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Hmm, what if we moved this to Visiting volcanoes or something like that? I saw the article listed in recent changes and thought it was going to be a wikipedia-type entry or something about Volcanoes National Forest. Or am I just being weird about this? Majnoona 19:03, 3 Nov 2004 (EST)

I wondered about it when I made it. The reason I didn't choose Visiting volanoes was that it doesn't work for the Architecture article (Visiting architecture?). We don't have to have some kind of generic phrase for all of them, but it would kind of nice. I just can't think of one. Anyway, no objections to you moving the page if you like Visiting volcanoes better. -- Hypatia 19:51, 3 Nov 2004 (EST)



I find the article really useful, and a good way to give the growing number of people interested in visitng a "live" volcano an orientation about what to think of in the preparation phase. To create a new section / new page about just that topic would look like a good idea. As volcanologist myself, and tour organizer, I added or modified a few parts of the text. Best greetings, Tom Pfeiffer, volcanologist ([email protected])

I've removed the following from the article because the text has a few errors in the safety department that makes me wonder if the person who wrote it really knew what they were talking about. (Example: even dormant volcanos like Mammoth Mountain can emit deadly vapors like CO which can kill you without warning. No warning that "local experts" may only have experience with their local volcano and may underestimate risk. Type of eruption is misleading; it's the type of volcano that matters.)

I'll leave the text here in case anyone wants to use it as a basis for a new preparations or safety text. -- Colin 21:31, 3 Nov 2004 (EST)

Dear Colin,

First of all I strongly support to provide as much interesting and relevant info on visiting volcanoes as possible on your site. Unfortunately the "Visiting Volcanoes" section seems to be non-existent. Please do revive this and let us provide some useful stuff to potential volcano visitors.

I don't think it is fruitful to have a discussion here on what is "dormant" or "active". And yes, in exceptional situations a dormant volcano could pose a threat as well. How academic and/or precise do you want a contribution to be? And on what basis do you disqualify "local experts"? Have you ever worked together with volcanologists of i.e. the Hawaii Volcano Observatory (HVO), the OVSICORI in Costa Rica, the INGV in Italy or PHIVOLCS in the Philippines? Any bad experiences? And yes I agree if you want to state that an eruption of i.e. a shield type volcano is less violent than of i.e. an andesitic stratovolcano. You could consider that relevant in selecting the volcano you want to visit. But what really matters is that a visitor should know about the actual eruptive situation because that is what causes actual (in)direct threats. Feel free to contribute to this safety discussion. After all, the visitor of this section can learn from it.

Cheers, Markus Wamsteeker, [email protected]

Preparations and Safety go hand-in-hand.
  • First of all there are roughly three states of a volcano: "extinct", "dormant" and "active" volcanoes, but the distinction is not always very clear, because sometimes dormant volcanoes can come back to life quite unexpectedly and most geologist define an active volcano as a volcano that has had eruptions within historic times (which might be thousands of years ago) and is likely to erupt in the future (even within thousands of years) again... More commonly, people talk of an active volcano of one that is having an eruption, or could have one within a rather short span of time... Before we go on to discuss safety issues connected to volcanic activity in some detail, let´s underline that ALL volcanoes require the same preparations as a "normal" hill or mountain. In fact, the mountainous character of a volcano is often underestimated: for example, most of the (few) accidents on the popular (active) volcanoes Stromboli and Etna in Italy have resulted from sudden changes of weather, such as lightning strikes and misorientation.

Active volcanoes should be approached with care and some extra preparations should be taken, which depend basically on the level of activity and the kind of activity, as well as on where you want to go to observe this activity. The kind of activity can differ from tremors ("seismic activity") you hardly sense to "fumaroles" (steam or gases coming out of wholes or cracks) to emission of lava flows (like on Hawaii or, sometimes, on Etna), small explosive events that throw glowing stones to a few tens or hundreds of meters, or even to realla devastating activity that would kill anyone near the volcano within a radius of several miles...Clearly, the level of risk differs strongly depending on the type of eruption (only spattering on a small scale or huge explosive activity with ash columns of several kms height and/or launching of a rain of stones and car size blocks), the level of activity and side effects like mudflows ("lahars"), toxic gas clouds or avalanches caused by the collapse of (a part) of a lava dome or crater rim (the latter phenomena are known as the most dangerous ones, a "pyroclastic cloud",- a cloud of ash and gas particles with a temperature of 400 to 700 degrees celsius, running down the hill up to 100km/h. You'll burn in an instant).

The topic is very complex and every volcano is different and has its own typical style of eruption with its associated risks. For example, visiting Kilauea, you are likely to encounter lots of steady, relatively harmless lava flows, but you could bring yourself into danger if you were to go too close to the areas where such lava flows are flowing into the sea, mainly because of the toxic steam clouds generated there, and the risk of collapse of the new unstable lava delta. Visiting Popocatepetl in Mexico, a typically explosive volcano, would be life-threatening, if you were to climb up to its rim (forbidden at the moment, by the way), because it might very well covery you with large stones... But you can watch these (moderate to small) explosive eruptions in good safety from below, i.e. many miles away. To cover this topic comprehensively would exceed many pages. I strongly recommend the new book by Dr. Rosaly Lopey "The Volcano Adventure Guide", (Hardcover, 362 pages, Cambridge University Press, 2005) - It contains vital information for anyone wishing to visit, explore, and photograph active volcanoes safely and enjoyably. Following an introduction that discusses eruption styles of different types of volcanoes, how to prepare for a volcano trip, and how to avoid volcanic dangers, the book presents guides to visiting 42 different volcanoes around the world.

  • Never go to an active volcano without reliable experts coming along! To stress out, you should be with someone who knows the particular mountain.
  • Having said this, the advise is to collect as much info on a volcano or volcanic region as possible via internet and reliable local sources like Volcanic Observatories who monitor the volcanoes on a daily basis. A good starting point are websites like "Stromboli Online" ( or the "USGS - U.S. Geological Survey, Volcanoes Hazards Program" (
They can also help you with info on active volcanoes and destinations.
  • Apart from getting aware of the risks involved and finding reliable guidance, you also need a few specific things on your luggage checklist. Hereby a have an active, eruptive volcano in mind with significant height (sub-alpine or alpine although some of 'm lie in a desert or are "a walk in the park"), so this is your "worst-case-volcano"-list (I would say "best case" ;-)
--strong/high mountain boots with strong rubber sole (best are Vibram soles,- they do not melt ;-) easily...)
--telescopic walking sticks if you cross instable lava fields
--working gloves (lava is very sharp!!!)
--dust mask in case of ash clouds/fall out - you should actually alway try to avoid tthat by being extremely careful as to where the wind is blowing!
--gas mask against an-organic gases
--helmet, but don't think a helmet will protect you too much in case of a larger block falling on you, so be careful even with a helmet.
--safety specs
--headlight (Petzl)
--and lots of film or flash cards and batteries ;-)
--a whistle in case you need help
  • More on this and preparation can be obtained via the people of GOMAGMA ([email protected]) or the team of Stromboli Online ( and VolcanoDiscovery ( They also provide tours, hiking, safari, climbing to the volcanoes of Italy, Greece, Hawaii, Indonesia, Tanzania, Chile, Nicaragua and many more to come.

Devils Tower[edit]

I'm not sure if this belongs in the article or not, but those interested in volcanoes may also be interested in Devils Tower or other places like it. Do these have a place here, or do you think they'd become clutter? ChubbyWimbus 21:38, 10 May 2010 (EDT)

I am not sure that Devil's Tower or any other geological features which were formed by volcanic activity belong here. I would interpret this article as being about active volcanoes. There could be a place though for a travel topic dealing with extraordinary geological features - Devils Tower, Giant's Causeway, the Australian monoliths etc. --Burmesedays 21:59, 10 May 2010 (EDT)