Volcanic eruptions have played a major role in Earth’s long geographical history and given rise to massive and stunning landforms. Volcanoes have also played roles—rarely benevolent ones—in the myths and legends of cultures around the globe.
Today, volcanoes are a subject of scientific study, and they remain a source of nonscientific fascination for people everywhere. Join this expedition to get a close-up look at volcanoes in Indonesia, Russia, Ethiopia, Iceland, and the United States.
Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park
One of Indonesia’s most famous volcanoes is here on the island of Java in the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park. Its name is Bromo, and it’s an active volcano. You can get to the foot of the mountain by car and then climb the 250 stairs to get to the crater.
The altitude of the volcano is not that high, at only 2,392 meters. Its accessibility is why hundreds of tourists visit Bromo every day.
Other Nearby Volcanoes
Besides Bromo, there are 4 more volcanoes inside the Tengger caldera: Mount Batok (2,470 m), which you can see to the right of Bromo; Mount Kursi (2,581 m); Mount Watangan (2,661 m); and Mount Widodaren (2650 m).
Bromo’s crater permanently produces smoke and steam, and eruptions take place sporadically—the last one was in 2012. The area surrounding the volcano is covered with ashes that form dunes, and for this reason the area is called the “Sand Sea.”
In the far distance beyond Bromo, you can see Mount Semeru. At 3,676 meters, Semeru is the highest mountain on Java Island and an active volcano as well.
Hindi Temple Poten
The month-long holiday of Yadnya Kasada takes place at this Hindu temple, called Pura Luhur Poten. During the celebration, people throw rice, fruits, vegetables, flowers, poultry, and small cattle into the crater of the volcano in order to appease it.
Karymsky is a hyperactive stratovolcano on the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia. This is the peninsula’s most reliable volcano. It has been erupting continuously since 1996.
Karymsky, along with Akademia Nauk, another active volcano, actually stand in what is left of an older volcano’s caldera.
A caldera is volcanic crater. Calderas can form when a volcano erupts or when the earth collapses into an empty underground chamber. The cone of Karymsky Volcano stands in a 5-kilometer-wide caldera that formed approximately 9,000 years ago.
Mutnovsky is an active volcano located in the southern part of Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia. The absolute altitude is 2,322 meters above sea level. This volcano is composed of several cones, which merge into one united massif.
The behavior of the volcano is remarkable for its fumarole activity, which is characterized by intense energy emission in the form of volcanic gas and numerous thermal springs.
A massif is a compact group of mountains that comprise one structure. Usually, a massif is surrounded by faults in the earth’s crust. The earth may shift along the faults, but the massif stays stable.
Mutnovsky Volcano is actually 4 stratovolcanoes merged into one truly massive massif!
Thermal springs feed streams that run at the base of Mutnovsky Volcano, despite generally freezing temperatures. One such stream has carved a mile-long ice cave beneath the glacial field. Since 2012, the cave’s entrance has been buried in snow.
Erta Ale Volcano
"Erta Ale is the most active volcano in Ethiopia. It is an integral part of the Afar Depression, a zone of intense volcanic activity covering parts of Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Somalia. Erta Ale translates as "Smoking Mountain."
It’s one of the 5 volcanoes in the world with a lava lake in its crater. The volcano itself is a crater filled with yellow-green-brown-red lakes containing acid or lye, which bubble and evaporate into sulfurous vapors.
The patterns of fire strips and lava level here are continuously changing. Be careful not to fall through, and you'd better wear disposable shoes. The "superfluous" lava unceasingly flows from the crater and sometimes creates a unique second lava lake.
To reach Erta Ale, you must cross part of the Danakil Desert. During the day, temperatures can exceed 120° F. The breeze, if there is one, blows either salt or alkaline dust in the air.
Nothing can fully describe the uniqueness of Ethiopia. Take volcanoes, for example. Many countries have them, yet only the Ethiopian volcano Dallol is surrounded by a hydrothermal field that looks like an extraterrestrial landscape.
Dallol is located 40 meters below sea level. In the 1960s, a record mid-annual temperature of +34° C was established here, which has given the Dallol area the distinction of being "the hottest place on Earth." The last time the volcano erupted was in 1926.
On Dallol’s hydrothermal field, hot springs and geysers feed pools that are weirdly colored by minerals and often highly acidic. They appear to be boiling because of the release of gases below the water.
Kīlauea is a hyperactive shield volcano and the most active of the 5 volcanoes that together form the island of Hawaii. It may be the world’s most active volcano, and it’s famous for its spectacular fountains of lava, which can reach up to 500 meters.
Leaving the crater, lava flows downhill in a bright-red river of basalt at speeds of 30 kph and faster. When it reaches the sea, it cools down, sending huge pillars of vapor into the sky.
Vents and Eruptions
Kīlauea has several vents—openings in the earth’s crust where lava and gases are emitted. The volcano has been erupting continuously since 1983, and most of the activity has occurred at the Pu'u 'O'o vent in the East rift zone.
As a shield volcano, Kīlauea has been formed by repeated massive flows of basalt magma. Basalt is very fluid, and basalt-rich lava travels far from its source. This gives shield volcanoes their characteristic broad and gently-sloped shape.
Grimsvotn is unique because of the huge 500-meter thick layer of ice covering it. The volcano’s caldera is an enormous cup full of ice measuring 35 km². Recently, the volcano began erupting and the ice began to thaw.
The eruption melted the caldera’s ice layer, and water accumulated there. A new lake eventually appeared with a cone in its center. During the eruption, there was a huge steam explosion. The altitude of the steam and ash fountain reached 15-20 kilometers.
The land surrounding Grimsvotn is covered by glacial ice covered in fallen ash. Where there was a thin ash layer, the sun heated and melted the ice surface. The result is a very bumpy surface.
Crater and Chasms
The big crater's edges are ice and ashes. From time to time, emissions occur not from the main crater but from chasms around it. As a result, parts of the crater’s wall have caved in.
Yellowstone Caldera, Yellowstone National Park
Two thirds of the world's erupting thermal springs are situated in Yellowstone National Park in the state of Wyoming in the U.S. The park has immense thermal treasures because it’s situated in the caldera of a huge dormant volcano.
Nowadays, apocalyptic articles about an approaching eruption of Yellowstone, a presently dormant stratovolcano, are published more and more often. It’s said that this volcano erupts once every 30,000 thousand years or so, and that it missed its last eruption.
The Yellowstone caldera, sometimes referred to as the Yellowstone Supervolcano, is a volcanic caldera and dormant stratovolcano. The last full-scale eruption of this volcano happened nearly 640,000 years ago and is known as the Lava Creek eruption.
Mount Elbrus, Russia’s highest peak, is north of the Caucasus Mountain Range, bordering Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia. The mountain’s twin peaks rise to 5,642 and 5,621 meters. Mt. Elbrus last erupted between 0 and 100 A.D., and today it’s a sleeping volcano.
Considerably high volcanic activity has been recorded inside the mountain. Underground, hot magma heats water up to +60° C, and this water emerges in the mineral springs of Pyatigorsk and Kislovodsk, popular Caucasian spa towns.
A. V. Pastukhov, a Russian cartographer, was the first person to successfully climb both summits (in 1890 and 1896), and he mapped the area in detail. Today, over 10,000 people climb Mt. Elbrus every year.