Talk Description to Me

Episode 47 - Volcanos

April 17, 2021 Christine Malec and JJ Hunt Season 2 Episode 47
Talk Description to Me
Episode 47 - Volcanos
Chapters
1:26
St Vincent
11:13
Reykjavík, Iceland
20:09
Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo
22:45
Pompeii
Talk Description to Me
Episode 47 - Volcanos
Apr 17, 2021 Season 2 Episode 47
Christine Malec and JJ Hunt

In recent days the Caribbean nation of St. Vincent has been buried under ash by volcanic eruptions. Meanwhile, spectacular drone footage of the lava-belching volcano outside of Reykjavik, Iceland continues to intrigue and amaze. This week, Christine and JJ break down the terrifying and mesmerizing visuals of erupting volcanos. Then, set your creep-o-metre to high for a brief description of the aftermath from one of history's most famous volcanic disasters: the haunting ruins of Pompeii. 


Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/TalkDescriptionToMe)

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In recent days the Caribbean nation of St. Vincent has been buried under ash by volcanic eruptions. Meanwhile, spectacular drone footage of the lava-belching volcano outside of Reykjavik, Iceland continues to intrigue and amaze. This week, Christine and JJ break down the terrifying and mesmerizing visuals of erupting volcanos. Then, set your creep-o-metre to high for a brief description of the aftermath from one of history's most famous volcanic disasters: the haunting ruins of Pompeii. 


Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/TalkDescriptionToMe)

JJ Hunt:

Talk description to me with Christine Malec and JJ Hunt.

Christine Malec:

Hi, I'm Christine Malec.

JJ Hunt:

And I'm JJ Hunt. This is talk description to Me where the visuals of current events and the world around us get hashtag in description rich conversations.

Christine Malec:

We're going to be talking about volcanoes today. But before we do that, we just wanted to make a quick note that we are now on clubhouse. And we have a club. So if you search for a talk description to me on clubhouse platform, you will find us so we really recommend that you follow us get engaged with us, we will be starting to host events, probably in May. It's pretty exciting. We're planning to invite some guest experts to do some explanation alongside description of stuff that interests us, and we think will interest you too. So check it out on the clubhouse. And today we're going to be talking about something that's very much in the news, which is volcanoes and particularly in St. Vincent, which is ongoing. Unfortunately for the residents there. So, JJ, I think we were we were going to start with the visuals kind of pre eruption.

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, I think it's a good idea to talk about the what this volcano looks like when they're not erupting because this volcano is just part of life on the island. And so it's there all the time. And so talking about what it looks like, I think is a good starting point. It's how it looks all the time. But it also when you understand the structure, it plays into the understanding of what's going on when the eruptions are happening. So I took some pre eruption photos of this mountain. So the mountain is the volcano is called lesu La Soufrire. And it is a 4000 foot tall, 1200 meter mountain range. And I've got an aerial photo here that shows the upper portion of this volcano and it's in a mountain range. So it's a it doesn't always from all angles have that classic volcano. You know, it's not a perfect cone, but it is from the front. And so I've got an aerial shot here that's looking down at the upper portion of the volcano, and the exterior appears to be almost corrugated. So it's a it's this undulating corrugated outside with smooth rises and valleys that lead all the way down the slopes. And it's uniformly green. So it's blanketed in lush ground cover no trees, no bushes, no visible rock, it's just looks like a mossy green on the outside of this mountain. And it's topped the mountain is topped instead of being a perfect cone with a peak at the top, it's flattened. And then there are overlapping craters at the top of this mountain. And the overlapping craters suggest to me that there have been a number of vents or openings at the top of this volcano over the aeons that's just the that's my you know lay person's understanding of this. The crater I believe that we're most concerned with now is furthest away from us in this image because it's the only complete crater suggesting to me that it's the most recent one. And at the center of this crater is it's what looks like a big dark cow Patty, right in the center of this crater. It's dark, it's it's hard and it looks like a big cow Patty, and this is what's known as a lava dome. I dug up another photo that was taken in December 2020 and and things look a little bit different in this image. So the first image I described the aerial shot I'm guessing is a few years ago because this lava dome inside this crater is quite dark. This new photo that I found from December 2020 there is the big lava dome, but it is now covered with moss, it's greened over. Beside it so still inside the crater but beside this lava dome and what would have been the moat right if it was actually liquid is a smaller black dome, with steam rising out of it. This is a new lava dome. And it kind of looks a bit like an anthill. And it's as if the black soil has been pushed up through an underground tunnel and dumped out of the hole. I mean, that's is what's happening. So that's how that's why it looks like an anthill. Because that's how ants dig out. That's how these these lava domes get built is that soil gets pushed up or or material gets pushed up from inside, pushed out around the outside and around the top. And then what you get is this layer by layer build up of a dome. And then there's steam rising out of the top that was in December of 2020. In my understanding is that on April, the ninth Friday,

April, the ninth at 8:

41am, on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent La Soufrire began erupting. And my understanding is that it blew through this new lava dome, and completely decimated it completely decimated the old lava dome. And it has completely reshaped the peak of this mountain entirely. So in fact, the description that I just gave you is likely no longer an accurate description of the landscape. It's probably changed dramatically by now.

Christine Malec:

Can we take a step back for a second? What did you mean by cone shaped versus some other shape? Was that specific to volcanoes or mountains in general?

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, so the classic volcano that most of us have in mind is a perfect cone rising out of an otherwise flat landscape, like as if, as if a volcano is a perfect mountain unto itself. You know, all alone, and that does sometimes happen. But often volcanoes are part of mountain ranges. So there are other mountains around it's part of a chain of mountains and, and so the front of La Soufrire is conical. So it's coming up to that point, but it's also part of a mountain chain, so it's not standing on its own. That's, that's what I meant by that.

Christine Malec:

Okay. Okay. So what are things looking like now.

JJ Hunt:

So most of the footage that I've seen, it's all about an ash cloud. This isn't so much about the classic red hot lava idea of of a volcano. So when a volcano like this explodes, when this one exploded, people flipped on their cameras all over the place, people started taking pictures and images or satellite pictures. And the very first thing that you see is this cloud of ash shooting up into the sky, and it rose something like 15 kilometers in an already gray sky, just enormous, so big, that for many people taking images on the island, it was difficult to get the whole picture in the whole cloud in one image, it was bigger than the frame of their that their camera would allow them to capture. And it's just enormous actually found a satellite image that was taken just moments after the initial eruption. And the ash cloud actually covers the entire island. No landform is visible in this satellite image. It's completely eclipsed by this enormous cloud of gray ash. And from the ground. If you're, again, look, taking one of these videos, this giant cloud of churning gray, dark ash looks like it's repeatedly boiling over. So imagine if you will an ever expanding head of dull gray cauliflower. So as it grows, another head begins to grow beside it. And then another one on top of that, and so on and so on each one of these ever expanding heads of gray cauliflower, growing and engulfing each other. And it all appears to happen in slow motion, because of the distance and people are so far away looks like these things are happening. in slow motion. It's actually very similar to how Mount St. Helens erupted. So that was in Washington State in May 1980. And for many of us in the US and in Canada that volcano eruption, Mount St. Helens, is kind of THE volcanic eruption. And the initial explosion of Mount St. Helens was very similar to what happened in St. Vincent.

Christine Malec:

So you said that's not necessarily the classic image that we have in our head of a volcano. What do you mean by that? What's the ash version versus the hot lava version?

JJ Hunt:

So in this version, the St. Vincent kind of volcanoes. Right now most of the images that we're getting are about the ash that fall to the ground. Sometimes the ash is a huge problem. And sometimes the lava is a huge problem, and sometimes it's both so With St. Vincent, the ash cloud then begins to fall right all of this ash starts raining down. And again cell phone videos make it look like snow storms at night The sky is totally dark and weather and I don't know if these videos are all taken at night or during the day when the sun is just completely eclipsed by this cloud. And there are gray flakes raining down and they streak through the image to the point where visibility is obscured. It's really difficult to see clearly it is like being in a snowstorm. And then the ash covers everything like a thick gray blanket, the lush hillsides that I described completely gray palm trees are down the fronds sagging and gray cars are covered roofs covered. I saw some photos of footprints in the fine because it's a very fine powdery ash. And I saw some footprints that look like they're three or four inches deep. I've heard someone describe it as a lunar landscape. And I would say that is accurate. For some of the photos that I've seen. There is a lava flow here that it that is causing some some trouble, but that most of the images that I'm finding are not of that the lava a lot of the time especially if you're frankly a kid thinking of a volcano, right like when we were kids and we all made those volcanoes and in public school out of paper mache Shea and then you would put vinegar and baking soda in the middle so they would have wrapped in the lava pours over the edges. It's the it's the cinematic version of a volcano. That kind of volcano has it has a different look in a different feel to it. That is when the lava comes pouring over the sides, bubbles up from the top pours over the side and streams of lava come running down. And actually in Iceland in March, the world was shown what this looks like in a way that it really hasn't been before. So in March, just outside of Reykjavik in Iceland, the volcano erupted. And it's a relatively small scale volcano. It's not exceedingly dangerous. And it's very photogenic. So people have rushed from Reykjavik tourists have come in with cameras and drones and filmed all kinds got in all kinds of footage of this of this shield volcano. So a shield volcano is a low profile volcano. So picture Captain America's round shield that kind of you know comes to a slow rise and then dips back down. That's what this is. This is a low volcano i think it's it's under 400 meters tall, so only 1300 feet and on March 19, a 600 meter long fissure. It's a fissure vent it opened up so this is a linear crack in the surface. And it began spewing bright orange lava and the lava is relatively slow moving so no buildings were at risk. Like I said people came came in with their cameras with their drones. And it does actually have in the center of this of this shield volcano that is a classic volcano peak that is spewing red hot lava. So the area of the landscape around is is either snow covered or it's dry brown kind of tundra landscape. And this volcano looks like a raised Island of dark, black rock. And at the center is this peak this conical volcano with a cracked open top. And that's what's spewing lava. So at the core is this pool, a small lake of molten lava and it is white hot. So in a lot of the images there's no detail in there. It's just to contrast it's just two white bright white hot lava. And then it's around the edges of the pool of the lava pool. It appears kind of brilliant glowing orange, truly like liquid fire. And it's boiling. It's bubbling like a pot of tomato sauce and heated globs bubble up to the surface of the pool. And then they burst when they hit the tops of this thick molten lava spurts out and it lands on the sides of the peak. And then the color fades when when the when the when the lava bursts out, flies through the air drops back down to the ground. Once it's hit the ground the sides of the volcano. It then begins to fade the color fades to the deep red of coals and a dying campfire. And this lava pool that's inside this cone has actually broken down one side The jet black peak. So imagine you're making a volcano shape out of sand, and you then slowly fill the center of it with water. When the water gets to the top and begins to spill over, it's likely going to topple the weakest edge, and that's going to allow more water to escape. That's basically what's happened here with lava the lava has eaten away at one side of the peak, and then more of the lava is able to pour out and rushes over the edge. And in this in this little island of volcanic of hardened volcanic material, this island of dark rock, the lava has rushed over the edge of the of the volcano peak, and it's filling a raised plateau so it forms a larger open pool. And because there's more surface area, the bright orange lava begins to harden and it forms a gray crust. But underneath that gray crust is still liquid like molten lava. It's it's still bright orange, and so the the crust is streaked with these cracks these shifting cracks, it kind of looks a little bit like very slow motion lightning bolts, because they move and shift as the cracked crust on top kind of floats on this molten lava underneath. And then there are several spots where the lava then flows over the edge of the plateau like a very gentle waterfall. And the lava creeps down the side of this low black Island toward the tundra and it oozes with the consistency of like, thick ladle the gravy that's been sitting at the buffet too long, right like it's really thick and clumpy and loses over. And people gather around the edges of this jet black volcanic island in the places where the lava is oozing down toward the tundra. And it's moving so slowly at this point, because the more it cools, the thicker it gets, the slower it moves, that people can actually stand within 20 feet of this oozing glowing orange lava and watch it slowly creep forward, and the gray crust forms on top as it cools. And that's how this island of black material gets built. More lava pours over the sides. It oozes onto the tundra. it hardens and cools. And as it cools, it turns to this black rock and that's how this island moves bigger and bigger and bigger.

Christine Malec:

So when you look at images of St. Vincent and of Iceland, which one is more scary.

JJ Hunt:

Ah, see that's a great question. Intellectually I am more afraid for the people in St. Vincent. I understand that. That is a terrible situation. This is life and death for the people in St. Vincent. Their water supply has been contaminated by the ash. Their power is out. 16 to 20,000 people have been evacuated. They take this very seriously The last volcano - I'm not sure it was the last one but the most deadly time that this specific volcano erupted in 1902 over 1000 people died. This is serious, serious stuff. But it just looks like grey ash. It is dirty looking. It is awful looking. But it doesn't have the molten fire, this liquid stone of the Iceland volcano. That'stantalizingly scary, right? People actually are right at the edges of this thing. And when the crust starts forming, some of the boneheads will run right up and kick it because they want it they like it, they just want to push it, they want to see what it feels like they want to get right in there. Because it's fascinatingly dangerous, right? And so this is a funny thing about volcanoes they are, I mean, the destruction that can come from these things, the loss of life can be awful. But we're fascinated by them. There's a terrifying beauty to them. So while I might know intellectually, that the the kind of ash volcano, that kind of suffering and by the way, there is a there is a lava flow in the in St. Vincent, that is threatening houses and is threatening people. It's just not the thing that everyone's taking pictures of right? In Iceland everyone's gathering around to take amazing photos and to take amazing pictures because we're seeing the molten core of our planet bubble up to the surface. And it's scary because it's hot, it's liquid fire, and we know if it was on a larger scale, if this was closer to a city closer to a town, the town would be decimated. When lava flows start pouring, you can't stop them. They just go where they're going to go. There's nothing that can be done. They are so destructive.

Christine Malec:

And I understand that there's a possibly incipient volcano in the Congo that people have their eye on. What's that about?

JJ Hunt:

Yeah. So while I was looking up information on what's going on in St. Vincent, I came across an article about another volcano. And in some news reports, this is in the Virunga National Park in the Congo. So there's been a lot of volcanic activity there in recent years, that mirrors activity proceeding major eruptions in 1977, and 2002. So the same activity they're seeing now led to major eruptions back then. So people are concerned that this, this volcano could erupt again in the same kind of devastating way. But they've been major funding cuts to the monitoring systems and the personnel there. So there's real concern that the final warning system warning signs are going to be missed. But I thought it might be worth taking a very quick look at this because it's quite possible this is going to erupt in the next few years. So this is a you know, an opportunity to file away a bit of a description in our mind so that you know if and when that happens, we have an idea of what of what the situation looked like. So this is that classic looking cone volcano, the conical volcano that's more or less on its own, it's on it's on top of a conical mountain this this volcano crater, and inside this this big crater, there's a very wide open crater, a very dark rock. And so inside the crater is an angry active mini cone. So you've got a conical mountain, the conical volcano with a huge crater at the top. Inside that crater is a smaller what's called a mini cone so it looks like a tiny crater inside a bigger crater. And it's a perfect circle with a raised edge. And inside is a lava lake that glows bright orange, and it has a cracked crust on top that's dotted with bright white hot spots. It's bright enough that it turns the night sky into this eerie Halloween orange color. It's just such a bright lava lake inside this mini cone. And all of the photos I've seen steam is constantly rising from this mini cone inside this greater crater. And like I said, it's one to file away this image because it seems likely that this is going to erupt in a dramatic way sometime in the next few years.

Christine Malec:

One of the most striking visuals for kind of I guess the consequence of a natural disaster is the ruins of Pompei. And it's something that I've heard referenced many times as being eerie and fascinating but creepy at the same time. And it's about the way that the eruption of Vesuvius was so sudden that it it left people right in place, and we get a weird cross section creepy snapshot and it's referred to often. But I wonder I thought it would be really interesting to talk about that and do some description. So JJ, what are some of the most common visuals that you see on the topic?

JJ Hunt:

So what happened is, in 79 AD Mount Vesuvius erupts. And it covers everyone in this ash, something like four to six meters of volcanic ash. It lands, hard lands heavy, and it just buries everything. It essentially entombed the entire town in volcanic ash, and that becomes hardened rock. And over the centuries, the organic material inside this layer of rock, eventually, you know decomposes so all the wood, all the people all the straw, all the animals decomposes and what that leaves are perfect voids inside this hardened ash. And so archaeologists were then able to use these voids as moulds to mak plaster casts they pump plaste in chip away the volcanic as and what's left are essentiall sculptures that are exac replicas of people in their las moments of life as this volcani ash is raining down on them. I ve not been to to Pompei in p rson so I pulled up some photo and again, like you say, they re referenced all the time. T ey get shown all the time but w en you see take a moment and l ok at them, and go through t em flip through them they I m an they really are incredi ly creepy. So stone figures, of en huddled together in the fe al position. There's one th t's quite famous - I want to ca l them sculptures because that s what they look like but they re not - this one figure crawl ng along the ground with their h ad up. And you can see their li bs are quite clearly defined t is figure has a face I'm not s re if that face would have been he facial features would have b en actually created by the plas er being pumped into the void or have someone scraped the the ye sockets and and you kn w, aligned for the mouth, or perhaps not perhaps, that le el of detail was possible by filling in this, this mould his void with plaster. And, and there's another image here o a, of a person sitting down ith their knees up. So they've got their legs tucked in their k ees or pulled to their ch st, they've got the hands cla ped together and held kind of to the to the bridge of the nose ith the head bowed down. And his person is made of again of his plastic material and it's ind of flaky, it looks like It looks like a charred bod so that there's there's ome flakiness to the plaster the e's a there's a gray color to the plaster that makes it look ike a perfect figure that was hen charred, that that's really hat this person looks like. The 're animals to a harnessed h rse lying on its side. And, you know, because the harness was made of leather that you can find where the straps were. All of these figures, like I s y, the facial features are not ecessarily always clear, b t the body language is absolute y clear. And it's it's really q ite haunting.

Christine Malec:

We love making this podcast. If you love hearing it, perhaps you'll consider supporting its creation and development by becoming a patron. We've set up a Patreon page to help cover the costs of putting the show together. You can contribute as a listener or as a sponsor to help ensure that accessible and entertaining journalism continues to reach our community. Visit patreon.com slash talk description to me that's pa t ar e o n.com slash talk description to me have feedback or suggestions of what you'd like to hear about here's how to get in touch with us. Our email address is talk descriptio to [email protected] Our Faceboo page is called talk descriptio to me. Our website is tal description to me.com and yo can follow us on Twitter at tal description

St Vincent
Reykjavík, Iceland
Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo
Pompeii