National Geographic : 2011 Apr
EDITOR'S NOTE PHOTO: CARSTEN PETER The Nyiragongo expedition's cooking tent glows in the twilight on the rim of the volcano. Few things on Earth rival the searing spectacle of a volcano. It's a force of nature most of us prefer to observe from a very long and safe distance. Not volcanologist Ken Sims. He, along with National Geographic photographer Carsten Peter, could never be satisfied with anything less than standing on the edge of an erupting volcano. In fact, even standing on the edge of an erupting volcano wasn't enough for Sims. As part of his research, he rappelled down into the maw of Nyiragongo, a volcano in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to gather fresh lava from a molten lake boiling at 1800° Fahrenheit. Nyiragongo is one of the most active and least understood volcanoes in the world. It's also a threat to nearly a million residents of Goma, a city in this war-torn part of the world. Both Sims and Peter understood the nature of the geologic beast they were dealing with and were prepared to take risks. Sims wanted a sample of lava to help him predict eruptions. Peter wanted a photograph of Sims at work. In this month's issue Peter documents the descent into the fiery heart of Nyira- gongo. It was a quest, I'm proud to say, funded in part by a National Geographic Society grant. "It was a dream come true," Peter says of the experience. "You felt the pulse of the Earth through your body."