The Control of Volcano

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John McPhee in The Control of Nature describes the man made efforts in trying to intervene with volcanoes. He starts by recounting stories of the pyroclastic volcano in Heimaey. Heimaey is an island off of Iceland and the largest and most populated island in the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago. The volcano threated the Heimaey port, which was very important due to the fishing industry that was established there. The stratovolcano’s slow, viscous lava was stopped when the town rallied together and used hoses and pumps to cool the lava with seawater.

The task was tedious and dangerous with the volcano still shooting up ash and bombs a couple hundred feet in the air. The lava’s temperature was roughly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. They prevented the lava from destroying the harbor by creating a wall that acted like a dam of already cooled lava to stop the hot lava from advancing. The AA lava was bulldozed in order to stand on and keep working.

The lava was discovered to be hawaiite, a type of basaltic lava. The gases emitted by the volcano caused some health problems and when added with all the ash, made sight difficult for the people in Heimaey. The town was basically buried with tephra and the remaining people had to dig out the doors in order to enter their homes at night. There was a total of 3 million cubic yards of tephra during the course of the eruption. Pompeii was estimated to only have about a half a million cubic yards of tephra and it was buried 15-25 ft.

The volcano Eldfell was less than half a mile to Heimaey, whereas Pompeii was 5 miles away from Vesuvius. Before the eruption started, there were only two seismographs on the islands that recorded multiple earthquakes that led up to the eruption. There was an attempt to use triangulation to see where the earthquakes hypocenter was, but because they did not have a third one, they were not able to pin point the exact location. A portion of the volcano was described as, “calving off an iceberg”, by John McPhee which was named “Flakkarinn the Wanderer”.

Flakkarinn was also headed towards the harbor, but then creating columnar cracks that would solidify the center of the flow by pumping tons and tons of seawater stopped it. After the demise of Flakkarinn, another lava flow started. It was believed that due to the man made patterns, that it caused another lava flow by all of the pumping. Then, it was discussed on other ways to stop Eldfell.

People suggested using bombs to create a huge crater in the volcano and allow all the lava to drain into the sea, away from the town and the harbor. They decided that it was not a good idea to use explosives and went to Hawaii to study some of the strategies and tactics they used to stop the flow of lava from Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. They learned there how to create a dam large enough that it would create a reservoir that would cool the rest of the lava. On July 3, it was finally declared that the eruption was over.

Cite this paper

The Control of Volcano. (2021, Nov 19). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-control-of-volcano/

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