The Lure of Volcanoes

I used to think my obsession with rocks and the natural environment was a bit strange! None of my friends shared the same curiosity… What? Why? How? As a child holidays to the Isle of Wight’s Jurassic coast were often spent trawling beaches for that one unusual rock, or clambering around impressive cliff faces; both of which fuelled my desire to find answers

The natural world with its ever-changing wonders continues to intrigue me and further deepen my curiosity. Understanding how volcanoes, tectonic plates and orogenic* episodes have shaped our landscape in the past, and continue to do so in the present is why I pursued Geology to a higher level. Throughout my studies I found myself drawn to volcanology. The subsurface mechanisms that form these spectacular volcanic landforms operate in modern environments on human timescales; they can be witnessed in realtime, something that is not true of many other geological processes. Volcanoes are an awe-inspiring window into the depths of the inner Earth. They are a beautiful yet uncontrollable and destructive force - creating natures greatest contradiction. 

We are often unaware of the dynamic Earth beneath our feet; a continual energy that has been there long before us and will remain long after. At plate boundaries and volcanic hotspots the Earth comes to life, as it sends ash kilometres into the air or fills abandoned valleys with incandescent lava. Volcanoes, like you or I, are unique; no two behave or erupt in the same style. Thus with every eruption comes new information, forever expanding our curiosity about the planet we live on. These fascinating, dramatic eruptions can cause widespread destruction and death, however are vital for our survival. During early volcanic activity the release of carbon dioxide and water vapour into the environment enriched the Earth’s atmosphere in oxygen. Today volcanic ash provides plants with rich nutrients producing fertile land for farming, and volcanic rocks supply us with building materials. But my personal favourite is the stunning landscape these natural phenomena produce - something that can be enjoyed and appreciated by all.

Currently stationed in West Iceland and working in the depths of Viðgelmir, Iceland’s largest lava tube, we are surrounded by a landscape born from volcanoes and sculptured by glaciers. From the vast basaltic lava field of Hallmundarhraun, the glacier Langjökull can be seen as it towers above the area. Iceland is full of hidden beauties, Viðgelmir of which is one we are lucky enough to explore.

*mountain building