The Mystery of Volcanoes

The Lure of Hot Lava

If you are so close to a volcano that you can smell it, does that mean you are too close? Here, Poas Volcano in Costa Rica. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

If you are so close to a volcano that you can smell it, does that mean you are too close? Here, Poas Volcano in Costa Rica. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

Living in New York State, as I do, I haven’t historically had to worry much about volcanoes and the possibility that they might at some point obstruct my way, or worse. The first time I came across their devastation was on a long-ago trip to Italy where I toured Pompeii, the city frozen in time thanks to the deadly rain of nearby Mount Vesuvius.

Years later, I see the results of volcanoes’ work again, this time in the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador, whose square footage is periodically added to by the occasional spouting of volcanoes.

If you can read this message, you are too close? Hints for maintaining one's composure during a volcano eruption, courtesy of Poas Volcano National Park in Costa Rica. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

If you can read this message, you are too close? Hints for maintaining one’s composure during a volcano eruption, courtesy of Poas Volcano National Park in Costa Rica. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

In Iceland I am left to contemplate the difference between a volcano and a geyser. One involves hot lava, the other, hot water.

The Edge of the Volcano

It is not until I get to Costa Rica that I get to smell a volcano. Traipsing up to the crater of Poàs Volcano, the Brawny Sherpa and I are warned to stay calm in the face of any eruption. Right. Like we both wouldn’t freak and then try to flee.

The blue-green hue at the edge of the Poas Volcano in Costa Rica. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

The blue-green hue at the edge of the Poas Volcano in Costa Rica. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

As we gaze at the bright green-blue stew of the crater, the sulfur-scented steam from the volcano drifts our way. I learn pretty quickly that a volcano’s edge is as close as I need to be one.

—Lori Tripoli

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