National Geographic : 2001 Aug
SOCIETY GRANT This Expeditions Council project is supported by your Society membership. Highest active vol cano in Asia, Klyu chevskoy (below, at right) looms behind Kamen, center, and Bezymianny. Once thought dormant, Bezymianny explod ed in 1956 and still smolders today. when it suddenly began to shake and swell and spew. On March 30, 1956, it exploded, enveloping the vicinity in a shroud of ash. Within two days the ash cloud reached Alaska, and two days later it was detected over the British Isles. The explosion flattened trees 15 miles away. Like Mount St. Helens, it started with a giant avalanche, then blew out sideways, leaving a yawning horseshoe-shaped crater. Since 1956 Bezymianny has continued to erupt periodically, and when we started out to explore its blast zone, I found myself leaning toward Carsten's view of things. Echoing in my ears was the dinner toast we'd heard in the home of a Kamchatka scientist: "Please God, send to us the dreadful eruptions!" We hiked through soft ash, sinking knee-deep at times, climbed heaps of shattered rock, and scrambled in and out of ragged gorges. Through wind and whipping clouds we climbed to the crater's broken rim and looked over. The inner cliffs dropped hundreds of feet to a circular channel ringing a new mountain rising from the ruins of the old-a huge dome of smoking rock, its summit towering above us. On the floor of the channel sprawled a field of ice and snow black ened by cinders and split by crevasses that gaped white in the envel oping mists. As we clung to the sharp edge, the dome hurled showers of rock from its steep sides. When large boulders hit the ice below, they left white wounds in the dark surface.