The dangers of volcano tourism

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Mount Teide

I get the thought behind volcano tourism, I really do. Myself one of my dream experiences are to see an ongoing – but safe – volcanic eruption. But the dangers of volcano tourism are inherently large and extremely lethal. I would advice against trip to close to an eruption, without experiences guides and lots of previous research. It is far to easy to be injured or even killed due to the dangers and the volcanoes fickle nature.

Stromboli

The reason for this specific blog post is the recent larger eruption of Stromboli just the other day. Historically Stromboli has had an ongoing low intensity eruption. There has been lots of guided tour, pretty safe for solo hiking to a few viewing points of the eruption. It has been on my bucket list, but no more.

A few weeks ago Stromboli suddenly changed its low intensity eruption to much more explosive eruptions. An on the 4:th of July during a more explosive event one hiker was killed. There are several dangers with volcanoes, everything from dangerous gases that will suffocate you to blocks of stone that might hit you, from lava flows to fast moving pyroclastic flows. This last Wednesday, the 28:th of August, Stromboli had yet another explosive event and a boat shot the film below of the pyroclastic flow.

A pyroclasic flow is basically the that mushroom cloud from the eruption that collapses and fall down like a fast moving cloud of gases, ash, small pebbles and rocks. This has a max velocity of 700 km/h, and average velocity are faster than a fast car. The cloud has an temperature of about 1000 °C. If you are caught by it, you will die. On a historical note, Pompeii was destroyed and everyone was killed by a pyroclastic flow.

Etna

Even when considering these warnings of the dangers of volcano tourism I do understand the interest. It is still part of my bucket list, but Stromboli are for the time no longer on that list.

Not far from Stromboli, on the east coast of Sicily we have the active volcano Etna. Etna are more intensive than Stromboli are and historically one of the more productive volcanoes in the world. Booking a guided tour by an experienced and knowledgeable tour guide is recommended. Do not hike there by your self, and definitely no solo hiking in the area. For a tour to Etna there are several different alternatives depending on how you would like to experience Etna.

But be careful, and take care Always be aware of your surroundings, do as the guide says and follow local guidelines. Do not ever take any unnecessary risks.

Safer options

Mount Teide on Teneriffe
Mount Teide on Teneriffe

Maybe you want to be more safe? I’d recommend it! There are many volcanoes that are dormant, or are very unlikely to erupt in next few years that you can visit. Then you will get the volcano experience, the lava fields and so on without as much dangers. One option is to travel to the Canary Islands, and Teneriffe specifically. I did that and had a great time and it was really interesting to hike i the Teide National Park. The last eruption of Teide was in November 1909, so it is pretty recent but very safe. You will be able to hike through those lava fields for that experience.

It is easy to drive up to the Teide National Park for a solo hike. But you might want to consider a tour by an experienced tour guide too. A sunset tour with stars and food is especially nice and something I would recommend.

Even though it is more safe and secure there are always dangers. Both with hiking in itself and hiking in an volcanic area. Be aware that rocks from recent eruptions are extremely sharp and it is easy to cut your self. I tripped and fell on a slope of tephra and cut up my hand pretty badly. Also be aware of fumaroles, openings where volcanic gases trickle out. It will stink and in high concentration might be dangerous. Some gases will also travel downslope into hollows where you might suffocate due to lack of oxygen.

Yet again, volcano tourism might be fascinating and interesting but be aware of the dangers. Be careful and do not be stupid. If you stay safe and secure it can be the trip of your life! If you do not, it may be the last trip you ever will make.

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