Volcanoes of Kamchatka, RussiaKamchatka's volcanoes have never been bloodthirsty: the natives of Kamchatka can hardly recall eruptions that carried death there. A dark silhouette of volcano against the clean dawning skies does not imply a threat - it is usually a token of nice weather for the people of Kamchatka. It is still hard, however, living in such proximity to the volcanoes, to get used to the idea that they are just some geological objects. The silence alongside the volcanoes is of a special sort, the one that fills the soul with an incomprehensible combination of anxiety and peace. Everything looks strange and unusual; you are gazing around as if perceiving a scrutinizing glance of another universe: you feel scared and at the same time happy, for this scrutinizing glance makes you feel someone's unbound power spreading over you - perhaps that sole true power you want to surrender to:
Which of Kamchatka's volcanoes is the most beautiful? There is not an unargued leader, but one can certainly name the first three - though, as it goes, there are few objective criteria to assess beauty - nevertherless, the three volcanoes are Kluchevskoy, Koryaksky and Kronotsky. All the three can be good candidates to symbolize volcanic Kamchatka due to their total assets. The feature of Kluchevskoy, its height, (the absolute heights of the volcanoes are 4,750m, 3,456m and 3,528m respectively), is not as significant as it looks as the first glance. The greatest Eurasian volcano has made nearly 5 kilometers of height due to the fact that it was formed on a specific geological "pedestal", a slope of ancient volcano while the actual height (a relative one) is 3,000m, i.e. less than the height of Koryaksky (3,300m) or Kronotsky (3,100).
Considering the shape of a volcano's cone or "marquee" as it was figuratively called in Krasheninnikov's times, a lot of people with no doubts would prefer the one of the Kronotsky volcano. The geometrically regular, ribbed cone crowned with an icy hat looks in the waters of the biggest Kamchatka's lake. In its beauty and majesty the Koryaksky volcano does not yield to its two "brothers". It forms a magnificent ensemble together with the Avachinsky volcano, an integral part of the panorama of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. So, a lot of natives of the city have almost relative feelings towards it. On the other hand, each of Kamchatka's volcanoes has the beauty of its own. There are over 300 of them on the peninsula, among which 29 are still active.
Uzon Caldera (this is a term to specify a ring-like hollow) developed 40 thousand years ago on the site of a huge volcano destroyed by a set of bursting eruptions. The last cataclysm inside the kaldera (8,500 years ago) left its trace as a blasting crater about one kilometer in diameter. The following centuries of intensive hydro-thermal activity have developed a unique symbiosis of volcanoes and wildlife in Uzon. Being a part of the Kronotsky Zapovednik, it is registered as a natural site specially cared for.
The Uzon Caldera is about 10 km in diameter, and inside it, behind steep walls, there is a complete "museum" collection of everything that Kamchatka is famous for: hot sources and cold rivers, poisonous mud cauldrons and pure lakes full of fish, a berry tundra and a birch forest, mountains and bogs, animals and birds. Geologists and botanists, geochemists and microbiologists, zoologists and volcanologists, i.e. the scientists of various specialisations, strive to get to Uzon. There in hot sources natural minerals are born as if in a laboratory retort; incredible algae and bacteria live in the burning solution for whom the poisonous boiling water is the most desirable environment; enormous bears in overalls of steam wander on Uzon's paste; swans roll-call in warm small lakes.
There is hardly another place on Earth where autumn beauty as bright as it were short. Uzon in autumn is unforgettable: the tundra is vigorously scarlet, Erman's birches sparkle with gold, steamy pillars are going up into blue skies like the smoke of sacrificial fires. Quiet music sounds in birch forests in the morning: these are hoar-frosted leaves falling with a jingle. With the first gusts of autumn storms, however, the leaves fall down, the tundra fades with the frosts, and only mud cauldrons keep boiling colorful paste.
Kluchevskoy is the biggest alive volcano in Eurasia - 4,750m over the sea level. It has a perfect, incredibly beautiful cone. Together with Kamen (Stone), Bezymyanny (Unnamed), Plosky (Flat) Tolbachik it forms the Kluchevskaya group of volcanoes. The volcano is about 8,000 years old. The first registered eruption was in 1697. It was registered during the famous travel of Vladimir Atlasov, a Kamchatka explorer. In average, the eruptions took place every five years, at certain time periods they happened annually, and sometimes there were continuos eruptions lasting for a number of years. However, they have never imposed a severe danger upon the inhabitants of Kluchi, a town 30 km away grom the volcano. The eruptions are accompanied with explosions, the throw-outs of gas and ashes and ash falls. The most powerful eruptions of the Kluchevakaya, like those in 1944-45, came out from the major central crater, but the volcano's activity is also characterized by "parasite" craters 60-200m tall that stand 8-25 km away from the major one.
The first ascent to the top of the volcano was executed by a mountain guide, Daniel Gaus, in 1788. Since then plenty of dare-devils went up to the crater of Kluchevskov.
Karymsky volcano is a relatively short (1,486 m) and young (6,100years old) volcano, the most active one in Kamchatka. There have been 23 eruptions in this century only, the latest one started in 1996 and was going on for two years gradually fading. The eruptions of Karymsky volcano are accompanied with bursts and throw-outs of ash and bombs going out from the central crater, with lava effusing. As a rule, the lava of Karymsky are so glutinous that the flaming torrents do not always reach the foot of the volcano. The latest eruption of Karymsky volcano would have been like any other one, but it was different coinciding with an under-water eruption in the Karymsky lake that is 6 km away from the volcano. It lasted not more than 18-20 hours, but that short period included over 100 under-water bursts each accompanied with waves tsunami 15 meters high. The lake was actually boiling. The temperature went up rapidly, and salt and acid components reached the concentration that killed all the life in the lake including the school of "kokani", a lake species of sock-eye salmon cultivated by ichthyologists in the Karymsky lake. As a result of this eruption, the Karymsky lake that used to be ultra-fresh turned into the biggest natural reservoir of acid water in the world.
Maly Semyachek Volcano
It is a volcanic mountain range 3 km long with 3 craters on its crest. In its southern crater (the crater of Troitski), there is an unusual acid lake in the depth of 170m. The temperature in this opaque, sometimes turquoise sometimes green lake, ranges from +27`C to +42`C while the level of mineralization is equal to an average concentration of sulphate and hydrochloric acids. The size of the lake amazes: it is about half kilometer wide and is 140m deep.
It is assumed that the acid lake developed quite recently. The hypothesis says that it was the result of eruption unnoticeable for people. Anyway, today Maly Semyachek is one of Kamchatka's natural wonders, and those who managed to reach its foot should climb to the edge of the crater. The view opening to your eyes is unforgettable: a 200 m gap of the crater, the smoking green lake, the wild play of colours on the walls inside. Then the weather is clear and windy, you can descend into the crater. You can stay on the slate-black beach to enjoy a poisonous emerald surf and water-spouts araising over the lake's surface. The coastal breeze that causes cough will make you leave the abode of underground "spirits" soon.
Gorely volcanoGorely volcano is like chain from 11th craters, laying one by one, with lakes, fumaroles, and also a great number (about 40) of secondary slag cones with lava torrents; in expose parts of ancient construction you can clearly study the process of transformation of volcano products, in particular, transformation of crumbly pumice. Gorely is great geologist object.
Avachinski volcano is active and nice-structured as Somma-Vezuvi, with perfect cone (2751 altitude). At the top of cone was crater 350 m. In diameter and 220 m. In depth, but in 1991 in process of eruption, crater was filled with Lava, and now at different places is active fumaroles, which deposits sulphur.
Koryak is stratospheric volcano with perfect rib cone (3456 m. Altitude). >From the powerful circus at the top and others places descend glaciers. Almost at the top part along the cracks steamly fumaroles, and in the crater is warm plates. Rocks at those places are changed to coloured clay with abundant deposit of sulphur, gyps, amonia etc.
Dzenzurski is demolish volcanic massif with crater as glacier. At south-east part of volcano is fumarolic boiler (5m. X 20 m.) and full of melted water. At the ages and on the bottom of boiler arc active fumaroles, because of them the temperature of water is 85-90'C. About 40% of water is minerals. Walls of boiler are from coloured clay.
Viluchinski volcano is on the south-west part from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, behind Avacha bay. Volcano is not active, has perfect cone (2175 m. altitude). Top of it has different rocks divided by ice. Lava and pyroclastic, changed to coloured, because of activity of fumaroles. Slopes of volcano are radical going down from the top, but some of them starts from the middle. Upper section at the north-west slope is full of ice. Structure of volcano is lava and pyroclistic of mineral structure. At the foundation of volcano is acid rocks, and at south-east part are hot springs.
Ostriy Tolbachic volcano is stratospheric volcano, has sharp (pointed) icely top. It's altitude is 3682 m. South-East part of the top is large open destroyed circus. Low part covered with ice, which extend to the west part of Ploski Tolbachik. Glacier of Shmidt starts from that circus, and goes down to the south slopes of volcano. West slopes of volcano is destroyed and covered with different ledges. Those ledges looks like teeth-walls, whimsical castles etc. Their high is changing from 3 m. till 20-30 m. It is interesting for scientists and for tourists. This volcano is not active, maybe it was active with Ploski Tolbachic volcano in parallel.
The shape of volcano is truncated cone with foot 18 x 22 km. Ksudatch has several calderas with crater lakes. The height of volcano is 1000 m. above sea level.
Ksudatch volcano was formed at the end of early Pleistocene and previously was 2000 m. high. Its activity arose rhythmically this fact explains the presence of several calderas and volcanic cones of different ages.
On extrusions Paryashchi Utyos and Paryashchi Greben one can see vapor and gas spurts of temperature 800-900C concentrated closely in one area. Spurts have a high concentration of CO2. Thermal springs are located on the coasts of lake Klyutchevoye and lake Shtyubelya.
Shtyubelya springs form 200 meters long hot beach of sand and pumice. Water temperature is 300-700C. Colonies of thermophilic algae can be seen on the surface of the lake.
Alder bushes, tundra and meadows, slag slopes in combination with laces and crater cones create unusual beauty. River Tyoplaya flows down from caldera and forms waterfall.
Ksudatch is one of the most exotic objects in Kamchatka. It is declared as a Nature's memorial of landscape and geological value.
Mutnovski volcano is a compound volcanic massif of height 2323 m. above sea level. It has numerous and various fumarolic fields where one can see all different forms of modern gas-hydro-thermal activity with magnificent structures of volcanic sulfur of 2,5 m. high and 5 m. in diameter. Some of these structures contains rare minerals, such as markazite and metacinnabarite. Not far from active craters, glaciers and lakes thermal springs are located. The most impressive of them are Severo-Mutnovskiye and Datchnye with vapor-gas spurts, boiling muds, hot lakes and heated bogs.
The eruption ends up, and everything that has been thrown out from the volcano's crater, i.e. glutinous immobile lava, ash as fine as flour, is left on the ground surface. Actually this is new ground born in the fire pains:
The appearance and features of volcano rocks depend on the chemical components that magma comprises and then on the environment conditions. Lava with a relatively small quantity of silica are more unstable. In the process of hardening they form basalt, the most widespread rock in Kamchatka. Syrupy glutinous lava comprise more silica, and when cooled, andesites and dacites are formed. With a big concentration of silica, lava can harden generating volcano glass, obsidian.
A young stream of lava often forms a nearly insuperable bulk of slate-black boulders. At a distance it looks like a dragon falling down to the ground. At a closer glance the oppressing impression is getting stronger: an endless black wall, bare boulders piling up in stores with tiny knobs of lichen here and there on the surface. This unpretentious unremarkable lichen is the first label of ever-winning life. Centuries will pass, winds and rains will flaten the sharp facets, the ashes of new eruptions will cover angular, and finally the ugly "monster" will turn into another long, gently sloping range.
First the ground scorched by eruptions is rehabilitated by moss and lichen, then some shy grass, a dwarf willow, berries come up. When tundra covers the ash, animals will come back, too. Black-hatted marmots settle down in the old lava streams. These funny creatures like coming up onto the remnants of high boulders both to enjoy the sun and to observe the surroundings. Unfortunately, the marmots' colonies disappear in Kamchatka.
Pumice and Tufa.
There are plenty of spots in Kamchatka where the multi-meter thick of pumice is discovered. Pumice-stone is a volcano rock generated when the magma fuse comprising dissolved water rather quickly reaches the ground surface. On the surface the pressure falls down, and water immediately turns into steam foaming the still hot magma. Thus the pumice stone is formed. However, if the lava is over-saturated with water, the steam bursts it up into the sand, ash and small fragments called "lapilli". In a course of time all the stuff is condensed, "concreted", and as a result, a new, quite hard rock forms - a volcanic tufa.
The pumice baring is a witness of the powerful destructive eruptions of the past. The most impressive pumice cliffs are located in the south of Kamchatka, round the Kurilskoye lake. There, on the shore of the Ozernaya river, the famous "Kutkhiny Baty", "obelisks" made of pumice and resembling upstanding gigantic boats, are placed. As an ltelmen's legend says, Kutkhu - the Lord and the Creator of Kamchatka - before he left the peninsula, lived at the Kurilskoye lake for some time and went fishing on the lake or to the sea in these boats. Leaving Kamchatka, Kutkhu stood his boats ("Baty") up, and since then the place has been considered sacred among the Kamchadals.
The Colour of Ground.
The eruption ended, a lot of volcanoes get quiet for years turning to the stage of fumarole activity. A fumarole is a gas stream having exclusively high temperature of 300-500`C or even 800`C. Jets of steam and gas of lower temperatures are called solfataras. The majority of Kamchatka's active volcanoes are in fumarole and solfatara phases of activity. Fumaroles including besides water steam hydrogen sulphide, sulphurous and carbonic gases change mountain rocks unrecognizably. The acid rivers enriched by iron and aluminum flow on the surface, the crystallized sulphur sediments appear on the stones, in some places such metals as zinc , lead, arsenic and mercury are accumulated developing into ore deposits. A volcano is a sort of gigantic retort where, under the mysterious laws of nature, the chemicals are mixed, heated and enter into a reaction.
Small Mud Volcanoes and Mud Cauldrons.
Mud cauldrons and small mud volcanoes are little miracles of Kamchatka. You can see them in different regions, but in caldera Uzon and the Valley of Geysers they are the most prolific. Though examining them requires a lit of caution. It is much more terrible to get into boiling paste than just to get boiled: paste is no boiling water, it cools down slowly and can't be washed off at once. One can't help marvelling and envying at the sight of bears dashingly crossing steaming thermal sites.
Small mud volcanoes perform almost in the same way as the real ones do: they smoke and "erupt", but their "volcanic activity" stars only after rains, while in dry hot weather the small volcanoes "fall asleep".
Geserit is a mineral (silica included in the group of base opals) that is crystallized from hot water mainly round the geysers and is very rich in shapes and colours.
Jan from the Czech Republic
Jacqueline, Roland, Sibylle and Frank from Germany
Marta Kvakzinska (Polska)
Axel + family and friends from Germany