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Geoscientist Online

Volcano Discoveries - A Photographic Journey around the World

hjklSince 1995 volcanologist Dr Tom Pfeiffer has been a photographer and tour guide, visiting some of the world's most spectacular active volcanoes, defined as those having erupted within the past 10,000 years. This book, compiled by volcanologist Dr Ingrid Smet, presents a personal record of Tom's travels over the years. There are something like 220 pages packed with stunning photographs, most of which were taken by Tom.

A narrative text accompanies each volcano comprising a description of the history and setting and the various features witnessed, together with relevant brief notes on the local mythologies. Personal anecdotes strike just the right balance; giving a human touch to the stories and allowing the reader to share in some small way in Tom's travels, but without being a travelogue or diary.

The book is aimed at all people with a fascination for volcanoes and opens with a non-technical description of volcanoes. A glossary of terms and an index of locations are included. The authors' stated aim is not to produce an encyclopaedia of the world's volcanoes, but to explore selected volcano 'portraits' and in this the book succeeds.

All the volcanoes are accessible, through some more readily than others, and for those considering a volcano-watching vacation there is plenty of inspiration. The main section of the book starts with Europe; Iceland (3 volcanoes), Italy (4) and Greece (3).  This is followed by four from the African Rift Valley and three oceanic hotpots (two in the Canaries and one in Hawaii). There are 12 examples of explosive volcanism from the Pacific 'Rim of Fire' (six in Central America, three in New Zealand, two in Vanuatu and one in Japan). The final section 'Living with Volcanoes' looks at eight in densely populated Indonesia. 

Roman and Greek mythology abounds with stories of gods and defeated giants buried beneath volcanoes around the Mediterranean. However, it is interesting to read that the 1st Century philosopher Apollonius of Tyana observed: "there are many other mountains all over the earth that are on fire - we should never be done with it if we assigned to them giants and gods like Hephaestus" [the Greek equivalent of Vulcanus, god of blacksmiths, who forged the bindings that held Prometheus to his rock under Zeus's punishment for stealing fire from the Gods and giving it to Man]. The images in this book demonstrate why ancient, and even some modern people, have invoked supernatural explanations. Even though Apollonius's doubts have been confirmed by modern concepts of plate tectonics and the like, these images are still magical.


Reviewed by Kevin Privett


VOLCANO DISCOVERIES - A PHOTOGRAPHIC JOURNEY AROUND THE WORLD, by TOM PFEIFFER & INGRID SMET, 2015. Published by: Reed New Holland Publishers Pty Ltd. 240pp (hbk) ISBN: 9781921517358 List Price: £16.99. W: