Ice and Medicine at the end of the earth

Mt. Erebus

Mt. Erebus is the southernmost active volcano in the world and one of very few volcanos with a long duration lava lake.  As a prominent site in many of my recreation photos, I was asked for more details about this volcano. 

It was discovered in 1841 by James Ross and named after one of his ships.  The first ascent of the mountain to the crater rim was completed by Shackleton and his crew in 1908 during his Antarctic expedition.

Mt. Erebus has been an active volcano for approximately the past 1.3 million years.  Historically, Mt. Erebus had large lava flow eruptions, forming the island I live on now.  Luckily, in more recent history, it has frequent strombolian eruptions, infrequent ash eruptions and rare lava flows confined to the inner crater.  A strombolian eruption is the ejection of lava bombs to a height of 10-100 meters.  The lava bombs ejected from Mt. Erebus usually have a Feldspar crystal hidden in the center.  To answer when it last erupted — it is always erupting, on a small scale!   I don’t know when the last large eruption was.

Click here to see Live Erebus Imagery – Includes Infrared and thermal imagery from Mount Erebus Volcano Observatory.  The thermal imagery camera is seasonal and not currently capturing images.  You can also see live data feeds from the observatory home page.

A thermal imagery video done by the science group monitoring Mt. Erebus shows an eruption in 2005.   The lava is “green” in this video because the camera is sensitive to high temperatures and the infrared range.  High temps are picked up as green.

Mt. Erebus is surrounded by gorgeous fumaroles.  These are ice towers formed by gas and heat escaping through the side of the volcano and melting the snowpack.  Steam escaping from the melted snowpack freezes as it hits the air, building fumaroles as high as 60 feet!  I have only seen photos of these, like the following from the Mount Erebus Volcano Observatory website.

And, finally, some of my own photos of this incredible steaming mountain!

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