Yes, lets walk towards the active volcano
September 24, 2012 1:27 PM   Subscribe

"After a hair raising 400 metre descent myself and Bradley Ambrose become the first people ever to get this close. Climbing down to within 30 metres of the lava it was so hot (1150 degrees) that without protection we could stand the heat for 6 seconds before retreating..." Photographer Geoff Mackley visits the Ambrym volcano, located in the archipelago of Vanuatu.

Be sure and check out other places Geoff has been.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (22 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
That is incredible. Talk about the humbling forces of nature.
posted by LooseFilter at 1:34 PM on September 24, 2012

Looks so much like a greenscreen at times... insane.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:40 PM on September 24, 2012

posted by Egg Shen at 1:45 PM on September 24, 2012

That is the coolest thing I've seen in a long time...
posted by Hairy Lobster at 1:54 PM on September 24, 2012

Wow, that is so amazing/scary! Beautiful to look at, though I can't imagine being so close to giant geysers of lava. It's like a scene in Quake! Very cool (hot).
posted by but no cigar at 1:55 PM on September 24, 2012

The floor is lava... and the walls are lava... and jeez I guess I'm turning into lava this game kind of stinks...

(This is so cool. It's impossible to comprehend the level of heat necessary to melt rock.)
posted by Turkey Glue at 2:03 PM on September 24, 2012

I never liked the lava game as a kid... I always ended up being pushed into the lava and burning to death.

These photos are awesome.

These guys are real mensch.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 2:16 PM on September 24, 2012

This man apparently knows many, many unusual and unpleasant ways to die.

I'm surprised he can walk for all the clanging.
posted by BlueHorse at 2:18 PM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've dreamed about doing just that since I saw Kilauea erupt as a kid. Unreal.
posted by nevercalm at 2:51 PM on September 24, 2012

I always assume that people who use the "myself and _____" construction rather than "_____ and I" have some wild shit going down with their egos. This video supports my theory. Wow.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 2:58 PM on September 24, 2012

Jesus, that had my stomach doing flips just watching it.
posted by jontyjago at 3:27 PM on September 24, 2012

posted by MrMoonPie at 3:46 PM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Let's see Matt dance there.
posted by Kafkaesque at 4:57 PM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

The guy's a Kiwi it seems. Now it all makes sense.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:17 PM on September 24, 2012

Great photos. How do the ropes stand the heat that close without degrading?
posted by arcticseal at 6:17 PM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't think I've seen anything so terrifyingly beautiful.

The flow and the bursts of lava just seem so fast and huge.
posted by ElliotH at 6:23 PM on September 24, 2012

Bloody New Zealanders - think they can do anythi... oh, wait!

Yeah saw this on TV last night, and that "I spent 15 years to gaze into the oesophagus of Hades" obsession now lets him look for more.

That bit where a chunk of cliff falls in and is vapourised into a puff of grey smoke - well, STEP AWAY!!!
posted by arzakh at 7:58 PM on September 24, 2012

In my experience, '6 seconds unprotected' seems about right.

A few years back, I took a class in Volcanology while completing my MS in Geology. As part of the class, we did a super cool 5 day field trip to Kilauea. It was awesome. One day, we woke up at the craaack of dawn to hike down to see the active lava flows at the Pu'u O'o vent. It's much easier to do at night, you see-you just hike toward the part of the hillside that's glowing a deep orange. It was a relatively short hike in, and soon enough we arrived at the active flows.

Seeing an active volcano erupting definitely helped me to understand volcanism on a more intuitive level. First, lava is liquid rock, but it isn't really liquid in any sense that most people recognize. Basaltic lava, which is what we are seeing in the film linked to, is the least viscous, most easily-flowing lava at earth's surface. But it is super thick, gooey, and resistant to deformation. To give you an idea of just how thick it is, I thought it would be clever to pick up a small rock and throw it at one of the little bits of lava that wasn't too far away. I thought it would be neat to see the rock engulfed and melted. Well, I wound up, threw the rock, and it bounced off this little tongue of active lava flow! Despite being the 'less viscous' chemical composition (as compared to a melt with an andesitic or rhyolitic composition), basaltic lava usually moves incredibly slowly. When there isn't a fountain/geyser of lava, you can usually walk away from the stuff and outpace it easily.

The heat is almost indescribable. Basaltic lavas melt at higher temperatures than other lavas, so this isn't surprising. We all wanted to get our pictures taken with the lava, and the routine usually went something like this. Put your backpack down, give your camera to a friend, and then dash in up close to the active flow. Strike a pose, smile, and try desperately to hold it for a few seconds while your friend makes your autofocus work and takes a picture. It was tricky to get a good shot, because as soon as you get within a few feet of the lava, you want to go somewhere else. It is so, so hot on your face or any other exposed skin, that you can really only hold a pose for a few seconds. If your buddy hadn't taken the shot after maybe 5 seconds, you just rushed back out and resolved to try again. And this was dealing with miniscule amounts of lava. And yet it still felt like you were going to singe your eyebrows off if you don't get away nownownownow. I cannot comprehend what it must have been like to stand at the rim of that crater. Wow. Hades indeed.

This is all just a rambling way of saying that volcanoes are crazy. The earth is pretty powerful, and it's incredibly cool-and more than a little frightening-to see that power first hand.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 8:39 PM on September 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

posted by Potsy at 11:38 PM on September 24, 2012

A completely different volcano from much further away: Looking down on the snow of Kilimanjaro
posted by homunculus at 12:51 AM on September 25, 2012

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