Lurking in the swamp: the Florida volcano

Wacissa River

Florida is known for many things. It is home to VC’s stalwart, Geolurking. It has beach life, of the teenage variety. It has Disneyland, of the toddler-of-any-age variety. It has launched space missions to the outermost planets and put men (but not women) on the Moon. It attracts retirees from all over the US and gave us the Redneck Riviera. But it also has the oldest city in the US (1565). In the not-too-distant future, it will be the first US state to lose valuable real estate to the rising sea. It has one of the most famous swamps of the world, with the evocative name of Everglades. And Florida is home to the only known swamp volcano in the world. That is a story worth retelling.

The legend of the volcano

The smoke had seemed everlasting. For many years, in the 19th century, there had been a column of smoke rising above the Wakulla swamp. It was called the old man of the swamp smoking his pipe. Stories abounded. When had it started? None could recall. It seemed to have been there as long as people could remember. Even the Spanish had noticed the mist over the swamp, as early as 1538 when De Soto explored the region. Did not the name ‘Wakulla’ mean ‘mist? They had even used the pillar of smoke for navigation: it was visible 30 miles away and ships used it to find the river outlet that led the way to the fort at the St Marks river. In-land, at Tallahassee, the smoke could clearly be seen from the court house, built on a hill. What caused the smoke? The Spanish blamed a pirate camp which none but the pirates knew how to reach. The American settlers attributed it to an Indian camp, at a time when they were in hiding. During the war, it was considered a secret camp of confederate soldiers – a Union ship even attempted to shell the source of the smoke. But there were no longer any pirates, Indians, or confederate soldiers, and still the pillar of smoke continued. By night, light as of fire could be seen, reflected against the smoke. There had to be a volcano in the middle of the swamp.

After newspapers picked up on it in the 1880’s, it quickly became known as the Florida or Wakulla Volcano. Many people tried to find the location but foundered in the impassable swamp where boats could not go because of the vegetation, swimmers became food for the waiting alligators, and walking along the trees meant feeding the black clouds of mosquitos. There always had to be a second person at hand, armed, to shoot attacking panthers and snakes, but guns were useless against insects. The nearest view of the smoke was from the St Marks river, perhaps 5 miles from the source. After that, the parties proceeded blind. One New York reporter reportedly died in the quest for the volcano. One group told about finding a 100-meter high volcanic cone. Another found huge smouldering rocks lying around a crater. Then, on 31 August 1886, Charleston, in South Carolina, was destroyed by massive earthquake. It was felt from Boston to New Orleans. Nearby, Lake Jackson suddenly emptied. And in the Wakulla Swamp, the volcano went out. The smoke disappeared and the volcano was never seen again. But all the locals remembered it. And every few years, another party -invariably young men- would try to find the source – and would fail. Newspapers all over the US regularly published articles on new hypotheses on the cause: a swamp volcano, an everlasting peat fire, an oil gusher, or escaping gas. But to this day, we do not know what caused the Wakulla Volcano – or even where precisely it was. Not even Google Earth has been able to locate the source. The mystery of the Wakulla Volcano remains unsolved.

So far the legend, regularly republished in articles of varying reputability. What is the truth? Was there really a volcano hiding in the Florida jungle? And if so, what could have made it disappear?

Florida volcanics

No one would expect a volcano in Florida. The geology to support one isn’t there. There is no hot spot, no spreading ridge, nor any subduction. Volcanoes in the US are on the western side of the continent. But dig far enough down, and almost anywhere in the world you will find evidence of volcanic activity in the distant past. That is true in Florida as well. In fact, its history is more interesting than many.

Let’s go back to Pangea. Florida at that time was in the centre of the continent, surrounded by bits of North America, Africa and Europe. Florida is sitting on a platform that stretches to Cuba and beyond: at that time, that was all a single entity. But there was stress coming from two directions. From the East came the Tethys: an ocean that had started to form in China and gradually extended westward. It passed the Middle East where it formed massive oil deposits underneath what is now the Persia Gulf. It grew past Europe. The final push was towards the embryonic Gulf of Mexico. Simultaneously, the Atlantic Ocean began to form, splitting America from Europe. This was not a simple process. Many different rifts formed, each of which developed for some time but most died out again. One of these trials runs across the north of Florida, the Georgia Seaway. It was a basin that connected the Gulf with the newly forming Atlantic Ocean. If it had succeeded, Florida would now be part of Caribbean, the US would be one state smaller, and Al Gore would have become president. It was not to be.

Volcanic rocks formed during these phases of geological activity. But they are deeply buried under kilometers of sediment. Nowadays, the region is at sea level, and not by accident. Sediment from the sea keeps it there. Water is an essential feature of this land. So are the regular drenchings by hurricanes, which come as often as one every 3 to 5 years on average. The limestone forms caves, and rivers sometimes flow above ground, sometimes below. Brackish water can be found far in-land showing how deeply connected the wetlands are to the Gulf. The origin of the land is far underground. The surface is young, wet, and entirely non-volcanic.

From fact to legend

To test the verity of the legend of the Florida Volcano, one should first look at the credentials of the location. Wakulla may not be the most famous location in the US, but it does exist, and it has enough history to impress. The Spanish arrived here in 1528. The area changed hands several times: it was variously Apalachee, Spanish, French and British, and later was owned by two versions of the US. The word ‘Wakulla’ has an Indian origin but as the originating language has long been extinct, the meaning is not certain. The word may refer to ‘spring’ or ‘water’ (which is ‘kala’ in some local languages): the area is known for a large fresh water spring.

The main towns which feature in the stories are indeed old. St Marks is a small town along the river, a little distance from the sea, and started as a Spanish settlement, fort and lighthouse. It became a town in the 1820’s. There was a larger town at the coast itself, along the same river, St Leon, but this was destroyed by a hurricane. In-land, in the hills, Tallahassee was an Indian settlement, and De Soto wintered there in 1538. A Spanish mission was built in 1633. It became Florida’s state capital in 1824 and developed into a significant town, focussed around cotton farming and the slave trade.

In between the two was an impenetrable coastal swamp. The rivers running through it were also quite impassable. Even nowadays, the area between Newport and Perry, 40 miles across, is nearly empty of habitation.

The reports located the smoke as coming from an area southeast of Tallahassee, and west of the Aucilla river. One report puts it at 5 miles from the coast. That puts it close to the border between Wakulla and Jefferson counties, in or just west of what is now the Aucilla Wildlife Management Area (the name is a euphemism for hunting). It would be along road 59. The area was a large swamp, 25 miles across, through which the Wacissa river ‘flowed’. The ancient forest was clear-cut in the 1930’s and it is still recovering from this.

So far, so good. The towns existed at the right time and were well known. The area that the smoke reportedly came from was indeed an unreachable terra incognita. It is time to go to the eye-witness reports.

In 1881, the author Maurice Thompson wrote a book ‘A Tallahassee Girl’ in which he extensively referred to the phenomenon. Following this, he wrote an article about in the Chicago Times. This article was reprinted in many local newspapers. I have taken the following from the Chillicothe, Livingstone County, Aug 4, 1881, as this version was available on-line.

About twenty eight miles from this city [Tallahassee], in the midst of a densely timbered marsh, there has been seen for more than forty years a dense column of smoke, rising almost constantly, and defying the investigation of the curious. It has long been locally known as the Wakulla Volcano, from the fact that is located at no great distance from the famous Wakulla Spring. Only yesterday I stood upon a high hill south of the city and watched the smoke roll up and drift away from that mysterious spot whither as yet no human foot has wandered. Judge White, formerly of the circuit court here, and now a leading lawyer of this city, has furnished me a great deal of information touching the so-called volcano. In fact it was he who headed the most nearly successful of the many parties which have from time to time attempted to explore the mystery. The New York Herald once organised a corps of discovery, which most disastrously failed to accomplish its object, the leader losing himself in the awful morass and nearly starving himself before finding his way out.

The piece goes on to describe Judge White’s expedition, which failed due the impenetrable swamp, the millions of ravenous mosquitos and alligators. It mentions that people in the area had seen the smoke for at least 45 years. At times the smoke appeared white. Several other newspapers have more information, where it is described that Gulf fishermen ‘say it sometimes entirely disappears for an hour or more, then suddenly it leaps up, like the smoke and gas from a great powder explosion, but without any noise. At other times the smoke rolls up in a heavy black fleece like that from a huge tar-kiln, and anon it becomes a thin, wavering veil of white vapor hovering over the mysterious spot. At night a dull, flickering light accompanies the column of smoke, showing that fire is there. Occasionally this light is increased to great power, casting a strong reflection upon the clouds and skv. The fishermen say that water-fowl of all kinds in their flight across the Swamp avoid passing over the spot whence the smoke issues, even when the column is not visible.

Wacissa River

Some reports aimed more for the gullible but at least indicate the phenomenon was well known. In 1879, a brief story appeared in several newspapers stating (quoting the Cincinnati daily star, Sept 12 1879) ‘It has been privately informed that the location of the so-called Florida Volcano in Wakulla County has been explored, and that the discoverers found amazing natural curiosities in the way of boiling medical springs etc. The matter has been kept quite secret, but a company has been formed in Washington which has purchased the land and intend making roads, hotels and other conveniences for visitors’

The oldest report I have found is in The New Orleans Republican in 1875: ‘For many years past there has been noticed a column of smoke or steam arising from an impenetrable swamp a short distance from the gulf coast in Wakulla county. Many attempts have been made to discover the cause but thus far no person has been successful in penetrating the location in consequence of the character of the location.

There is an article in The Lakeland evening telegram from December 1916 claiming that the smoke was seen in 1864, with the story attributed to the New York Times. I have some doubts. The New York Times at that time did run a story about the ‘Florida Volcano’ but reading it reveals that it was about the possibility of a rebellion by black slaves in Florida, during the American war. Several sources do state that the smoke was seen from at least the 1840’s. For instance, The Florida dispatch in 1883 writes ‘This “column of smoke” has existed and been seen by the oldest inhabitants of the county for the past fifty years. Indeed, it was so constantly visible, that during the war the “blockading vessels became suspicious of its being a Rebel camp for the manufacture of arms and ammunition, and on several occasions threw shells at it.” Any clear, calm morning the smoke can be seen from the tower of the St. Mark’s light-house, or from the hill tops around Wakena.

W. Cash, in a letter written in 1934, gives another account: ‘My mother as a young woman often saw the smoke and even blaze of the “volcano” from where her parents were living, near Waukeenah, during the years 1869 or 1870 and two or three thereafter.’ He suggests that it began around 1867. William Wyatt in the Tallahassee Historical Society Journal in 1935 writes that 50 years before, visitors in Tallahassee went up in the Capitol dome to see the thin column of smoke rising above the trees. That puts it in the mid 1880’s.

So where did the story come from that it had been seen much earlier? The main source seems to be Maurice Thompson. In his book, he wrote ‘It was first talked of in the early days when St. Mark’s was just beginning to be known as a landing-place for Gulf-coast vessels. The sailors saw it, from far out on the water, a tall, slender column, now black like pitch-smoke, now gray like the smoke from burning leaves, and anon white like steam.’ There are no Spanish records of the phenomenon , and although several sources make reference to Indian stories, none give actual wordings and none appear to be first-hand. One may also question the alleged shelling of the site by Union ships: the navy ordnance had a reach of 1-2 miles, putting the location well out of reach. Thompson states that he learned about the history from the judge, Woodson White. A quick trawl through the Florida records showed that the judge Pleasants Woodson White died in Quincy, on 12 May 1919, two weeks shy of his 99th birthday, and was born on 25 May 1820 near Eatonton, Putnam County, Georgia. His wife was from Tallahassee; they married in 1848 and their five children were born in Florida from 1850 onward. The 1860 and 1870 census show the family living in Quincy. His mother had died in 1824, and his father, David Lindsay White (1781-1862) was born in Sparta, Georgia. The judge likely moved to Tallahassee well before 1850. The stories may thus have come from his personal recollection (although Quincy was a little too far to see the smoke), or he may have passed on stories from others. It is interesting that when Thompson writes in 1881 that the smoke has been present for at least 45 years, that takes us back to near 1837 – this may refer to the length of time his primary source, White, had been living in the area. White was already in his mid-fifties when making the quest for the volcano, described below.

Death record of P.W. White. Click on the image for full resolution.

Grave of Emily Gibson, wife of Woodson White.

So it appears plausible that the smoke was present in the late 1860’s. If the stories that it was seen in the war are correct, it would be a little earlier, in the early 1860’s. But we lack confirmation of these stories: they are only mentioned in material that was published 1 to 2 decades later. Anything earlier is possible but remains unproven.

The duration is equally uncertain. The Lakeland evening telegram from December 1916, already mentioned, states that it disappeared shortly after the Charleston earthquake (1886), but doesn’t say how long after. It had certainly been long gone by 1916. W. Cash suggests that the last appearance may have been in 1883.

The smoke was one thing. How about the associated light? The clearest reference is from The New York Times in 1880. Their report suggests that it was a recent or occasional addition to the smoke column: ‘On Sunday night, a week ago, a large bright light was seen in a south-easterly direction from this city (Tallahassee], which attracted the attention of many of our citizens at first, but concluding that it was a house on fire, they thought but little more of the matter until the light reappeared several succeeding nights in the same place, and put them to thinking again. It is much brighter some nights than others—sometimes having the appearance of the moon rising, but generally much brighter, and looking more like a large fire shooting its flaming tongue high up into the upper realms, frequently reflected back by passing clouds. During the past week we have conversed with several parties living in that direction, all of whom had noticed the light, and located it in the great swamp south-east of here, on the Gulf coast, and about the same spot from whence the much-talked-of column of black smoke has been seen to issue for years, supposed to be a volcano, which no living man has ever been able to reach, from the fact of its being surrounded by an impenetrable swamp. We were told last Tuesday by a gentleman living in Wakula County, near this noted swamp, that the light had created much excitement in his neighborhood, as a loud, rumbling noise was frequently heard in the direction of it during the week. The noise was said to be so loud Thursday, about midnight, as to arouse the sleeping family of Mr. Frank Duggle, and cause them to get up and run out doors, thinking another earthquake was on hand.’ Poor Mr Duggle, being awoken by an alleged swamp volcano!

Expeditions

All reports agree that the main person looking for the source was the ex-judge and lawyer, P. Woodson White. To give the story in his own words, again quoted from the Chilicotte of 1881:

Some years ago I determined to visit the spot and solve the mystery of that smoke. I felt sanguine of success. I believed then as I do now, that some thing in the form of an active volcano, but of course of very small dimensions, could easily be found. I organized a party of active young men, and, arming myself with a surveyor’s transit, set out for the scene of exploration. From a high point of land I trained my instrument upon the smoke column, and having fixed on the line ordered my men to begin cutting away into the swamp, which at the start was bad enough, but gradually grew worse until progress was next to impossible. Cypress, ash, oak, elders, vines, air-plants, briars, long moss, every tiling that ever grew in swamps grew there in a tenfold tangle- of luxuriance. The weather was terribly hot, for in order to get through the wettest parts we had to choose midsummer for our exploit, and, after two days of sweltering among the moccasins, alligators and mosquito, all my men deserted the enterprise, leaving me and a plucky colored lad to go on alone. Progress at once became painfully slow. Every foot of the way had lo be chopped out while we stood in water from one to three feet in depth, and suffered the assaults of millions of ravenous insects. In the afternoon of the third day we reached a tall pine standing on a sandy hillock in the swamp. By cutting cleats and nailing them transversly to the side of this tree, as I had proposed to do before beginning the exploration, I was enabled to climb to the height of ninety feet, whence I viewed the smoke column rising from the midmost tangle of the swamp, not more than five miles distant. The immediate point where the smoke issued seemed to be the apex of a flat mound of about a mile in width, covered with a mass of swamp growth absolutely impenetrable. My resolution forsook me, and nearly dead with exposure and fatigue, I made my way back to the track I had cleared.

There is in fact an earlier report from the same expedition. An 1875 article in the Spectator is based on a member of the expedition and states ‘After entering the swamp the party discovered an immense rock in the form of in inverted cone, rising to the height of a hundred feet, which was regarded as the cone of an extinct volcano. Fragments from it are light like pumice stone, and abundance of scoria and ashes are to be found, together with most all the features peculiar to those of recent volcanic disturbance.

The judge himself said that all but one member of his expedition abandoned him well before they got anywhere near the locality, this eye-witness account can be attributed to make-belief. There are also later reports of the same event. In one of these, it was the reporter who climbed the tree and fell out. We can again consider the Judge himself as the more reliable source. Whether the reporter ever existed is not clear. Some stories claim he died on the attempt, others that he nearly did so, but the reporter himself appears not to have reported back. The story of the dead reporter re-appeared in newspapers in 1891, a kind of resurrection of the (nearly) dead.

In 1893, news came that the source of the smoke had been found. The discoverer was J.Q. Martin, a prospector for phosphate. Martin himself wrote

‘After having gone about one third the length of the swamp the ground began to be honey-combed with holes, sometimes five feet deep, made by fire. The ground was dry between them, but vines, briers and fallen logs everywhere made it difficult. The water in the deepest holes was salt, from which I take it that the land in that part is but little above the gulf. One night I camped in an open place and had made up my mind to go back next day. The mosquitoes and owls kept me awake and I slept but little. I sometimes heard a booming noise in the distance and saw flames reflected on the sky. I had almost forgotten this “volcano,’ but took my bearings and resolve to go there the next day.

“Well, I traversed worse ground than I had thought could exist. Holes everywhere, with very miry bottoms; sometimes ponds acres in extent, hollowed out by fire. The air was smoky and the stench from dead fish and rotten water terrible in the hot sun. At noon I came where the ground was still burning and here was the solution of the mystery.

The earth was solely composed of coarse vegetable matter, which burns like tinder when not too wet. In the heaviest rains some fire that has got into a rotten log will smolder for weeks, only to ignite the ground again when dry enough. At some places a kind of moss grew which shed water like a rubber coat. A subterranean outlet for rain water drains the land. Sometimes there would be a heavy growth of pine needles fall point foremost, and often straddle the twigs. When the fire comes to such a place the dry pine needles burn on the bushes to their very tops, and the flames next devour the top of the pines themselves. The smoke is black as night, and will ascend for days and be seen at long distance, and at night the sky looks red. And this is all there is about the ‘Florida volcano.’ I could guide any one to the spot, It must have burned for one hundred years, and there is muck enough to burn for one thousand years to come.” (Morning journal and courier. New Haven [Conn.], July 27, 1893).

This suggests that the fire and smoke still existed at that time. There are a few other claims that the smoke was seen as late at 1891 but none are confirmed.

There are several stories from the 1920’s and 1930’s about later expeditions to the site. Finds were claimed, but the descriptions read like sinkholes, surrounded by eroded rocks.

Swamp fire

The conclusion is that there was indeed something ablaze in the swamps of Wakulla and Jefferson. It started in the 1860’s: stories of a much older origin are not supported by the reports and should be considered mythical. It may have been present during the American war but this may also be part of legend. It lasted for 2 or 4 decades. There is no evidence that the earthquake of 1886 had anything to do with the ending, but the smoke clearly attracted much less attention after this time. When the area was opened up for exploration, in the 1920’s, the evidence for the events had disappeared. Time had covered it up.

No volcano could be that small, that long lasting, or exist under these geological conditions. Calling it the ‘Florida Volcano’ may have been good advertising; it was not good science. This was exactly what it appeared to be: a long-lasting fire. And there is indeed a substance which forms under swampy conditions, and when it catches fire is near impossible to extinguish: peat. As was indicated by prospector Martin, the decaying vegetation stored below ground had caught fire.

Peat fires are a normal part of swamp life. An example is in the Great Dismal Swamp in South Virginia. In 2011, there was a fire which burned for almost four months. Even Hurricane Irene could not extinguish the flames. Once the fire gets into the underground peat, it is insulated from the rain and can continue for a long time. Lake Drummond, located in the Great Dismal Swamp, appears to have formed through such a long-lasting fire. It consumed meters of peat, until the subsiding ground was flooded. How did the fire in Wakulla get started? In such an isolated area, one should look for natural causes. A lightning strike setting trees on fire, and the roots transferring the heat into the ground, perhaps. How did it end? That is as unclear as the when. But we can speculate. The area was hit by a number of bad hurricanes in the 1880’s, while there were fewer storms in the 1870’s. For instance, the year 1886 was not a good one around St Mark. It was hit by a category two hurricane on June 21, followed by another storm on June 30. A year later, Pensacola got 200 mm of rain from a hurricane on July 27, 1887. There were other storms in that decade and the next. It is possible that one such storm did a Houston and put the fire under water.

Finally, we can speculate once more. Google maps shows a lake next to road 59, where the satellite map shows nothing but trees. Could this disappearing lake have been the remnant of the fire? Probably not – but if Lake Drummond is a type specimen, the Wakulla fire may indeed have had a similar end. Perhaps the remnant of the Florida Volcano is still there, lurking in the water.

Now you see me..

Now you don’t

Albert, January 2018

A good starting point for reading about the Florida Volcano is http://www.tallahasseemagazine.com/November-December-2015/The-Search-for-Truth-Keeps-Local-Legends-Alive/. Another resource is http://www.wakullavolcano.info.

Update: More information on Woodson White is available from https://digitalcommons.unf.edu/historical_architecture_main/4859/ indicating that he had lived in Quincy since his youth.

134 thoughts on “Lurking in the swamp: the Florida volcano

  1. As for lighting being the source, very plausible. Florida is in a very high strike count zone. Thar even affects the nature of what sort of trees you find here. Pines have an advantage against deciduous trees. As for topology, I’ve seen controlled burns at distance and it is hard to puzzle out the source location from a distance. Btw, the vegetative state of the ground is accurately described in the accounts.

    “Wildlife management area.” It actually is. Fish and Game are very active making sure hunting activity is within that permitted by state guidelines. Last year they actually opened up a bear season, but it lasted maybe 4 hours before they closed the season due to quotas being met.

    • I tried to look up what the areas were used for. Everyone referring to it turned out to be a hunter. It clearly fills a need (just not my need: I am more of a wildlife watcher). It did show that the wild life was being managed for the hunting. And of course, hunting can play a role in wild life management; it is possible for the two to co-exist. You will know more about the actual situation than what I could find out through web hunting!

      • Within the last week or so, Florida had a bear mauling when a guy stepped out of his front door. He managed to fight his way back into the house and called EMS.

    • Nokuse is a group buying up land adjacent to Eglin AFB and setting it aside as a private no hunting wildlife reserve. Much of it is over near Bruce and Freehold along st hwy 20.

  2. There’s an unconfirmed report going round of a new lava dome at Kadovar at the sea-level vent.

  3. When I was young we had a similar event in the yooperland. Near the town of Seely a bog fire started during a drought and burned for a couple of years. The ground collapsed into the cavities forming a series of lakes. The area is now the Seely Wildlife Refuge and has a wildlife viewing drive around the lakes. Good place to see swans. I remember the vast smoke column was visable for many miles during the fire. In days of yore it could have been mistaken for something volcanic. (At least until you smelled it… gak) 🙂

    • There are some accounts attributing the 1811 events of new Madrid with volcanic activity. Mainly this was likely from the sulfurous nature of expelled gases from deep. H2S and SO2 elicit a similar flavor though they are different.

  4. Mayon up to Alert Level 3, looks like new dome forming, like the last eruption in 2014.

      • If Mayon is ready for some “usual-scale” eruption, dome-growth will quickly escalate into glowing rockfalls and then lava flows (Mayon seems to switch between basalt and basaltic andesite magma, and the biggest,most powerful eruptions according to Smithsonian site were basaltic Plinian)

        Mayon often produces mixed type eruptions with lava flows, sometimes several km long, and violent Strombolian to Vulcanian explosive summit events… Think of it as a Vesuvius without a somma…

        • It has already produced 3 pyroclastic flows and glowing lava has reached its base. The lava flow itself hasnt been seen yet because of cloud cover but it is definitely in full scale eruption now and things are happening fast. Mayon is a massive mountain and this eruption already extends to its base on one side.

          Apparently the lava is probably too fluid to be likely to explode or form domes but it still collapses on the steep sides of the volcano, like at fuego. I think mayon is made of basalt tephra and basalt to andesite lava flows, which means it is basically a slightly reinforced 2 km tall pile of gravel. No really big explosions but a lot of landlsides and pyroclastic flows during eruptions. It is probably doomed to a big sector collapse in the not distant future.

  5. Meanwhile at Kadovar….

    https://laculturevolcan.blogspot.fr/2018/01/lactivite-continue-sur-lile-volcan.html

    There seems to be signs of dome growth at the vents near the coastline…. This is bad news, because it opens a possibility for a Krakatau-style explosion (water penetrating into the magmatic feeder pipes and flashing to steam, blowing the island apart….

    Even if most of Krakatau eruption was straight Plinian and caused by magma reinjection into the old magma chamber, the final barrage of gigantic explosions were clearly due to water ingress into the feeder pipes/then-emptied magma chamber as the island collapsed in on itself.

    In Kadovar, there is not as much magma involved, but the explosion could be quite sizable by itself just due to sheer heat…… Steam power is no joke.

    • Not necessarily, a lot depends on local conditions. Bogoslof, for example, is at sea level, frequently produces domes, but hasn’t (yet!) had a Krakatau-size explosion

  6. http://lechaudrondevulcain.com/blog/2018/01/15/january-15-2018-en-mayon-kadovar-agung-turrialba-poas-tenorio/

    I dont know if its mistranslation but apparently another volcano near kadovar is also erupting, or at least showing elevated activity. Might be (https://volcano.si.edu/volcano.cfm?vn=251010) that they are talking about. Kadovar also is actually properly erupting now, with new magma from both its coastal vent and summit forming a steam plume 12 km tall. The flank vent looks to be in a very dangerous location, right at sea level and if it is like the lava dome formed at bogoslof last year it might get interesting soon. If the steam plume alone is 12 km tall it shows there is a lot of energy involved.

    • Bam, or Biam, is the island east of Kadovar. It looks like they’ve spotted activity under it, too. Someone on this forum (sorry – I can’t recall who, please forgive me if it was you!) did speculate a few days ago that the Islands are interlinked volcanically. This is turning out to be an interesting set of events.

      • I wish I could edit comments!

        Yep, reading the article (which says Biam is west of Kadovar – which is it not) they’ve spotted yellow waters churning up around Biam. It does look as if there is a risk Biam might go too. As for Blup Blup – who knows. The folks seem to be on the ball out there, Biam is now being evacuated. Good luck to them – hope everyone stays safe.

        • There does seem to be some miscommunication going on, the governor and prime minister are saying Bam (Biem) has erupted/is going to, and the volcano observatory are saying nothing is going on there. They are entirely independent of each other, as is Blup Blup, so any “dual” eruption would be a coincidence. It should be noted that Bam is one of the most active volcanoes in PNG, behind the “big four” (Bagana, Langila, Manam, Ulawun), and slightly ahead of Rabaul caldera.

        • I speculated that. Under the ocean the islands seem part of same structure, a ridge or even a old caldera.

          Geology does not care what we say.

          I learnt this in Iceland.

          20km apart is nothing. Calderas can be that wide and feed different cones at the surface.

          Rabaul, Taupo, are just good examples

          • Nevertheless good educated guesses can often hit accuracy in geological terms.

            I remember in 2011, stating that we were experiencing the increasing we were heading towards a maxima (a hotspot pulse) in Iceland. Even in President of Iceland stated that, and I remember a warning about Bardarbunga.

            And it happened.
            Just weeks before Holuhraun erupted, Carl also predicted (famously) that Bardarbunga was on the brink of eruption.

            Then, I remember Geolurking first describing the ring faulted as it started in Bardarbunga: another accurate guess.

            And finally, someone stated that a mathematical model forecasted in the end of such eruption by March. And it did so.

            Interestingly lately, we have speaking quite often about the possibility of large eruptions (our expected next VEI5-6). It wasn´t Agung, it may be Kadovar or even Mayon.

          • Don’t forget that Albert first described the plunger mechanism of bardarbunga with regard to activity at holuhraun.

      • Recovered from the biggest lava flow in modern history in only 3 years. Maybe the chance for another 2014-level event for the next eruption isnt as small as previously thought. Maybe instead of one gigantic lava flood eruption along veidivotn, there will be two ‘less gigantic’ lava floods some (<10 years) years apart. Or maybe bardarbunga will continue to inflate until it has enough magma to far surpass the 2014 events. If it has already recovered from several km3 of magma in only 3.5 years, then it probably wouldnt even take that long to get to get to a value of several times that of 2014 by 2028. Something like that could be what it takes to get a big eruption at veidivotn into the realm of possibility.

        I wonder where Carl is, he was pretty accurate to predicting holuhraun, so what he says about these gps readings might be interesting.

        Is VON short for vonarskard? Theres an area west of bardarbunga outside the glacier with that name, Im assuming the gps is there? This area is also close to the start of the
        veidivotn fissure swarms, so maybe that is of significance if the southwest is the only bit near bardarbunga that isnt recently rifted. This data makes me even more confident in my thought that by this time next year, another eruption would have happened in Iceland, and that the next big event will not be in the far future but in the near future. I guess grimsvotn is also likely to erupt before 2020 with a possibility this year too, as well as katla and hekla and maybe oraefajokull.
        I suspect these gps readings arent going to go unnoticed.

        • It hasn’t yet recovered: that may take a century or more. What happens is that magma loss below VON has been recovered. The recovery of the caldera, above the magma chamber, will take a lot longer. Doesn’t mean Bardarbunage can’t erupt: the amount of magma available is far larger than what was lost

        • In the last hotspot maxima, beginning in 1862, we experienced a large fissure eruption near Veidivotn (perhaps half or a third of size of Holuhraun). Just 12 years alter, Askja began his major rifting episode (about 50km away from the central volcano), which ended caldera. Then, Grimsvotn started erupting as frequently as every 2 years (one of earlier eruptions was as large as the 2011 eruption). And then in 1902 and 1910, Thordarhyma and Bardarbunga erupted significant explosive eruptions. Reykjanes also erupted, as well as the area east of Hekla.

          In a former hotspot maxima, in 1720s, Grimsvotn, Bardarbunga were erupting often (every few years),and during a few years, Kverfjoll, Oraefajokull and Krafla joined in party. In this period, there was only one rifting episode, that of Krafla.

          This just gives you a picture of what to expect during a period similar to nowadays. Completely possible to see another rifting episode, but unlikely to see a third one. Very likely to see frequent eruptions of either or both Bardarbunga and Grimsvotn. And Kverfjoll, Askja, Krafla, and Oraefajokull can join the party (of these, only Krafla is unlikely to do so). And to make things extra interesting we could expect some possibility of Reykjanes erupting too.

          • Is there a magma chamber under the VON area? ( I mean not at deep crustal levels but high enough to erupt) If that area is inflated then it could be a candidate for an eruption. No large holocene lava flows are right around it, but it is near the hotspot and I guess at some point there were no holocene lava flows at any of the places where there are holocene lava flows today (the little eruption between katla and eyafjallajokull in 2010 happened where there had been no eruption in the holocene before it) . Its also near the start of veidivotn and apparently not all the big lava flood eruptions happened at the far southwest part of the bardarbunga swarm, some of the large veidivotn eruptions happened much closer to the central volcano, I think roughly where the 1862 eruption (trollahraun?) happened if the map I am using is correct. I guess the 1477 eruption would have been like holuhraun but bigger if the area wasnt covered in lakes.

            (map: http://jardfraedikort.is/ if anyone has a more detailed one I would really like to know)

            Was there a hotspot maxima in the late 1700s? I cant think of any other way something on the scale of the skaftar fires could happen without there being a hotspot surge.

  7. Lava fountaining at Mayon. It must be getting close to warning level 4 (it is still at 3, I think)

    news.abs-cbn.com/news/01/16/18/watch-mayon-volcano-spews-lava-fountain

    • The lava looks like the basalt lava on mt etna, not like the andesite that usually erupts at mayon. Maybe it has a new recharge event with lots of new basalt so the overall composition is closer to low silica basaltic andesite. I wonder if this eruption will be different to others historically, because basalt is more fluid and so lava might flow further than before and reach inhabited areas, or erupt as a flank vent and be like the above but worse (like mt etna 1669). I don’t think there’s any domes forming from magma that can lava fountain.

      • According to GVP, Mayon’s activity is cyclical, and cycle-opening eruptions are paradoxically basaltic and very violent, while the rest of the cycle is basaltic andesite, and less violent with abundant lava flows.
        https://volcano.si.edu/volcano.cfm?vn=273030&vtab=GeneralInfo

        That’s what we may be in for this time

        https://volcano.si.edu/showreport.cfm?doi=10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198408-273030

        But based on what I read on the bulletins, it basically does what it wants to do. Expect the unexpected. It’s capable of doing everything and its contrary at the same time, like growing a lava dome, having lava fountaining from that dome and emitting far-reaching lava flows, then switching to vulcanian explosions, and concluding the eruption by spine growth….and a few days later, resume profuse lava flow emission all over again. It’s utterly unpredictable.

    • Nasty malware from this URL. Tested and cleaned my device twice. “Amazon gift card” hikack of Chrome browser. I have a Samsung S7 Edge, running stock Nougat 7.0. It should be burned with lava please.

  8. Thanks Albert. I felt like I was reading a mystery novel. I always like the historical accounts that all those who write for us add to their articles. Your time spend in research, etc… is very much appreciated.

    I would kindly like to mention Cincinnati has 3 “N”s and 1 “T”. 🙂

  9. Agung has erupted again. Here are two sites on this video. Site Bukit Asah and the Pemantauan Aktivitas cam.

    • The tragic part of this, is though the culprits are heightening the chance that they will be killed by an unexpected extreme event, thousands of others will probably die as well.

    • Complete idiots stealing life-saving equipment….. Expecting Mayon to bombard them with heavily-directed pyroclastic flows, cover them in lava and send them a faceful of incandescent cowpat bombs, while sparing the neighbors.

      No, seriously, this is apalling.

      • I sort of hope that when the culprits are found, they are dealt with in the most brutal “old school” tribal ways.

  10. Rather juicy Bárðarbunga paper:

    https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00410-017-1435-0

    “The diversity of trace element ratios such as La/Yb in Holuhraun melt inclusions reveals that the magma evolved via concurrent mixing and crystallization of diverse primary melts in the mid-crust. Using olivine–plagioclase–augite–melt (OPAM) barometry, we calculate that the Holuhraun carrier melt equilibrated at 2.1 ± 0.7 kbar (7.5 ± 2.5 km), which is in agreement with the depths of earthquakes (6 ± 1 km) between Bárðarbunga central volcano and the eruption site in the days preceding eruption onset.”

  11. Supposed to get my accessories removed tomorrow so I can return to an ambulatory state, but we have freezing rain snd snow supposed to start around 2000 local. Joy.

    • i can’t believe Your weather! You’d think we’d changed places but we have the same of rain/ frozen roads/ icy goings…. really -rap weather. and it’s warm(for Alaska) 30F

      • The difference is I know it’s gonna warm back up quickly. The Gulf of Mexico is just a large pot of hot water.

        • From the article. Maybe slightly OT:

          In the village of Oymyakon, one of the coldest inhabited places on earth, state-owned television showed mercury falling to the bottom of a thermometer that was only set up to measure down to minus 50. In 2013, Oymyakon recorded an all-time low of minus 71 degrees Celsius (minus 98 Fahrenheit)

          Maybe the village should be named, Oymyakon@ss.

          • All the cold, discomfort, and danger of establishing a colony on Mars, with none of the fame and glory. One wonders why anyone ever moved there to begin with … and why anyone stays now.

  12. A bit of clarification about where in Florida I live. This part is generally not concidered Florida. In fact, to Florida, they tend to think we don’t exist. Socioeconomically, we are more closely related to Alabama and South Mississippi. That’s where the “redneck riviera” idea comes from. One thing I have noted, is that locals don’t frequent the beaches here very much. Usually, you’ll find them going to the local rivers and lakes for their beach time. Much easier to avoid the drunk predatory college punks that seasonally invade our shores.

      • Very true. When Andrew Jackson signed the treaty giving control to the US, it was done just north of here in Cantonment, which where he had parked his troops. (Cantonment comes from the term for an encampment) it happened here because Pensacola was having a mosquito born illness problem at the time.

        • The only significant thing that has happened in cantonment lately is that a waste processing boiler blew up there a few months ago at the paper plant.

          • “Black liquor is burned to make steam for electr generation and to recover chemicals”

    • A side project of mine is watching license plates to see when the early predators arrive to set up their hunting grounds. Something I’ve also noticed, is that there may be an earlier population of “cougars” arriving at about the same time frame. I found that a bit funny.

  13. This is back on Sep 24, 2017 by hshdude on youtube. It’s a “cool” view of Semeru volcano lava dome having what he says some “moderate” eruptions close up. Something hot to watch as I try to keep warm in this freezing weather. It’s currently 9F/-12C here with wind chill of -5F/-20C.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzQjKHbkcjo

  14. The view of the Semeru lava dome, had me wondering if anyone has come across any news of the level of the lava dome/lake at Gunung Agung. It is some time since any video has emerged.

  15. No school today in Atlanta Georgia USA. We have around 3 inches of snow at the house. Very pretty. Temps around 18 f with winds starting to pick up. Major roads are passable, getting to the major roads is the problem.
    Mac

    • Per the “news” today, multicar accident on “snow road” near mobile alabama. Seems a dump truck was sanding a bridge and some idiots absolutely had to get past him due to their importance. With black ice already on the bridge, and them being phenomenally stupid, they didn’t make it. Snow road is a small two lane blacktop road with a little bridge over a creek.

  16. Thank you once again Albert for your research and story assimilation/telling. The probable peat fire cause of the Florida Volcano rang bells as in N Scotland once peat starts burning the effects are like those described, and the after effects also quite distincive.

    • I guess that video gives us the depth of the ocean around it too, 900 meters. So kadovar is actually a pretty normal sized volcano if you look at it from its real base.

      • Watch Kodovar on Google Earth: they now better: Kodovar is allready under sealevel

        • please delete my real name. thanks

          GL Edit: Not sure where your “real” name appeared, but I trimmed the email addy so that it didn’t look like a real name.

    • Four vents … Steam = vent? Or just lava reaching oceanshore…

      Any specialist monitoring in situ? PNG has a geological service, anyone knows?
      Perhaps neighbouring Indonesia is helping out a bit?

      • PNG has put a seismometer on the island with reports saying that it shows magma is still rising. I could not find it on-line. Not sure about relations between PNG and Indonesia: Australia is probably better linked.

  17. The snow seems to be avoiding the Baltimore/Washington corridor. This latest line of snow just seemed to dissolve around us. Areas to the North and South received snow, we had barely an inch. We’ve had a bunch of little snows from the direction of the Great Lakes, but the big storms that roll up from the Gulf are missing us.

    I’ve been a volcano-phile since Mount St. Helens. Thanks for all the cool info and links. Are there any seismograph feeds for any of the other active volcanoes like MAGMA Indonesia is publishing for Agung? They are like catnip to a volcano junky.

    found wrongfully placed in the spam bin, further comments should be ok /T

    • Very interesting! Does anyone know the current status of the ice cauldron on top of Öraefajökull? Maybe it’s hard to tell since the Icelandic winter is probably doing its best to fill the depression with fresh snow.

      Another interesting thing on the IMO map today is the line of small quakes running N-S just west of Hekla. Looks like they are along the fault that ruptured during the M7.5 in 1912. I know this activity is not unusual for the SISZ, yet I get this feeling that something is stirring in the area.

      • There was an eruption near hekla (but not from it directly) in 1913, which was 1 year or less after that earthquake. Maybe there is a connection. Actually its likely this was related. If theres a big earthquake there again, I would expect an eruption somewhere around there afterwards at some point soon after. While hekla has gone over 100 years between eruptions before, its recent history has been an eruption every 10 years or so which would mean an eruption now might actually be quite a bit bigger than in 2000 or 1991, *might*.

    • Interesting indeed! During Bardy’s build-up, M3’s happened a few times per year. If this is similar, it shows there is growing stress but not yet eruptive. Bardarbunga took a decade or more after this point. If M3’s become more frequent, it is time to dust off the webcam. At the moment, it would seem that the next (caldera) eruption of Bardy may happen first.


      (plot from Flis’ post)

      • Is it fair to compare the two volcanoes? I know Hekla goes off like a 14 year old at a strip club (too racy?), so clearly even proximal Iceland volcanoes can mix it up.

        I was under the impression that Öraefajökull was a smaller volcano than Bardy. Doesn’t that difference itself make comparisons difficult?

      • Something that jumped off the page at me when lookin at that plot, the post Grims eruption change in quakes (depth and frequency) in the BB Caldera.

        Is the connectivity greater than everyone thinks?

        One could also point to the slowdown in the buildup at Grims, when compared to the recent past, as the eruption from BB in 2014 releasing pressure at Grims ??

        • So, could the Grims 2011 been the trigger for the BB eruption?

          If well connected, any change of pressure in one area of the system would create changes in pressure in other areas. Could the pressure drop at the Grims created a drop in the BB system and triggered magma movement and then once the ball started rolling caused the outbreak at BB?

        • IMO seem pretty convinced that stress field changes along the rift were the driving force steering the dike. However, your idea does have merit. Activity is always the result of cumulative effects.

          • Yes, I agree on this entirely.

            and how they could be tied together.

            Pressure reduced in BB magma chamber after Grims eruption which allows magma flow into chamber from the Kverkfjöll system which in turn also reduces the pressure resisting the rifting stress which allows the existing old dike to open up and flow into the dike from newly energized BB chamber.

            1 2 3 …..eruption.

        • An interaction at depth if possible, through pressure balance. But you have to be careful in which way to argue. You propose that the Grimsvotn eruption helped Bardarbunga erupt, while the Bardarbunga eruption slowed down the build up at Grimsvotn. That sounds like having it both ways.

          Magma will always take the path of least resistance. It is sensitive to both the pressure and the stress at depth. The pressure doesn’t change much unless a higher magma reservoir empties or a mountain blows its top (or glaciers melt or .. you get the idea). Here, the stress would be more important. Bardarbunga ejecting 5km3 of magma into the rift zone between the two volcanoes could have stabilised the situation at Grimsvotn a bit. But I have some doubt that Grimsvotn’s eruption affected Bardarbunga. It was not a major eruption, and Bardarbunga was already in a build-up phase.

  18. A new video of Kadovar. It looks like the Island(well the very tippy top of a volcano) is growing.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYd9fWGCmmM

    OT: I had to smile to see that New Orleans was a bit colder than it was here this morning, and I’m just south of the 49th parallel. I’ve seen -30 F too many times this year, and the snow from the end of October is still here.

  19. Turned my water back on, seems my valve at the street is leaking (failed me), fixed a couple of leaks and put in a shut off valve to the barn, it has been mayhem around here but I am so happy I never lost power, a couple of ladies turned their gas stove on and blew up the house.
    Catastrophe at 24F= -4.444C
    I LOVE running water. Galveston is running low on water due to all the leaks.

    • I worked as a carpenter around Denver Colorado for about 8 years. I was born and raised and learned my craft in the far North of the United States. I was used to cold and know how to build structures to handle the cold. Many of the tradesmen around Denver were from the South, didn’t have a clue. Every time there would get a bit of a cold snap there would be pipes freezing and so many other problems….Uffda.

    • Gas appliances. Spooky and funny. Had a structure fire call I went on years ago that was a small holiday trailer behind a used car lot. The occupant went to pan fry some shrimp and blew the trailer open like a tin-can…. flat. He got minor burns, but the trailer was a total loss. (and was not burning when we got there)

  20. I saw on the news, people trying to burn hay in the oven, never heard that one before.
    My backup plan was to bring my propane heater in here, scary.

  21. Be careful with fumes….. Propane heaters seldom have proper exhausts. about killed my young inexperienced self by using a small charcoal burner inside during a power failure. Stay safe. motsfo

  22. Yes, plan B was close bedroom door, crawl in bed with 10 blankets, pile 6 dogs on top of me and blankets and hopefully sleep 😀

    • I have a small cheap 2kw 4-stroke generator. 2-strokes are not good for intermittent use. That is enough to run the heating system (gas or oil), keep the fridge/freezer at safe level and provide lighting. You can’t run it full time as that would use too much petrol. Also some modern boilers will not work on the crude overvoltage waveform and need a 500W drain (lots of lights) or a mains conditioning unit. We cook using camping gas cooker (£9.99 single ring) and light using camping gas lights (no longer obtainable). Motsfo is right, we should probably move the CO detector to the room we are using, just to be sure.

      In practice, usually (but not always) as soon as you get everything together (1 hr) the power goes back on again! Hey-ho.

      Preventing freezing in the heating system for the odd 24+ hr powercut is very important.

  23. Info: PVMBG Pos Pengamatan Gunungapi Agung RendangEruption eruption

    There was a large gunungapi eruption on January 19, 2018, at 19:20 with. Height of lk lk. 2500 m above the top. Amax 24 mm and an old earthquake of 120 seconds. The wind blows east.

    * Data source *
    Kesdm, geological body, pvmbg
    Great publication of gunungapi observation
    https://magma.vsi.esdm.go.id/

    This eruption is a type of strombolian that means lava lontara or incandescent material.

    • Strike-slip along one of the transform faults connecting the rift structures there.


      And just in case anyone missed it…

      Thursday 18.01.2018 02:14:29
      64.014 -16.628 0.1 km 3.1 99.0 2.7 km E of Hvannadalshnjúku

      • … and if you want to undertake a hunting trip in Google earth, drop guidelines tangential to those transform faults. Extended far enough, they should intersect at the rotation pole for the affected plate. This is the virtual point on a sphere that the plate rotates about in geologic timescales.

  24. https://laculturevolcan.blogspot.com.au/2018/01/havre-seamount-2012-premiere-eruption.html

    Some good analysis on the 2012 eruption at havre seamount. Apparently it was at least 1 km3 of tephra dense rock equivalent alone, with lava flows on the caldera floor of unknown volume. So I guess technically there has been a undoubted VEI 5 eruption in my lifetime, and it is actually quite a bit bigger than any terrestrial eruption this century unless you count lava flows at holuhraun or from kilauea, which were prolonged (very prolonged in the case of kilauea).

    I wonder if it would be possible to make an article on havre seamount, or on the volcanoes in the kermadec arc. I think the taupo volcanic zone is the very southernmost part of it, and there are calderas of equivalent size all along the chain, so it is a very interesting area but little studied.

    • That would be a good one. Would you be interesting in writing one? We are always looking for new writers. Help can be provided.

      • Maybe one day, but I don’t think I would be able to write an article on a little studied area at this point. I don’t have much access to information. Maybe in a few months when I can get a proper computer. I just looked at google earth near the kermadec trench and there’s lots of depressions surrounded by relatively symmetrical walls, which I assume are calderas. Also the gvp pages on macauley and raoul islands.

    • I agree, see some ash around 05:53 local when the camera switches to daylight mode.

      Mac


      • Probably it was only 1 hour episode, long ashy puff without incandescent.

  25. Having spent a week on Bali recently, this volcano creates its own weather. The prevailing winds dictate where the moisture ends up. One half of Agung volcano is dry while the other (views from the cameras) is wet. When the wife and I were there we always carried ponchos and we needed them at times. Just because the weather around this volcano hampers our views this is not the experience we had while visiting.

    Mac

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