Volcanoes are a source of awe and wonder, as well as a powerful force of nature.
Centuries of history reveal that the thrill of seeing one these giants up close and personal supersedes any safety concerns.
But recent eruptions in various parts of the world have made people wonder if these tourist hot spots are safe to add to their travel plans.
Recent events mark volcanic history.
On December 9th, the White Island volcano (“Whakaari” in the Maori language) located in New Zealand erupted, sending deadly blasts of ash and steam onto tourists exploring below, reported USA Today.
The devastating eruption killed two dozen tourists from areas such as Germany, China and Malaysia, many of whom were on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship that had just arrived.
Over 20 survivors were found, but had significant burns. Ten remained in critical condition more than a week after the horrific experience.
You may be thinking, “How did New Zealand experts not know that a dangerous volcano was about to erupt?!”
Three weeks before the unthinkable happened, the alert level was raised from a 1 to 2 on a sale where 5 means go-time.
GeoNet is the agency that monitors volcanoes and earthquakes in New Zealand, and they had noticed an increase in sulfur dioxide gas, which can signify rising magma, as well as increasingly intense tremors.
Whether they wanted to keep tourists feeling safe or underestimated the temperamental nature of volcanoes, those visiting New Zealand had a surprise that would change the course of travel.
Volcanoes are more prevalent than you think.
There are many volcanoes, even dangerous ones, that American tourists visit every day. You probably have been to one, or have one on your future itinerary and don’t even know it.
Last year, Kilauea erupted, making it one of the biggest eruptions in Hawaii’s history. The Big Island was devastated as thousands lost their homes and tourism dropped.
Mount Hood, Oregon’s most popular peak, is an active volcano that experiences frequent earthquakes and has volcanic gases spewing around Crater Rock near the summit.
Scariest part, this eruption waiting to happen is only 50 miles east of Portland. The Portland metropolitan area is home to almost 2.5 million people.
Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming has some of the most beautiful sights in all of the United States and attracts hikers and nature enthusiasts from all corners of the world.
What people don’t realize is that Yellowstone National Park is a super-volcano, and if it were to erupt, it would shoot hot lava thousands of miles in all directions across the nation, according to Express.
Mt. Rainier located in the cascade mountain range in Washington State is called “the most dangerous volcano in the world” by volcanologist Janine Krippner at Concord University, reports National Geographic.
Other famous volcanoes, such as Mount Etna in Italy and Mount Fuji in Japan, bring in countless of tourists annually, making it vital that they are monitored by experts constantly.
How safe is it to visit a volcano?
Most of the world’s volcanoes are not due to erupt anytime soon, and haven’t erupted in hundreds of years.
But that is not always a sufficient answer when discussing safety.
“Treat volcanoes with the respect that they deserve because they are relatively unpredictable,” states Erik Klemetti, an associate professor of geosciences at Denison University, according to USA Today.
Experiencing all the beauty a volcano has to offer with its snow-capped peaks or cascading waterfalls comes with inherent risk.
While many adventurous travelers have visited White Island with no incident in the past, the ones who lost their lives recently were not so fortunate.
Check with local monitoring organizations for any advisories or closures prior to commencing your journey.
If you manage to get around the sharp lava rock, hot steam, steep cliffs, and occasional earthquakes, you will return home with an awesome story to tell.
Volcanoes are a reminder of the strength and beauty nature can offer, but also our vulnerability when choosing to come face-to-face with it.
Please let us know in the comments section if you’ve ever visited a volcano and if you faced any dangerous situations.