Three Small Stones from Hell – The Manam Island Volcano

Posted in At Sea, Dangerous, Under the Sea on September 9th, 2009 by MadDog
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Yesterday evening after work, as is my custom, I sat down with a cold one, a cheap cigar, a book and petted Sheba, my dog. I was reading in Analog Magazine  a short story about a descent into an extinct (they thought) volcano. It was a good story, but that’s not my point. It got me thinking about the strange stones that were in a basket of seashells right next to my chair. I reached over to look at one of them and began thinking of how I can tell the story of how I found them.

These stones, each smaller than your fist, were belched violently from the huge volcano at Manam Island.  I’ve written about Manam before here and here. Though I’m certainly no expert, I think the these are pieces of pumice, an almost fluffy mixture of liquid rock and gas. Think of it as very hard Champaign:

Three bits of volcanic pumice belched from the Manam Island volcano

Guessing again, I think that the strong red colour probably comes from a high iron content. Rust is red, eh? The sea floor where we were diving only a few kilometres away from the coast of the island was littered with these red stones. It was very obvious that they had not long been on the sea bottom. There was nothing growing on them. This means that they could not have been there more than a few weeks at most, since everything is soon covered by living organisms that are desperate to find something on which to attach themselves.

Here’s an interesting Google Earth view of Manam Island:

A Google Earth image of Manam Island

Here’s one from directly above. You can clearly see the brownish chasms left by lava flows:

Another Google Earth image of Manam Island

The strange discontinuity at the left is caused by the merging of images from two different satellite images.

Here’s a shot of Manam Island  volcano having a leisurely smoke just to show you that it is not very sleepy:

The red light of sunset lights up the eruption of Manam Island volcano

I got the image above on the same excursion during which I collected the stones. I have to admit that, while I was diving, I wondered what a big eruption would be like underwater. Not much fun, I think. I have felt earthquakes underwater and seen the flash of lightning while on night dives. Neither is to my liking – too creepy. I once heard the nearby explosion of dynamite when some [expletive deleted] were blasting the precious reef for a bucket full of fish. I thought that my dive buddy’s tank had exploded. I turned around quickly and saw her covering her ears with her hands. It was very  loud.

While I was fiddling with Google Earth today, I discovered a way to make a picture that looks almost exactly the same as what you would see if you were landing at Madang airport:

A nice Google Earth rendering of Madang Town showing my house

You can see Madang out on its peninsula and the airport over at the upper right.

I probably should note that there is no giant sign out in Binnen Harbour that says, “My house”. I painted that in the image.

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