Guatemalan Volcano Eruption Terrifies Villagers While Drawing Tourists

volcan de fuego A volcano right outside Guatemala‘s tourist attractions has exploded into a series of powerful eruptions. The natural occurrence was so intense, more than 33,000 people from surrounding communities were forced to evacuate.

“It thundered and then it got dark as the ash began falling,” Miriam Curumaco, a 28-year-old homemaker from the village of Morelia who had evacuated along with 16 family members, told “It sounded like a pressure cooker that wouldn’t stop.”

While the popular travel destination of Antigua has not yet been affected, 17 villages around Volcan de Fuego, a 12,346-foot volcano, have had to vacate. According to Guatemala’s head of emergency, Sergio Cabanas, the volcano spewed lava nearly 1,969 feet down slopes with thick ash, gas and smoke. Additionally, cinders shooting out of the volcano were measuring a half-inch thick in many places.

As worried locals leave their homes and seek refuge, the eruption has become a huge draw for tourists who want to get close to the volcano and take photos.

“Now that we know it erupted, we’re going to try to stop on the way and maybe take some pictures,” said Nilton Dasilva, a church group leader from Northfield, Illinois.

Most of the area has received an orange alert, the second highest level, although in the south and southeast of the mountain they are in almost complete darkness and have received a red alert. Many people in these areas have been affected with respiratory and vision problems. Luckily, the Guatemalan Red Cross has set up 10 shelters in the area where people can receive hygiene kits and water.

[Image via luisfi]

Iceland Volcano Adventure Tour Is No Mountain Stroll (VIDEO)

volcanoIceland’s Thrihnukagigur volcano has been dormant for 4,000 years but will open up next month for escorted adventures deep within the volcano. It promises to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for both skilled and novice hikers.

“It’s been over four decades ago since the first man set foot on the moon. But it’s only now that humans are offered the chance to see what a volcano looks like on the inside,” says Inside The Volcano, a website operated by 3H Travel, a licensed tour operator in Iceland.

After a short hike across lava fields and a safety briefing, participants will descend 400 feet via a cable car, deep into Thrihnukagigur volcano. Veteran mountain climbing and trekking guides insure safety as the tour group spends about an hour of the 5-6 hour tour on the floor of the magma chamber.

“The distance from top to bottom is a little short of three NYC’s Statue[s] of liberty planted on top of each other. The beauty of the crater lies in its enormous and, to some extent, intimidating size,” says 3H Travel.

Returning to the surface via a cable lift, participants are served a traditional Icelandic Meat Soup before being returned to their hotel in Reykjavik.

Get an idea of what it is like in this video:

The price? ISK 37,000 (about $300).

10 best national parks in South America

In South America, there are myriad diverse landscapes, unique flora, and endemic fauna to experience. With so many destination options on the continent, however, it can sometimes be hard to decide exactly where to go. National parks can provide beautiful and educational experiences in nature and, depending on where you visit, you can experience enormous glaciers, white sandy beaches, tropical rainforests, gushing waterfalls, jagged limestone cliffs, and hot thermal springs, sometimes all in one place. If you love birdwatching and wildlife viewing, South America is also home to many rare species that cannot be found anywhere else, like the giant tortoises of the Galapagos Islands or the spectacled bear in Peru. To help you plan your next trip to South America, or just to give you some inspiration from nature, check out the gallery below.

[Photo by Samuel Rochas, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA-3.0]


Alaska volcano has airlines preparing for travel chaos

Alaska volcanoUsing satellite imagery, scientists at the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) have determined that Alaska’s Cleveland volcano may be ready to erupt and have issued a code yellow eruption advisory. Airlines that operate in the area are paying close attention because the Cleveland Volcano is located directly below the commercial airline flight path between Asia and North America.

The significant problem here is that, due to the remoteness of the Cleveland Volcano, there is no on-the-ground ongoing monitoring of activity. The volcano could erupt without warning and satellite imagery might not detect the blast immediately creating a serious potential problem for aircraft flying over the area.

“Short-lived explosions with ash clouds that could exceed 20,000 ft above sea level can occur without warning and may go undetected on satellite imagery for hours” the AVO said in a statement.

That leaves experts preparing for the volcano’s first big eruption in 10 years. A 2001 eruption brought lava flow including a hot avalanche that reached the sea and blasted volcanic ash more than five miles into the sky. Since then a series of minor eruptions have occurred with the most recent minor ash emission in September 2010.

“Airlines operating through the region are aware that an eruption could happen suddenly and without further warning, and are preparing for potential travel chaos” reports
The 5,676 foot Cleveland Volcano, one of more than 90 in Alaska, is situated on the uninhabited island of Chuginadak in the Aleutian chain, 939 miles southwest of Anchorage and is one among many that lie in the Aleutian island chain. Nikolski, the town nearest to the Cleveland Volcano, is 45 miles away.

Not up on the advisory scale for volcano’s? Here’s what it all means;

Normal– Volcano is in typical background, non-eruptive state or, after a change from a higher level, volcanic activity has ceased and volcano has returned to non-eruptive background state.

Advisory- (where the Cleveland Volcano is right now) Volcano is exhibiting signs of elevated unrest above known background level or, after a change from a higher level, volcanic activity has decreased significantly but continues to be closely monitored for possible renewed increase.

Watch– Volcano is exhibiting heightened or escalating unrest with increased potential of eruption, time-frame uncertain, OR eruption is underway but poses limited hazards.

Warning– Hazardous eruption is imminent, underway, or suspected.

Photo by Alaska Volcano Observatory

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Archaeologists explore “Pompeiis” in Bulgaria and El Salvador

Nikopolis ad Istrum, Bulgaria, Pompeii
Pompeii is an archaeological wonder, an entire Roman town preserved by a volcanic eruption. Now archaeologists are investigating two other “Pompeiis” to learn more about the past.

In El Salvador, a team has discovered a village dating to c. 630 AD that was covered in volcanic ash. Joya de Ceren was sealed up so well that archaeologists have been able to examine corn cobs, the logs used to build homes, and even the paths leading through the village and how crops were planted.

Archaeology is generally biased towards big sites, both because they’re easier to find and because it’s easier to get funding to excavate them. Finding a small village that was inhabited by only 100-200 commoners helps us understand how the other half lived. The village has been declared a World Heritage Site.

At the Roman city of Nikopolis ad Istrum in Bulgaria, an archaeological team is working on another “Pompeii”. This Roman city was never buried in a volcanic eruption but it’s so well preserved, scientists make the comparison anyway. An archaeological team is exploring a temple to Cybele, a mother goddess.

I’ve been to Nikopolis ad Istrum and was very impressed. The city was founded by the Emperor Trajan around 101-106 AD. It was a major center of trade and culture until Attila the Hun trashed it in 447 AD. So it goes. Attila wasn’t very thorough and the town soon flourished again under the Byzantines. Today you can walk the streets, see the foundations of many buildings and even spot some of their decoration. You can even trace the sewers, which are a lot less stinky than they used to be.

[Photo courtesy Klearchos Kapoutsis]