Earthquakes, hurricanes and volcanoes are the big three natural disasters in the world that everyone wants to avoid. Unlike the first two, volcanoes are often a little easier to deal with because at least you can see where they are and plan accordingly. Sometimes, anyway. But for all we understand about them, there are a lot of odd volcanoes in the world with some very strange features.
10. Mountain of God Erupts Carbonatite
The Mountain of God — Ol Doinyo Lengai, located in Tanzania — is what they call what is arguably one of the strangest volcanoes in the world. It’s the only volcano that actively erupts a substance called carbonatite. Most volcanoes let loose material that is silica based. The lava here is mostly sodium, calcium, and CO2.
The natron carbonate from the Mountain of God is much cooler than normal lava. It is only about 500 degrees Celsius at the time of eruption and doesn’t get hot enough to turn red. Normal volcanoes can be over 1,250 degrees Celsius. Word is that the lava from the Mountain of God is so cool that someone once survived falling into it.
The lava that erupts much thinner than typical magma. Without silica to make it thick, it flows almost like water. So instead of a slow, sluggish lava flow down a mountain, it runs like a river, faster than a human could get away.
Sharknado was an inexplicably popular low-budget, campy movie about sharks in a tornado. It was absurd and goofy on purpose. But if they wanted a touch of reality, they should have opted for the sharkano, a volcano full of sharks, which is a real thing scientists discovered in 2015.
The Kavachi volcano is located 20 miles from the coast of the Solomon Islands. It’s one of the most active volcanoes in the ocean, though it was obviously not erupting at the time. Still, the water is hot, acidic and full of sediment. It’s not the kind of place you’d expect to find life, and certainly not sharks.
They filmed both silky sharks and hammerheads swimming in the volcano. Researchers were planning to tag the sharks to see how their habits change when the volcano is erupting. There’s speculation that the sharks either sense an eruption and leave the area or they simply explode with the volcano.
8. Paricutin Grew Hundreds of Feet in a Week
The shape of a volcano, the cone type anyway, gives away how it forms to some degree. It’s like a pimple on the surface of the Earth that has burst through the crust. And as weird as that metaphor sounds, the Paricutin volcano demonstrated that fact very well.
Located about 200 miles from Mexico City, Paricutin is not an ancient volcano like so many others. It formed in 1943, essentially in front of the farmer who owned the land on which it appeared.
Locals had experienced a lot of seismic activity in the days leading up to the appearance of the volcano. On February 20, 1943 the farmer went out to burn some brush. He saw a crack in the ground and heard a sound like thunder. Ash and rubble began to rise out of the ground several meters. Smoke and steam followed. By the end of the day, the volcano was 50 meters high. By the end of the week, it was three times that size.
7. Novarupta Had the Most Powerful Eruption of the 20th Century
The most powerful volcanic eruption of the 20th century was not Mount St. Helens or any of the other eruptions that have happened in recent memory. This one dates back to 1912 when the Alaskan volcano known as Novarupta blew.
Technology today makes it easier to gauge when and where massive eruptions will happen. That was not the case in 1912. Plus the remote location of Novarupta meant very few people had any clue what was going on. It took over an hour after the eruption occurred for people in the nearest major population center (Juneau, Alaska — some 750 miles away) to notice it.
Novarupta sent around 7.2 cubic miles of material into the air and then onto the surrounding landscape. For some perspective that is more than every other Alaskan eruption put together. It was 30 times more than Mount St. Helens.
The people on the nearest island, 100 miles away, got blanketed with ash for three straight days. It fell over one foot deep and was heavy enough to collapse buildings. It blacked the sun and made breathing impossible. Any life outside could not survive it. Ash traveled so far that within two weeks it was located in Africa.
6. Yellowstone is a Supervolcano
Yellowstone Park gets around four million visitors every year. Even during 2020 and the Covid-19 pandemic over 3.8 million people headed to the park. Its beautiful scenery and unique landscape make it extremely popular. This despite the fact Yellowstone isn’t just over a volcano, it’s over a supervolcano.
Yellowstone has only had three significant eruptions that scientists are aware of, and the most recent one was about 664,000 years ago. But if it were to erupt, it would cover several states in ash. As the name suggests, a supervolcano is like a regular volcano, only so much more powerful. When it blows, it has the possibility of being a super eruption.
In order to qualify as a super eruption, a volcano has to spew out at least 240 cubic miles worth of volcanic material. That’s a lot of magma. How much? Enough to bury the entire state of Texas under five feet of burning hellfire.
One of the biggest super eruptions in history happened 74,000 years ago and lead to a a global winter that lasted close to a decade. So if these things happen, they’re bad news. And while one could happen at Yellowstone, there’s nothing to suggest it will. At least not anytime soon.
5. Crater of Diamonds State Park was Made by a Volcano
The volcano that helped make Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas never got a name. In fact, the park is formed as part of a 95 million-year-old eroded volcanic pipe. The land was bought by a farmer and in 1906 as he was working the land he discovered diamonds in the soil.
The farmer sold the land to diamond miners for $36,000. Not all the land was owned by the same people though and over the years land was sold and competition got heated over who could find what diamonds where. Eventually some of the fields were opened up to the public. You could travel to the town, pay a fee, and just dig through the ground for your own diamonds.
By 1972 the state bought all the land and turned it into a state park. They keep the tradition alive by allowing visitors to search the land for diamonds. Any that you find you’re able to keep.
All the diamonds on the site were formed in that ancient volcano before being erupted onto the land. Other gemstones were formed in the volcano as well and can also be found on site. Visitors find, on average, about 600 diamonds every year.
4. Camiguin Has More Volcanoes Than Anywhere on Earth
Camiguin is an island in the Philippines that looks like a tropical paradise. Lush forest and beautiful landscape distract from the fact no one lives here and few people travel here, either. That’s thanks to the island’s volcanic activity.
Based on square footage, there are more volcanoes on Camiguin than anywhere else on Earth. More than 20 cinder cones, the classic form of a volcano that most of us would recognize, exist on the island. They are all over 100 meters high.
It’s not prohibited to go here and tourists do come for snorkeling, hiking, and even climbing the volcanoes. It’s just clear that no one would want to live too long in a place that has more volcanoes than anywhere in the world.
3. Krakatoa’s Sound Traveled 3,000 miles
Even if you’ve never seen a real volcano you can imagine what it must be like. The force of the blast, the plume of smoke, the rivers of magma. But what about the sound? It’s safe to say it’s going to be loud, but the reality of it is unlike anything else on Earth. At least, that was the case when Krakatoa blew its top in 1883.
Thousands of people died during this eruption, and the flow of lava was so immense it traveled across the ocean and hit other islands nearby, spreading more devastation. Four hours after the eruption, 3,000 miles away on the other side of the Indian Ocean, people heard the blast.
It took that long for the sound to travel the distance, but residents on Rodriguez Island reported hearing it. Likewise, residents of Perth in Australia reported the sound as well.
2. Human Ashes Can Be Scattered Near, but not in Hawaiian Volcanoes
When a loved one passes away, many of us will opt for cremation as a way to handle the remains. That means you’ll end up with a jar containing the ashes of your loved one and usually one of two things happens. Either you keep the remains at home on the mantle or, to honor the deceased, you scatter their remains in accordance with their wishes. In Hawaii, you can do this near a volcano.
Most people would never want to get near a volcano alive or dead, but Hawaiians have been living near volcanoes since Hawaii was formed, so they’re used to it. If you wish to be a part of that after death, the government is okay with it so long as you follow some rules.
Scattering remains has to be done away from other guests in the park. Keep it on the down low. They also request that you don’t do it in a way that draws attention to the fact you’re doing it. Basically, don’t give other people the heebie jeebies.
Ashes cannot be scattered in Halema’uma’u Crater and no one should be able to identify the remains as human afterwards. But, if you pay the $25 fee, you can scatter them somewhere near the volcano after filling out a permit.
1. Santiaguito Erupts Almost Hourly
Most of us think of a volcanic eruption as a fairly significant event. Movies have gone a long way to making us believe these are catastrophes that utterly destroy everything in their path and we should feel lucky they are so rare. And then there’s Santiaguito.
This Guatemalan volcano has been erupting almost hourly for the last 94 years. It just never stops. And 1.2 million people live within several miles of the base of the volcano.
The volcano is plugged by magma and the pressure builds hourly, causes it to explode, and then goes down again. It’s rare for the volcano to erupt with enough force to cause a lot of damage to the surrounding area, but it does happen from time to time.
Scientists have taken to studying Santiaguito because it’s so reliable in its activity that it lets them get a better idea of how these things work. As for the locals, they just keep hoping every eruption is a mild one.