National Geographic : 1918 Feb
THE NATIONAL GEO the first trip over the ground was the most dangerous. After one man had ex plored any area in safety, there was no probability of accident to those who fol lowed. COOKING AT A FUMAROLE In many places the valley round about the vents is covered with a peculiar blue mud, thinly coated with a chestnut-brown crust, which sometimes supports one and sometimes gives way suddenly, letting one down to his shoe-tops in the soft, scald ing mud beneath. At such times one is apt to feel that his feet are taking hold on hell in very verity, particularly if the place happens to look "ticklish" other wise. We were surprised to find that continued immersion of our feet in such places did our shoes no perceptible in jury, for we had expected that they would be rapidly eaten away. We chose our camp well up on the mountain side overlooking the valley, close beside a melting snow-drift. Here, although we were denied the pleasure of a camp-fire, for not a stick of wood re mains anywhere in the valley, we had "all the comforts of home." Fifty yards be hind us was our refrigerator, where we could keep everything freezing cold until needed (see page 124). Just in front was our cook-stove-a mild-mannered fumarole-into which we hung our pots to cook our food. We were somewhat dubious beforehand as to the feasibility of this method of cooking, because of the noxious gases that came off along with the steam; but the results were more than satisfactory. We never detected the faintest taint in any of our food. Everything was always done ex actly right. Since the pots were sur rounded by an atmosphere of live steam, just at the point of condensing, nothing ever boiled away, cooked to pieces, or burned, no matter how long neglected or forgotten. There was only one drawback: while we were in the valley we had to do with out our old standbys, bacon and flapjacks, for our stove would not fry. There were, however, many vents in the valley quite hot enough to fry bacon. The va por from most of the more active ones GRAPHIC MAGAZINE 123 is so hot that the steam does not con dense for some distance beyond the vents (see page 133). When a stick is poked into these the end is quickly charred, in dicating a temperature considerably above the frying point. Our thermometers did not read high enough to measure the temperatures of these vents, so we were unable to ascer tain exactly how hot they were. But we did not think it advisable to try bacon and flapjacks in them, because most of them are a little too vigorous to be alto gether manageable. The vapor in many cases comes out with such force that the frying pan would have had to be held down against the rising steam. A sudden puff of wind from an unexpected quarter might, moreover, have blown the steam in the cook's face and inflicted a serious burn. . . A STEAM-HEATED TENT When we turned in the first night, we were astonished to find that the ground under our tent was decidedly warm. On examination we found that a thermom eter thrust 6 inches into the ground promptly rose to the boiling point. This was indeed a surprise, for the place only recently had been vacated by the retreat ing snowbank behind us. We put most of our bedding under us to keep us cool! But before long our blankets were as hot as the ground. Close to the snow drift as we were, and at an altitude of about 2,500 feet, the air was at times quite cold; so while we steamed on one side we froze on the other. We had to keep turning over and over in the effort to equalize the temperature. We did not sleep mach the first night, and all ex pected to "catch our death of cold." After a few hours we discovered that the ground was not merely hot, but that invisible vapors were everywhere seeping up through the soil. The condensation of this steam from the ground made our bedding first damp and then wet, so that by morning we were in a most curious case. The sensations that greeted us on awakening in these warm, wet beds can in justice be compared only with certain distressing memories of one's childhood days, which they exactly paralleled.