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Friday, August 19, 2011

Largest Lava Lake in The World - Nyiragongo Crater




The permanent lava lake of the Nyiragongo is the biggest in the world, an estimated 282 million cubic feet of lava. In 1977 and 2002, the lava lake breached the crater, destroying a large part of the city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
At the surface of the lake, bubbles of gas explode. The surface is permanently churned by fury from the earth's crust.
Even though the lava lake often overflows, the seven members of the expedition yearn to walk its shores.
Mount Nyiragongo is the most active of the eight volcanoes forming the Virunga range.
At the beginning of the descent to the second terrace, falling rocks are a major risk. The gas often blinds the climbers.
The expedition members need to tote a total of 1,300 pounds of equipment, food, and water -- enough for two days. The base camp is set up about 400 feet above the lava lake.
To prepare for the expedition, members have undergone four months of training.
Jacques Barthelemy, a mountaineer and veteran of Nyiragongo, uses a rope to bring bags of equipment to the second terrace.
Volcanic gases heat the base camp. Members often need to don gas masks for sleeping.
At night, the base camp is illuminated by the light of the lava lake.
The goal of the expedition is to reach the rim of the lava lake. Nobody has previously survived such an encounter.
Using a laser telemeter, a member measures the changing size of the lava lake.
Marc Caillet is the first member of the team to reach the lakes rim.
A major risk is the frequent overflows of the lake. Members surveying the lake from the second terrace help alert others to any threatening lava movements.
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