9 Volcanic Wonders Of The World (PHOTOS)
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While the erupting Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland most recently held the world's attention with its showy plume of smoke and hatred for human flight, the folks behind the Atlas Obscura, a "compendium of the world's wonders, curiosities, and esoterica," want to call our attention to a few other volcanic curiosities. They've compiled nine volcanic wonders from around the world-- take a look, and vote for your favorite.
Named for the god of the underworld, Mt. Erebus is the most active volcano in Antarctica, and the southernmost active volcano on Earth. In a climate that is often 50 degrees below zero, the summit of Mt. Erebus features a 1,700-degree Fahrenheit swirling lake of lava. More info at <a href="http://atlasobscura.com/place/mt-erebus">Atlas Obscura</a>.
"Stromboli! What effect on the imagination did these few words produce!" So wrote Jules Verne in Journey to the Center of the Earth. The 900-foot Stromboli is one of the few constantly active volcanoes in the world, erupting dozens of times every day. Each small explosion shoots bursts of lava into the sky and into the sea. So famous is the volcano for this type of activity that small eruptions of this sort are known by vulcanologists as <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strombolian_eruption">Strombolian eruptions</a>. More info at <a href="http://atlasobscura.com/place/stromboli-island">Atlas Obscura</a>.
The Curtain Of Fire
When humans breathe, we release carbon dioxide gas that has built up inside us. Hawaii's Kilauea volcano, the world's most active, is no different. At its base, giant curtains of fire spew forth from fissure vents, creating a shifting wall of magma. Interestingly, the curtain of fire requires no explosive activity from the volcano itself. The cause of the fiery curtain is the expansion of gas within the vents and the weight of the lava itself. More info at <a href="http://atlasobscura.com/place/curtain-of-fire">Atlas Obscura</a>.
The Toba Caldera
When this level 8 mega-colossal volcano -- the highest rating on the Volcanic Explosivity Index -- erupted 73,000 years ago, it may have nearly annihilated the human species. According to the Toba catastrophe theory, climate change caused by the the eruption may have reduced humankind to as few a 1000 breeding pairs. The 100-kilometer Toba Lake, the caldera left behind by the eruption, is the largest volcanic structure in the world. More info at <a href="http://atlasobscura.com/place/the-toba-caldera">Atlas Obscura</a>.
Volcano's aren't always creating massive destruction. Mauna Kea, the world's tallest volcano, serves as a home to a dozen world-class observatories. Here observers are treated to approximately 300 clear nights per year. The summit is so high visitors are encouraged to make extended stops on their drive up the summit to avoid altitude sickness. But for determined astronomers, dizziness and shortness of breath are a small price to pay for some of the best observing conditions on Earth. More info at <a href="http://atlasobscura.com/place/mauna-kea">Atlas Obscura</a>.
Cerro Galán's Laguna Del Diamante
On occasion, volcanoes provide the basis for life rather than destroying it. At Laguna del Diamante, there are plenty of reasons why life should not exist. To start with, the lagoon rests among sulphur-spewing vents within one of the world's largest volcanic calderas. The water is five times saltier than sea water and has 20,000 times higher levels of arsenic than is safe to drink. But in early 2010, Argentinean scientists discovered a flock of flamingos thriving on a healthy population of particularly hearty microorganisms in the lagoon. Scientists hope that studying the lagoon's mysterious microorganisms will help them better understand how life may have began on Earth. More info at <a href="http://atlasobscura.com/place/laguna-del-diamante">Atlas Obscura</a>. <em><strong>CORRECTION:</strong> A previous version of this slide displayed an image of Argentina's Maipo volcano, which is near a different Laguna del Diamante.</em>
Saint Michel D'Aiguilhe
Finally there are the ingenious things that humans do with the hardened forms left by volcanoes. In the French village Le Puy-en-Velay, a 269-foot-high volcanic core holds a diminutive chapel. Like many lofty Christian sacred spaces, the chapel atop it is dedicated to the Archangel Michael, likely because of his propensity to appear on mountain tops and other high places. More info at <a href="http://atlasobscura.com/place/saint-michel-d-aiguilhe-st-michael-of-the-needle">Atlas Obscura</a>.
This basalt sea stack is all that remains of the core of a a volcano that may have eroded away some 200,000 years ago leaving only the central "chimney." The tip of the island was blasted off to accommodate a small lighthouse in 1905. More info at <a href="http://atlasobscura.com/place/strombolicchio-lighthouse">Atlas Obscura</a>.
San Juan Parangaricutiro
On February 20th 1943 a new volcano began to rise from a cornfield in Michoacan, Mexico, erupting and consuming two villages in lava and ash. Today, the San Juan Parangaricutiro church, halfway buried in solidified lava rock, is all that remains of the previous village. More info at <a href="http://atlasobscura.com/place/san-juan-parangaricutrio">Atlas Obscura</a>.