The science of geology deals with the ever-changing surface of the earth and the mechanisms which operate to facilitate these changes. Plate Tectonics is one of the major forces that shape the landscape of the earth, causing phenomena such as earthquakes, volcanoes, and mountain-building. Another force which actively alters the earth’s surface erosion from wind or water.
Volcanoes are evidence of the Theory of Plate Tectonics. They tend to be found along the boundaries of plates where they interact. Thus, the “ring of fire,” around the perimeter of the Pacific Ocean marks the border of the Pacific Plate as it rubs against other plates.
Volcanoes Around the World
Mount Pelee, Martinique — This volcano dominates the landscape of this beautiful Caribbean island. Its latest eruption occurred in 1902 when it destroyed the town of St Pierre.
Wizard Island, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, USA — Crater Lake was formed when Mt Mazama erupted, almost 6,000 years ago. Several hundred years later, smaller eruptions formed cinder cones such as Wizard Island.
Mount Vesuvius, near Naples, Italy — One of history’s most famous volcanoes, Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD and destroyed the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The volcano looms over the city of Naples. The archaeological ruins of the city of Pompeii are a major tourist attraction in the region.
Mt Rainier, Washington, USA — The specter of Mt Rainier looms over the city of Seattle. It is both comforting, a familiar sight just southwest of the city, and forboding, since it is an active volcano and capable of erupting at any time.
Mount Haleakala, Maui, Hawaii, USA — Haleakala National Park preserves this huge volcano which shaped much of the landscape of Maui. Today, visitors can drive to the top of the volcano and walk down into its caldera, an eerie sight.
Diamond Head, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA — The entire Hawaiian island chain is a series of volcanoes which have emerged over the years above a geological “hot spot.” Oahu is one of the older islands so its volcanoes are extinct. However, they can still capture the imagination as Diamond Head does, sitting as it does above Waikiki Beach.
Santorini, Greece — The island of Santorini is a volcano that erupted some 3600 years ago, leaving behind a crater which filled with water. What’s left of the island is the rim of the crater, on which human settlements have been developed. The demis of the Minoan civilization is attributed to the eruption of Santorini.
Lassen Peak, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, USA — Lassen is another in a chain of volcanoes that includes Mt Rainier, in Washington, Mt Hood, in Oregon, and Mount Shasta, in Northern California. Its last eruption occurred in 1915; the volcano is still active and a threat to the area.
Kilauea, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii, USA — This is the most active volcano in the world. It has been erupting steadily since 1983. Thankfully most of the eruptions are not violent, but those have taken place as well. Here is one of the only places on earth where a visitor can see molten lava.
Mt St Helens, Washington, USA — In one of the most studied volcanic eruptions in the history of man, Mt St Helens erupted on May 18, 1980. It blew off the top of the mountain, destroyed over 200 square miles of forest and killed 57 people. Today the area is studied extensively by scientists who are trying to learn more about nature’s recovery after an event of this proportion..