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Unzen

Listed under Volcanoes in Kyushu, Japan.

  • Photo of Unzen
  • Photo of Unzen
  • Photo of Unzen
  • Photo of Unzen
  • Photo of Unzen
  • Photo of Unzen
  • Photo of Unzen
  • Photo of Unzen
Photo of Unzen
Photo by Photography: Mike Lyvers
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The notorious Unzen is the volcano that on June 3 1991 killed the daredevil husband and wife team of Maurice and Katia Kraft, two famous volcanologists who were the best volcano film-makers ever. (It also nearly killed me!) Another of the 44 killed by a large pyroclastic flow that day was volcanologist Harry Glicken, who had previously just missed (by a few hours) becoming a victim of the 1980 Mt. St. Helens cataclysm. Unzen was responsible for Japan's worst volcanic disaster in 1792, killing some 15,000 people. It reawakened in 1991 after centuries of dormancy, attracting volcano enthusiasts at the same time that the government was evacuating the towns beneath the volcano. Unzen erupted from 1991 to 1995, producing more frequent pyroclastic flows than any other eruption ever recorded, with at least 10-20 per day during the period of peak activity from 1991 to 1993. The incredible and terrifying sight of Unzen's fiery cascades of glowing gas and ash is forever seared into my memory banks. Unzen is currently quiet, although a somewhat similar eruption has been ongoing over the past several years on the Caribbean island of Montserrat - which has mostly been evacuated as a result. But you have to be pretty crazy to want to observe a Pelean type eruption; an infinitely safer choice is to observe the after-effects. Places to do the latter include the volcano Mt. Pelee on the Caribbean island of Martinique, which in 1902 annihilated the entire city of St. Pierre and its 30,000 inhabitants; Unzen; Mt. St. Helens; and Vesuvius.

Written by  Mike Lyvers.

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