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Updated: Jun 11, 2020

The Calfornia Science Center has unveiled its newest IMAX adventure, Volcanoes 3D: The Fires of Creation and this action-packed film is sure to keep movie-goers on the edge of their seats! On January 20th, HWF was invited to an insider screening of the IMAX movie followed by a special Q&A with Carsten Peter, the National Geographic photographer and film’s volcanic explorer who has captivated CSC audiences with his striking footage. 

It’s been almost two months since the movie’s premiere and I still cannot shake the enchantment I experienced when watching liquid hot magma erupt from the mouth of an active volcano onto the laps of audience members around us. Volcanoes 3D is spellbinding, bringing to life the explosive wonders of earth’s earliest geologic architects with thrilling clarity. To capture footage of the volatile fissures in the earth’s crust, Carsten Peter descends towards a boiling lava lake in Vanuatu, dodges flying boulders in Indonesia, and visits incredible acid ponds, geysers, and mineral deposit fields in Ethiopia, mesmerizing viewers who grip their armrests and gape at his courage. Peters also shares his experience of the 2018 eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano. The film itself is magnificent, but the images of active volcano exploration are otherworldly, and something not to be missed!

Movie poster for Volcanoes 3D now showing at the California Science Center

Molten Rock, Gas, and Ash

For billions of years, volcanoes have helped to create the world as we know it. From the formation of the continents to the crests and valleys that make up the seafloor, more than 80% of the earth’s surface is volcanic in origin. The three components of a volcano that are important to note are molten rock, gas, and ash. Molten rock (aka magma) is extremely hot, melted rock (between 1,292° and 2,372° Fahrenheit)  found between the second and third layers of earth, known respectively as the mantle and the crust. In areas where temperature, pressure, and structural formation permit, magma may start to pool in magma chambers, sometimes building enough pressure to fracture surrounding rock and escape from the fissures via eruption. These explosions are meant to reduce pressure and allow the earth to cool itself when pressurized magma collects in abundance.

When emitted from a volcano, Molten rock (aka Magma) becomes lava. Natural historians believe that gaseous emissions from volcanic eruptions helped assemble the earth’s atmosphere— including the air we breathe today. Where do these gases come from? Well, the liquid, red-hot magma seen flowing out of volcanoes is propelled outward by a number of dissolved gases trapped within the magma. Some of these gases (ie: water vapor) are harmless to humans, while others (ie: carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and hydrogen halides) are potentially hazardous to animals and people.

Contrary to popular belief, volcanic ash is not the same type of ash you would find in the smoke that billows up from fire, but rather it is defined as any piece of rock of lava expelled by a volcano that is less than two millimeters wide. If you breathe enough of it in, broken glass can irreparably damage your lungs, making volcanic ash extremely dangerous to inhale. With over 500 active volcanoes reported, the earth’s topography and human health are still being shaped by these forces of mass construction.

Volcanoes in the Headlines

According to the Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Program, there are somewhere around 20 volcanoes actively erupting at any given time. Most of these eruptions are not reported on the news either because they are ongoing eruptions that pose no threat to human life or they are too insignificant (small and frequently occurring) to write about.  Every few years though, an eruption will threaten human homes or large landscapes and make the headlines. The volcano eruption that was one of the most catastrophic disasters of modern times began in May 1883 and lasted nine months, killing more than 36,000 people. In 2018, Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano provided a spectacular demonstration of nature’s power— earthquakes, and eruptions caused new fissures to form and lava to flow from May through August.  During that time, as many as 700 homes were destroyed, reminding humans of what can happen when we inhabit places in a volcano’s line of fire. Watch the National Geographic video below to see up-close footage of the Kilauea eruption and catch Volcanoes 3D at the California Science Center for in-depth coverage of the raging volcano.

The side effects of an erupting volcano are not limited to the lava flow and volcanic ash. Volcanic explosions can trigger tsunamis, earthquakes, flash floods, mudflows, and rockfalls. Most recently, a volcanic eruption of Indonesia’s Anak Krakatau volcano took place on December 22nd, 2018, the day before a deadly tsunami swept through western Indonesia, killing around 430 people and injuring over 1,500. The volcano, which had been erupting for months prior to the seismic sea wave continued to erupt after the tsunami hit and volcanologists are still working to determine cause and effect. Anak Krakatau translates to the child of Krakatau and refers to the smaller island that was formed after one of the most catastrophic disasters of modern times. The Krakatau volcano erupted in May 1883 and lasted nine months, killing more than 36,000 people and destroying the island. In 1927, Anak Krakatau began to form near the remnants of the eclipsed land mass. Indonesia is also home to the largest and most deadly volcano ever recorded by humans—the 1815 explosion of Mount Tambora — ranking a 7 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index which ranks volcanoes from 1 to 8. The volcanic ash and acid from Mount Tambora obscured the sun and cooled the surface so much so that it is said to have caused what is known as the year without summer. Though 10,000 people died as a direct result of the eruption, another 82,000 lost their lives to starvation and disease that spread during the gloomy year.  The volcano, which is still active, is one of the tallest peaks in the Indonesian archipelago.

Although there have been several big eruptions in recorded history, volcanic eruptions today are no more frequent than they were a century ago. In an age of 4k film and crystal clear drone photography, volcanic eruptions serve as a reminder that nature wields immense and potentially hazardous power. HWF cannot recommend the film Volcanoes 3D to you enough. Find out about showtimes for the IMAX film playing at the California Science Center Here.  On the evening of  January 20th, 2019 (Ironically, the same night as the screening of Volcanoes 3D at CSC), the Stromboli volcano erupted on a small Italian island north of Sicily.  Watch the entrancing video below to see Stromboli, one of the most active volcanoes in the world shooting lava up into the air.

The Havasi Wilderness Foundation aims to expand conservation efforts, educate the next generation of environmental stewards, and encourage compassion for animals and the natural world. Help us achieve these goals by making a tax-deductible donation today.  If you cannot afford a donation, that’s okay— take a walk outside, investigate the world around you, and share with others the importance of caring for our planet.

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