any danger. One morning two of my friends decided to climb up the crater at the highest elevation to get a good overview. As they passed this huge cone, it collapsed on its side. In what was like a flash-flood, an internal lava lake emptied. A wave of highly liquid lava about three feet (one meter) high rapidly poured out. If they had passed the cone a minute earlier, they would have died.

I was photographing at our campsite one morning when a hornito—sharp, steep, pinnacles that form around active vents—began showing some very nice activity. I was distracted by it until one of my friends called to me suddenly and said, "Hey, look at your equipment!" The ground opened and became an active vent exactly where I had placed my gear. I grabbed it just in time. As time went on, rivers of lava flowed from the spot in two different directions. Then we realized that a group of monkeys were close to our campsite, which meant our food was at risk. We ended up having to deal with two fronts that morning: eruptions on one side of the camp and monkeys on the other.

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