Tourists warned of volcanic crater peril

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 July, 2007, 12:00am

An academic explorer has warned unprepared tourists against taking their holidays at volcanos.

Jim Chi-yung, a geography specialist at the University of Hong Kong, said a volcanic crater was dangerous even for the most experienced rock climber.

He said many tourists were under the mistaken impression it was safe to walk on a volcano's rim, unaware that the loose surfaces between rocks could be a death trap.

'A volcano is basically composed of two materials; basalt rock, a form of cooled lava, and ash deposit from lava that gushes out during an eruption,' he said.

Professor Jim said he had climbed to the rim of a volcano to watch the lava flow hundreds of metres below.

'[Seeing the lava] is the best part of visiting a volcano, but you have to exert sound judgment.

'Step only on big hard rocks and never go too close to the rim,' he warned. Falling into the crater could lead to death in minutes, he added.

'If you don't die of broken bones, the steam and heat of the molten lava would cook you alive.'

Molten lava was more than 1,000 degrees Celsius and there were toxic gases and searing air temperatures.

'If you were unconscious on the crust, the heat from below would burn you in just a few minutes and the hot air you inhaled would damage your lungs,' Professor Jim said.

'Even if you didn't land so low, the heat would ultimately dehydrate your body.'

However, that does not mean all travellers must risk their lives if they want to see molten lava.

One of the most active volcanos in Hawaii is the easily visited peak of Kilauea.

Railings have been built near the edge of the crater and a camera system, installed by the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, delivers real-time footage from inside the crater to those who prefer not to get too close.