Famous Volcanoes: Introduction
(Scroll down to see the volcanoes!)
Most volcanoes appear along the sides of the huge plates (known as tectonic plates) that make up the surface of the world – either where the plates are moving apart, or where they are moving together and one plate is forced under the other.
A deadly cloud of rock fragments and hot gas known as a pyroclastic flow can flow from a volcano at up to 430 mph (700 km/h), wiping out everything in its path.
Unsurprisingly, volcanic eruptions can be extremely destructive, especially when they occur near cities or towns.
In the list of famous volcanoes below we’ve included not only famous volcanic eruptions from history, such as that of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79, but also recent eruptions, such as those of Mount St Helen in 1980, and Eyjafjallajökull (an Icelandic volcano) in 2010.
List of Famous Volcanoes
1. Mount Vesuvius, Italy
Located near Naples in Italy, Mount Vesuvius is perhaps the world’s most famous volcano.
Almost two thousand years ago, in the late summer (or early autumn) of AD 79, Mount Vesuvius violently erupted. The eruption continued for two days, causing huge amounts of volcanic ash to rain down on the surrounding area.
The nearby city of Pompeii, together with several other settlements, was buried under the volcanic fallout. Many people were trapped inside the city, unable to escape.
Watch the animation below to get an idea of what it must have been like living in Pompeii on that fateful day:
Under the deadly blanket of ash Pompeii was preserved as it was on the day of the eruption. This has given historians a valuable insight into what life was like in Roman times.
2. Krakatoa, Indonesia
On the days leading up to the final explosion the activity intensified, with a near-continuous series of explosions and eruptions.
Finally, on 27th August, the eruption reached its peak with four tremendous explosions, the third of which could be heard on islands 4,800 km (3,000 miles) away! It is still thought to be the loudest sound in history.
Clouds of ash emitted by the volcano caused the sky to darken all around the world. The average global temperature dropped for three years after the eruption due to the volcanic ash in the atmosphere. The ash also caused strikingly colorful sunsets in many parts of the world.
3. Mount St. Helens, United States
Mount St. Helens is an active volcano located in Washington State, USA. It is part of the Cascade Range, a mountain range running along the western side of North America from British Columbia in Canada to northern California, USA.
Mount St. Helens was named after a British diplomat by explorer George Vancouver.
The volcano is most famous for its devastating eruption on May 18, 1980.
As a result of the landslide, there was less rock on the volcano to contain the immense underground pressure, and the volcano erupted almost immediately.
The huge explosion caused ash, lava and other debris to be expelled from the side of the mountain. 57 people lost their lives as a result of the eruption, which also caused the destruction of buildings, railways, forests and crops.
4. Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland
Its worldwide fame is due to its relatively recent occurrence, and the fact that it affected the lives of many thousands of people.
Eyjafjallajökull erupted on April 14 th 2010. The eruption, which continued for a week, caused a vast cloud of ash to fill the sky. The cloud spread southwards and covered much of Europe.
Because it is dangerous for a plane to fly through an ash cloud (ash can solidify on moving parts or clog up an engine) the volcano prevented millions of people from travelling.
5. Mount Pinatubo, Philippines
For several months prior to the main eruption there had been earthquakes and smaller ash emissions from the volcano.
Luckily, these served to warn people that Pinatubo was about to erupt. Over 58,000 people were evacuated. Although over 800 people were killed by the eruption, the disaster could have been much worse.
6. Mount Etna, Italy (Sicily)
Mount Etna is the tallest active volcano in Europe. It is located on the Italian island of Sicily, which lies in the Mediterranean Sea to the south west of mainland Italy. (Sicily is the ‘ball’ being ‘kicked’ by Italy on a world map).
Mount Etna is the largest of Italy’s three volcanoes. It is over 2.5 times taller than Mount Vesuvius.
Living in the shadow of an active volcano actually provides some benefits to the people who live on Sicily. Not only is the volcanic soil good for growing crops in, but the volcano also attracts tourists, who spend money in the local economy.
Mount Etna has erupted regularly for thousands of years, and is still a very active volcano. Eruptions as recently as 2014 caused air traffic to be affected. You can see a news story about these eruptions here.
7. Mount Tambora, Indonesia
Mount Tambora is an active volcano located on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa.
Mount Tambora famously erupted on 10 th April 1815, after a series of smaller eruptions. It was one of the largest volcanic eruptions in history. Explosions from the volcano could be heard over 1,600 miles away.
8. Mauna Loa, Hawaii
Although Mauna Loa does not erupt as violently as other volcanoes, it does produce a large amount of lava. Luckily, this is usually relatively slow-moving (usually slower than walking pace).
9. Mount Pelée, West Indies
Mount Pelée is a volcano located on Martinique, an island in the West Indies.
Its eruption in May 1902 killed over 40,000 people, most of whom lived in the nearby city of Saint Pierre. Most of the fatalities were caused by fast-moving pyroclastic flows from the volcano.
(A pyroclastic flow is a deadly cascade of hot gas and ash that flows from a volcano).
Only two people in Saint Pierre survived the deadly flow; one of whom was a murderer who was serving time in the city’s prison.
10. Cotopaxi, Ecuador
Famous Volcanoes: Conclusion
A thin crust is all that separates us from a fiery world of molten rock and unimaginably strong natural forces. Occasionally, in the shape of a volcano, those forces break through into our world.
Although more is known about volcanoes today than at the time of Vesuvius, they still serve as a powerful – and sometimes deadly – reminder of the power of nature. Despite knowing all that we know, we can’t prevent a volcano from erupting!
Let us know in the comments below if you’ve ever been to any of the volcanoes listed above, or if you know of any that aren’t on the list; we’d love to hear about your volcano adventures!]]>