Reading about recent volcanic activity of Cumbre Vieja on the on the Canary Island of La Palma has me wondering: what’s really going on here? I remember the story of Pele, the fiery-tempered volcanic deity, but what else?
In one story, a sky spirit caught cold. He decided to drill a hole in the sky, to push out the snow and the ice. What happens then, do you think?
It piles up.
Exactly. So he steps down, looks around. While he’s at it, makes trees, rivers, animals, fish.
Them, too. Brings the whole family down. They live in the mountaintops, of course, because they are more comfortable in altitude. They gather around a fire. Smoke and sparks from the fire blow out the top of the lodge. Sometimes he needs to throw another big log in, to feed it. That’s when the sparks fly and the earth trembles.
The Masai know about the Mountain of God, where Engai will appear from time to time. That’s why you don’t sleep on the slopes, as a matter of respect. Only the prophets can visit its craters. The point of going is to listen, to hear the message. And then, to take it back to the people.
You know that’s not smoke you’re seeing, but shards of glass. What you’re seeing now is rock shattered by heat, into countless tiny pieces.
This is why you don’t want to breathe it in. The fluid in your lungs, mixed with ash, will make a very sturdy cement.
And don’t even think about taking any of that lava rock off the island! ‘Less you want bad luck to follow you everywhere you go for the rest of your days.
Right. What about that big one, though? The really big one?
That was thirty million years ago, in what is now Eastern Nevada, Western Utah. Makes anything since look like barely a blip. The big one threw magma over an area of about twelve-thousand square miles. In some areas, the deposits of debris were over two miles deep.
What’s up with those sharks, who hang out in the waters of the submerged volcanoes? Isn’t it–
Acidic? Hot? Filled with ash and gas? Yes and yes, and yes. Goes to show, there’s something for everybody.
Speaking of which, ever surfed one?
You’ve got to be kidding.
No really. There’s a guide. The thing is, you’ve gotta be ready to hike. That, and wear shoes you don’t mind melting.
Well, hopefully you brought a toboggan with you. Something coated at the bottom with plastic laminate works best.
People do this.
Yeah, but don’t forget goggles. And you don’t really want to stand up. More like an ice luge approach, where you lean back on the board.
And don’t forget––
Shut your mouth!
I’m just asking!
No, I mean really. Shut it. There’s gonna be a whole lot of debris flying in on the way down. Hot.
Something for everybody.
Does that look like smoke?
No, that looks like a cloud of glass.
That’s the spirit. Let’s go.
A Mental Floss article about the extreme sport of volcano surfing inspired the last portion of this post.