You may be about 90 and no longer able to travel the volcanoes of the world; you may be a young student lacking the funds as well as the friends willing to climb your favourite volcano with you; you may be an inveterate couch potato, or, you just want to spend some relaxing armchair time during the holiday season – don’t despair! There is always Google at hand to let you see the world – *almost* like real.
There is Google Street View where you can see all a car driver could see – if he didn’t have to mind the road. And there is Look Inside where a person takes a camera where ever they think is a great place to show the world. Volcanoes ARE such great places. There are already quite a few on Google Maps that feature a blue line (or a path of connected image dots) indicating that someone had taken the trouble and recorded their hike to share it with us.
As you can look all around and up/down, these photospheres certainly help to get a more complete impression of a stunning landscape. I usually switch to Full Screen… I have put together a collection of nine volcanoes for you, hope you like them.
A last word before we get our sturdy boots on: I really appreciate the work these photographers have done. I imagine it is no easy feat to hike for miles and miles through rough terrain, carrying a professional 18 kg Google Trekker backpack or a helmet mounted device, always keeping the camera straight and checking the smartphone. Google really should always acknowledge those people, it is their creation, even if it is paid work.
1. MOUNT FUJI, Honshu, Japan
It was with these Google features that I discovered for the first time that Mount Fuji is not only a top to bottom spotless white, cone-shaped tourist attraction but also a REAL volcano. And WOW, what a volcano! Its even shape only hides a very complex volcano; the modern edifice is constructed above a group of overlapping older volcanoes. A colourful oxidized scoria layer on the 700-m-wide summit crater gives the upper part of Mount Fuji its reddish hue. These basalts were erupted about 2100 years ago.
The last eruption in 1707 originated from Hoei crater, on the lower SE flank. This major explosive event, one of the largest in Japan during historical time, ejected more than 1 km³ of tephra and covered Tokyo in ash, 50 km away. Three craters were formed along a NW-SE fissure radial to the summit. The main vent of that eruption was within a crater of 1500 x 750 m.
There are four routes that take you up to the crater rim, all a tad click-intensive (but you can always skip parts of the way). Once on the top, you are greeted by tourist amenities, shops and places of worship. Escape these, and you’ll get enveloped in the harsh beauty of this volcano’s hot history.
2. HALLASAN, South Korea
Mount Halla or Hallasan, constituting Jeju Island off the S coast of South Korea, is the highest mountain of the country.
Eruptions during the Plio-/Pleistocene have built a lava plateau above the 100-m-deep continental shelf on which then the basaltic-to-trachytic edifice was constructed. At the summit is a 400-m-wide crater, and the entire island is dotted with about 360 basaltic parasitic cones. 20 of them along the coast or offshore of Jeju are up to Holocene tuff rings/cones and lava domes. Flank eruptions continued into historical time, the last two taking place during the 11th century.
There are two long-ish virtual trails going up the volcano; the longer NE one visiting the main crater. As Hallasan is a UNESCO Global Geopark and World Heritage National Park, all foot paths are well maintained, roped in, or boardwalks. Some are incredibly busy that day! In the lower parts they go mostly through deciduous forest but emerge to a very nice, increasingly volcanic mountain landscape. Occasional views over the Island, if a bit foggy, give a good idea of the many cinder cones on the volcano’s slopes.
3. MT. PINATUBO, Luzon, Philippines
This was to me the most amazing (and thought provoking) “look inside” of all I have found so far. The hike begins at the Pinatubo crater lake. Very picturesque, nothing reminds here of the great eruption in 1991. From there the way leads through the Crow Valley and several other stream beds until finally joining the Bucao river bed. The Bucao was one of the worst hit by lahars from Pinatubo, in and after 1991. Huge swathes of whitish dacite pumice and ash deposits can be seen where the lahars had created extensive floods and swept away whole villages. By 1993 lahar deposits had completely covered the flood plain to depths as much as 25(!) m.
The trail ends at the road towards Botolan, near the sea. Not all of you might have the time and/or patience to follow the entire 45 km walk/drive but you could try short stretches, whichever parts of the way seem interesting to you. You won’t regret, because this landscape seems to be out of this world. It also reminds of the hundreds of lives lost and 100,000 homes wiped out in 1991 and following years.
Prior to 1991 Pinatubo was a relatively unknown volcano with no records of historical eruptions. The eruption began in April from a 1.5-km-long fissure cutting E-W across the north flank. A progressively intensifying series of eruptions led to collapse of the summit and caldera formation on June 15 that year.
On the same day, typhoon Yunya struck the island. In the most violent phase of the eruption, which lasted about three hours, ash was ejected to heights of 34 km. Pyroclastic flows from the summit raced as far as 16 km and ash clogged up all the river valleys. Typhoon rains, mixed with these insane amounts of ash, caused massive lahars that were described as like flowing concrete (hyperconcentrated flows). Many stream valleys were blocked, and when the dams broke, massive floods destroyed everything in their path.
4. Two walks on Volcanoes of the Taisetsu-Tokachi graben
4a. DAISETSUZAN VOLCANIC COMPLEX, Hokkaido, Japan
If there weren’t volcanoes to look at, this trail would still win the Most-Beautiful-Landscape Award in the Brightest-Fall-Colors-Including-Fox Category.
Unfortunately, just before reaching the highest point of the main caldera rim, clouds are taking over, barring every further view. Actually, you can skip the next 2.3 km. 😦 But don’t miss the rest of the way, even if it encounters another stretch of fog (nothing to see from Asahi-dake). There is yet another crater to pass by, a fumarole field with about 10 strong steam jets and a few very nice little lakes.
Daisetsu (also known as Taisetsu) is a complex group of stratovolcanoes and lava domes with a small, 2-km-wide caldera in their midst. 5 eruptive periods have been determined by tephrochronology and radiocarbon dating for the last 5000 years, however, no historical oral or written accounts are known. Nevertheless, the last eruption took place after 1739 in Asahi-dake, the highest peak of the group. If I remember right there were reports of some seismic unrest in Asahidake earlier this year, or last.
Now off you go – spot the fox!
4b. MT. TOKACHI, Hokkaido
The Tokachi group seems to be rougher and steeper than its northern neighbour. Also, no wide, roped in walkways here, it’s all boulders and gravel. That’s probably why it is my favourite. Starting from the E it begins with a rough and rocky ascent to Mt. Biei through a dry stream bed. Then, a hair-raising hike along a narrow crest, probably balancing on a crater rim…
The fate of these trails is similar to that on Daisetsu: higher up they disappear in clouds… 😦 Nevertheless, once you get below the clouds again you’ll have really first class volcano views. And, what we can see directly before us is often breathtaking enough! There are a number of recorded trails here in the Tokachi group, only the northern one seems to be totally fogged up. As you go, turn round and look back often – you may be surprised at what you have missed in passing by!
Two larger eruptions of Tokachi occurred in 1926 and 1962. A partial cone collapse of the western flank during the 1926 eruption produced a disastrous debris avalanche and mudflow. Otherwise, Tokachi had quite regularly eruptions every few decades, mostly VEI ones and twos.
5. PLOSKY TOLBACHIK, Kamchatka, Russia
This is one exciting “walk”, even if only 1.1 km long – have a pair of spare boots ready! Plosky Tolbachik had its last great fissure eruption from 11/2012 to 09/2013. At the start, the hikers walk over what looks like older deposits, with the two Tolbachiks in the background to the N. But then… just WOW! The fine people with the camera went right to the new lava flows, even ventured onto them at last.
Unfortunately, GMaps & GEarth have no recent satellite images after the eruption yet, the latest are from Jan. 2011. To find out where the new flows extend I have consulted GVP and SentinelHub: It seems the recorded walk ends almost at the center of the last activity, just east of the cone which emitted the 2013 lava flows eastwards.
6. UZON & GEISERNAYA CALDERA, Kamchatka, Russia
A very wondrous experience are the two walks through parts of this extensive high-temperature hydrothermal system – the twin Uzon-&-Geysernaya Caldera and the Dolina Geyserov (Valley of the Geysers). Within the caldera, a boardwalk takes us 1.6 km through the otherworldly landscape of steaming lakes and bubbling mud pots. The famous Valley of the geysers, at the eastern caldera rim, has 0.9 km of boardwalk through its steaming landscape. Although it’s all about geysers, I have not noticed one of them blowing up. Have I missed something?
The twin calderas are Kamchatka’s largest geothermal area, 7 x 18 km. Post-caldera activity consisted of the extrusion of small silicic lava domes & flows and maar formation in the Geysernaya caldera. Hydrothermal explosions took place in 1986 and 1989.
There is another place worth visiting nearby, it leads just a few meters onto a viewing platform: Dolina Smerty or Valley of Death is part of the upper Geyser River at the foot of Kikhpinych volcano, the youngest in Kamchatka. In this just 2 km long area hundreds of dead animals of all sizes have been found, not even much decomposed. They were killed by poisonous gases. However, it is supposed to be not just your usual CO2 or H2S in low areas, but a more lethal cocktail that even kills the bacteria who normally take care of the mortal remains. I have not delved into that yet, perhaps I’ll do a post about it later.
7. MOUNT ST. HELENS, WA, USA
Mount St. Helens’ Plinian eruption of 1980 is probably the best documented and studied one to date. As it is also very young and the most active volcano in the Cascade Volcanic Arc, MSH might well be the best monitored volcano too. So, if getting the necessary information beforehand, all hikers (including us) should be safe on the volcano’s slopes.
The USGS has published a number of comprehensive Field Trip Guides; in case you want to delve deeper into its geology, here is that for Mt. St. Helens: https://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2017/5022/e/sir20175022E.pdf
A roughly 7 km long virtual hike goes straight up the southern slope, an outstanding recording! It is a long and hard ascent along Swift Creek, over the Swift Creek lava flow and up Monitor Ridge. Arriving at the top, the camera person even took a pride in walking on, along the crater rim to the highest point of 2549 m, another 630 m rough going. But what great views, into the crater as well as in all directions around! There are Spirit Lake and Mt. Rainier to NE, Mt. Adams in the E and Mt. Hood in the S rising over the distant mountains. You’ll see the lava dome in the center of the crater as well as the small glacier that is beginning to grow to the left of the dome.
The recording becomes somewhat sketchy at times, but that is so very understandable seeing the terrain underfoot. Just bridge the gaps by clicking on the next blue line in the little overview map. If you want to avoid “walking” through the forest for long, start higher up, perhaps at *46.162637, -122.191380*.
8. UNZEN, Kyushu, Japan
Finally, a walk that is not easy to negotiate because of some technical problems. However, in the light of very little information and less actual photos of the Unzen volcanic complex, I persisted – and was rewarded with a view of the lava dome as it was in early 2018.
Because the Unzen area has a very humid climate, plants and small trees cover new eruption deposits or landslide scars very fast. Therefore the way goes mostly up vegetated slopes, not much to see there. Also, the path is cumbersome and at times monotonous for us armchair hikers, so, it would be a good idea to start higher up (perhaps here: *32.761010, 130.286379*>NE). Even if the blue line is often not on the map, or only a necklace of image dots, just click on the path in the image undeterred – and then let yourself be surprised! As I was, just short of giving up, when the ever-present trees opened before my eyes and I stared at that huge black thing of a lava dome! ‘Noriaki’ did a great job covering several kilometers of hiking trail here (and elsewhere), and was prudent to chose early spring when most trees were still leafless.
The massive Unzendake dome complex consists of several active volcanoes. The last eruption sequence was 1991-1995, from the summit and flanks of Fugendake. At least 13 consecutive lava domes or lobes were extruded during that time, and were destroyed by explosions and gravitational collapse, causing hot avalanches and ~10,000 pyroclastic flows. One PF, larger than all previous ones, killed 41 people, including volcanologists K. and M. Krafft and H. Glicken, in June 1991.
There are no reports of any seismicity in the volcano now. The photos of 2018 show several fumaroles on the edge of the lava dome. Though, as the lava dome(s) is still high and steep, any tectonic earthquake could trigger rock avalanches or dome collapse. In a bid to prevent further catastrophes a system of dams and channels has been constructed in the main pathways of PFs and Lahars. A website about this, including monitoring data and a number of surveillance cameras, is HERE. For more details on the volcano see agimarc’s post from 11/2016.
Other virtual volcano walks and roads I have found so far include:
– Mt. ASO, Japan;
– Bruce Road up to TONGARIRO, NZ;
– CALBUCO, Chile;
– PACAYA, Guatemala;
– MEAKAN and Mt. Iō, Hokkaido, Japan;
– ETNA, Italy (no crater views due to steam);
– VOLCANO, Italy;
– DECEPTION ISLAND, Antarctica
…if you can add any more, I would love to know about them!
Wishing you all a lovely Christmas and a Happy New Year – and my usual wish for this time of year: May all volcanoes around the world take a break and be quiet at this time of peace and happiness!
Disclaimer: I am not a scientist, all information in this (and any of my other posts) is gleaned from the www and/or from books I have read, so hopefully from people who do get things right! 🙂 If you find something not quite right, or if you can add some more interesting stuff, please leave a comment.
Enjoy! – GRANYIA