Why 536 was ‘the worst year to be alive’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SCIENCE MAGAZINE)

 

An 72-meter ice core drilled in the Colle Gnifetti Glacier in the Swiss Alps entombs more than 2000 years of fallout from volcanoes,  storms, and human pollution.

NICOLE SPAULDING/CCI FROM C. P. LOVELUCK ET AL., ANTIQUITY 10.15184, 4, 2018

Why 536 was ‘the worst year to be alive’

Ask medieval historian Michael McCormick what year was the worst to be alive, and he’s got an answer: “536.” Not 1349, when the Black Death wiped out half of Europe. Not 1918, when the flu killed 50 million to 100 million people, mostly young adults. But 536. In Europe, “It was the beginning of one of the worst periods to be alive, if not the worst year,” says McCormick, a historian and archaeologist who chairs the Harvard University Initiative for the Science of the Human Past.

A mysterious fog plunged Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia into darkness, day and night—for 18 months. “For the sun gave forth its light without brightness, like the moon, during the whole year,” wrote Byzantine historian Procopius. Temperatures in the summer of 536 fell 1.5°C to 2.5°C, initiating the coldest decade in the past 2300 years. Snow fell that summer in China; crops failed; people starved. The Irish chronicles record “a failure of bread from the years 536–539.” Then, in 541, bubonic plague struck the Roman port of Pelusium, in Egypt. What came to be called the Plague of Justinian spread rapidly, wiping out one-third to one-half of the population of the eastern Roman Empire and hastening its collapse, McCormick says.

Historians have long known that the middle of the sixth century was a dark hour in what used to be called the Dark Ages, but the source of the mysterious clouds has long been a puzzle. Now, an ultraprecise analysis of ice from a Swiss glacier by a team led by McCormick and glaciologist Paul Mayewski at the Climate Change Institute of The University of Maine (UM) in Orono has fingered a culprit. At a workshop at Harvard this week, the team reported that a cataclysmic volcanic eruption in Iceland spewed ash across the Northern Hemisphere early in 536. Two other massive eruptions followed, in 540 and 547. The repeated blows, followed by plague, plunged Europe into economic stagnation that lasted until 640, when another signal in the ice—a spike in airborne lead—marks a resurgence of silver mining, as the team reports in Antiquity this week.

To Kyle Harper, provost and a medieval and Roman historian at The University of Oklahoma in Norman, the detailed log of natural disasters and human pollution frozen into the ice “give us a new kind of record for understanding the concatenation of human and natural causes that led to the fall of the Roman Empire—and the earliest stirrings of this new medieval economy.”

Slivers from a Swiss ice core held chemical clues to natural and human made events.

NICOLE SPAULDING/CCI FROM C. P. LOVELUCK ET AL., ANTIQUITY 10.15184, 4, 2018

Ever since tree ring studies in the 1990s suggested the summers around the year 540 were unusually cold, researchers have hunted for the cause. Three years ago polar ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica yielded a clue. When a volcano erupts, it spews sulfur, bismuth, and other substances high into the atmosphere, where they form an aerosol veil that reflects the sun’s light back into space, cooling the planet. By matching the ice record of these chemical traces with tree ring records of climate, a team led by Michael Sigl, now of the University of Bern, found that nearly every unusually cold summer over the past 2500 years was preceded by a volcanic eruption. A massive eruption—perhaps in North America, the team suggested—stood out in late 535 or early 536; another followed in 540. Sigl’s team concluded that the double blow explained the prolonged dark and cold.

Mayewski and his interdisciplinary team decided to look for the same eruptions in an ice core drilled in 2013 in the Colle Gnifetti Glacier in the Swiss Alps. The 72-meter-long core entombs more than 2000 years of fallout from volcanoes, Saharan dust storms, and human activities smack in the center of Europe. The team deciphered this record using a new ultra–high-resolution method, in which a laser carves 120-micron slivers of ice, representing just a few days or weeks of snowfall, along the length of the core. Each of the samples—some 50,000 from each meter of the core—is analyzed for about a dozen elements. The approach enabled the team to pinpoint storms, volcanic eruptions, and lead pollution down to the month or even less, going back 2000 years, says UM volcanologist Andrei Kurbatov.

Darkest hours and then a dawn

A high-resolution ice core record combined with historical texts chronicles the impact of natural disasters on European society.

530530550640650660540540550560570580590600610620630640650660536Icelandic volcano erupts, dimming the sun for 18months, records say. Summer temperatures drop by1.5°C to 2.5°C.536–545 Coldest decade on record in 2000 years. Crops fail in Ireland, Scandinavia, Mesopotamia, and China.540–541 Second volcanic eruption. Summer temperatures drop again by 1.4°C–2.7°C in Europe.541–543 The “Justinian” bubonic plague spreads through the Mediterranean, killing 35%–55% of the population and speeding the collapse of the eastern Roman Empire.640 After declining in the mid-500s, a surge in atmospheric lead signals an increase in silver mining because of economic recovery.660A second lead peak reflects silver mining, probably at Melle, France, tied to a switch from gold to silver for coins and the beginnings of the medieval economy.
(GRAPHIC) A. CUADRA/SCIENCE; (DATA) C. P. LOVELUCK ET AL.ANTIQUITY 2018; M. SIGL ET AL., NATURE 2015; M. MCCORMICK

In ice from the spring of 536, UM graduate student Laura Hartman found two microscopic particles of volcanic glass. By bombarding the shards with x-rays to determine their chemical fingerprint, she and Kurbatov found that they closely matched glass particles found earlier in lakes and peat bogs in Europe and in a Greenland ice core. Those particles in turn resembled volcanic rocks from Iceland. The chemical similarities convince geoscientist David Lowe of The University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand, who says the particles in the Swiss ice core likely came from the same Icelandic volcano. But Sigl says more evidence is needed to convince him that the eruption was in Iceland rather than North America.

Either way, the winds and weather systems in 536 must have been just right to guide the eruption plume southeast across Europe and, later, into Asia, casting a chilly pall as the volcanic fog “rolled through,” Kurbatov says. The next step is to try to find more particles from this volcano in lakes in Europe and Iceland, in order to confirm its location in Iceland and tease out why it was so devastating.

A century later, after several more eruptions, the ice record signals better news: the lead spike in 640. Silver was smelted from lead ore, so the lead is a sign that the precious metal was in demand in an economy rebounding from the blow a century before, says archaeologist Christopher Loveluck of the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom. A second lead peak, in 660, marks a major infusion of silver into the emergent medieval economy. It suggests gold had become scarce as trade increased, forcing a shift to silver as the monetary standard, Loveluck and his colleagues write in Antiquity. “It shows the rise of the merchant class for the first time,” he says.

Still later, the ice is a window into another dark period. Lead vanished from the air during the Black Death from 1349 to 1353, revealing an economy that had again ground to a halt. “We’ve entered a new era with this ability to integrate ultra–high-resolution environmental records with similarly high resolution historical records,” Loveluck says. “It’s a real game changer.”

Volcano erupts on Indonesia’s quake and tsunami-hit Sulawesi

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

 

Volcano erupts on Indonesia’s quake and tsunami-hit Sulawesi

Volcanic activity had been increasing at Mount Soputan since August and began surging Monday, three days after the twin disasters.
by Associated Press /  / Updated 

JAKARTA, Indonesia — An Indonesian island devastated by a powerful earthquake and tsunami that has killed at least 1,400 people was was hit with another natural disaster early Wednesday: A volcanic eruption.

A government volcanologist said it’s possible the eruption of Mount Soputan, on the island of Sulawesi, was accelerated by Friday’s 7.5 magnitude temblor.

“It could be that this earthquake triggered the eruption, but the direct correlation has yet to be seen,” Kasbani, the head of Indonesia’s Vulcanology and Geology Disaster Mitigation agency, told online news portal Tempo.

Kasbani, who uses one name, said volcanic activity had been increasing at Soputan since August and began surging Monday. No evacuations were immediately ordered after Wednesday’s eruption, which sent ash 19,700 feet — more 3.7 miles — into the sky.

Nazli Ismail, a geophysicist at University of Syiah Kuala, Banda Aceh on Sumatra island, urged caution and stressed there was no concrete evidence to show they are linked.

“People talk about the butterfly effect. The concept is that when a butterfly flaps its wings, it can cause a catastrophe,” he said. “So it is possible for the earthquake to trigger the volcano eruption, but it’s not conclusive.”

Nazri said the Soputan volcano eruption isn’t surprising as Indonesia sits on the seismically active Pacific “Ring of Fire,” and Soputan is one of the most active volcanoes on the island.

Planes were warned of the ash clouds because volcanic ash is hazardous for their engines.

The earthquake in Central Sulawesi set off a tsunami and has devastated several communities.

Indonesia is an archipelago of more than 250 million people and government seismologists monitor more than 120 active volcanoes.

Iceland: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This Frozen, Volcanic Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Iceland

Introduction Settled by Norwegian and Celtic (Scottish and Irish) immigrants during the late 9th and 10th centuries A.D., Iceland boasts the world’s oldest functioning legislative assembly, the Althing, established in 930. Independent for over 300 years, Iceland was subsequently ruled by Norway and Denmark. Fallout from the Askja volcano of 1875 devastated the Icelandic economy and caused widespread famine. Over the next quarter century, 20% of the island’s population emigrated, mostly to Canada and the US. Limited home rule from Denmark was granted in 1874 and complete independence attained in 1944. Literacy, longevity, income, and social cohesion are first-rate by world standards.
History Age of settlement

The first people thought to have inhabited Iceland were Irish monks or hermits who came in the eighth century, but left with the arrival of Norsemen, who systematically settled Iceland in the period circa AD 870-930. The first known permanent Norse settler was Ingólfur Arnarson, who built his homestead in Reykjavík in 874. Ingólfur was followed by many other emigrant settlers, largely Norsemen and their Irish slaves. By 930, most arable land had been claimed and the Althing, a legislative and judiciary parliament, was founded as the political hub of the Icelandic Commonwealth. Christianity was adopted in 1000. The Commonwealth lasted until 1262, when the political system devised by the original settlers proved unable to cope with the increasing power of Icelandic chieftains.

Middle Ages to the Early Modern Era

The internal struggles and civil strife of the Sturlung Era led to the signing of the Old Covenant, which brought Iceland under the Norwegian crown. Possession of Iceland passed to Denmark-Norway in the late 14th century when the kingdoms of Norway and Denmark were united in the Kalmar Union. In the ensuing centuries, Iceland became one of the poorest countries in Europe. Infertile soil, volcanic eruptions, and an unforgiving climate made for harsh life in a society whose subsistence depended almost entirely on agriculture. The Black Death swept Iceland in 1402–1404 and 1494–1495, each time killing approximately half the population.

Around the middle of the 16th century, King Christian III of Denmark began to impose Lutheranism on all his subjects. The last Catholic bishop in Iceland was beheaded in 1550, and the country subsequently became fully Lutheran. Lutheranism has since remained the dominant religion. In the 1600’s and 1700’s, Denmark imposed harsh trade restrictions on Iceland, while pirates from England, Spain and Algeria raided its coasts. A great smallpox epidemic in the 18th century killed around one-third of the population.[14][15] In 1783 the Laki volcano erupted, with devastating effects. The years following the eruption, known as the Mist Hardships (Icelandic: Móðuharðindin), saw the death of over half of all livestock in the country, with ensuing famine in which around a quarter of the population died.

Independence and recent history

In 1814, following the Napoleonic Wars, Denmark-Norway was broken up into two separate kingdoms via the Treaty of Kiel. Iceland remained a Danish dependency. A new independence movement arose under the leadership of Jón Sigurðsson, inspired by the romantic and nationalist ideologies of mainland Europe. In 1874, Denmark granted Iceland home rule, which was expanded in 1904. The Act of Union, an agreement with Denmark signed on December 1, 1918, recognized Iceland as a fully sovereign state under the Danish king. During the last quarter of the 19th century many Icelanders emigrated to North America, largely Canada, in search of better living conditions.

During World War II, the German occupation of Denmark on April 9, 1940 severed communications between Iceland and Denmark. At that point Iceland’s parliament declared that the Icelandic government should exercise the authority that hitherto had been that of the King and take control over issues previously handled by Denmark on behalf of Iceland (principally foreign affairs). A month later, British military forces occupied Iceland, violating Icelandic neutrality. Allied occupation of Iceland lasted throughout the war.

In 1941, responsibility for the occupation was taken over by the United States Army. On December 31, 1943 the Act of Union agreement expired by its terms after 25 years. Beginning on May 20, 1944, four days of voting were conducted in a plebiscite on whether the union with Denmark should be terminated and whether a republic should be established.[16] The vote was 97% in favor of ending the union and 95% in favor of the new republican constitution. Iceland formally became an independent republic on June 17, 1944, with Sveinn Björnsson as the first President. The occupation force left in 1946. Iceland became a member of NATO on March 30, 1949, amid domestic controversy and riots and on May 5, 1951, a defense agreement was signed with the United States — American troops returned and stayed as part of the defense agreement throughout the Cold War and until autumn 2006.

The immediate post-war period was followed by substantial economic growth, driven by industrialization of the fishing industry and the rebuilding, Marshall aid and Keynesian government management of the economies of Europe, all of which promoted trade. The 1970’s were marked by the Cod Wars – several disputes with the United Kingdom over Iceland’s extension of its fishing limits. The economy was greatly diversified and liberalized following Iceland’s joining of the European Economic Area in 1992.

Geography Location: Northern Europe, island between the Greenland Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, northwest of the UK
Geographic coordinates: 65 00 N, 18 00 W
Map references: Arctic Region
Area: total: 103,000 sq km
land: 100,250 sq km
water: 2,750 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than Kentucky
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 4,970 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
Climate: temperate; moderated by North Atlantic Current; mild, windy winters; damp, cool summers
Terrain: mostly plateau interspersed with mountain peaks, ice-fields; coast deeply indented by bays and fiords
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Hvannadalshnukur 2,110 m (at Vatnajokull glacier)
Natural resources: fish, hydro-power, geothermal power, diatomite
Land use: arable land: 0.07%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 99.93% (2005)
Irrigated land: NA
Total renewable water resources: 170 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 0.17 cu km/yr (34%/66%/0%)
per capita: 567 cu m/yr (2003)
Natural hazards: earthquakes and volcanic activity
Environment – current issues: water pollution from fertilizer runoff; inadequate wastewater treatment
Environment – international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Kyoto Protocol, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Trans-boundary Air Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification, Marine Life Conservation
Geography – note: strategic location between Greenland and Europe; westernmost European country; Reykjavik is the northernmost national capital in the world; more land covered by glaciers than in all of continental Europe
People Population: 301,931 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 21.4% (male 32,759/female 31,845)
15-64 years: 66.8% (male 102,161/female 99,411)
65 years and over: 11.8% (male 16,162/female 19,593) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 34.5 years
male: 34 years
female: 35 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.824% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 13.57 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 6.77 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 1.43 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.029 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.028 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.825 male(s)/female
total population: 1.002 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 3.27 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 3.41 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.12 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 80.43 years
male: 78.33 years
female: 82.62 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.91 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.2% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 220 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: less than 100 (2003 est.)
Nationality: noun: Icelander(s)
adjective: Icelandic
Ethnic groups: homogeneous mixture of descendants of Norse and Celts 94%, population of foreign origin 6%
Religions: Lutheran Church of Iceland 85.5%, Reykjavik Free Church 2.1%, Roman Catholic Church 2%, Hafnarfjorour Free Church 1.5%, other Christian 2.7%, other or unspecified 3.8%, unaffiliated 2.4% (2004)
Languages: Icelandic, English, Nordic languages, German widely spoken
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99%

Jan Mayen: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This Arctic Volcanic Island

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Jan Mayen

Introduction This desolate, artic, mountainous island was named after a Dutch whaling captain who indisputably discovered it in 1614 (earlier claims are inconclusive). Visited only occasionally by seal hunters and trappers over the following centuries, the island came under Norwegian sovereignty in 1929. The long dormant Haakon VII Toppen/Beerenberg volcano resumed activity in 1970; the most recent eruption occurred in 1985. It is the northernmost active volcano on earth.
History Unverified discoveries

The first known discovery of the island was in 1614. There are earlier claims and possible discoveries: Some historians believe that an Irish monk, Brendan, who was known as a good sailor, was close to Jan Mayen in the early 6th century. He came back from one of his voyages and reported that he had been close to a black island, which was on fire, and that there was a terrible noise in the area. He thought that he might have found the entrance to hell.

The land named Svalbarð (“cold coast”) by the Vikings in the early medieval Landnámabók may have been Jan Mayen (instead of Spitsbergen, which was renamed Svalbard by the Norwegians in modern times); the distance from Iceland to Svalbarð mentioned in that book is two days sailing, consistent with the ~530 km to Jan Mayen and not with the ~1550 km to Spitsbergen.[1] The knowledge of Jan Mayen probably disappeared along with the Viking colonies on Greenland around the 14th century.

In the 17th century many claims of the island’s rediscovery were made, spurred by the rivalry on the Arctic whaling grounds, and the island received many names. According to Thomas Edge, an early 17th century whaling captain who was often inaccurate, William (sic) Hudson discovered the island in 1608 and named it Hudson’s Touches (or Tutches). However, Henry Hudson could only have come by on his voyage in 1607 (if he had made an illogical detour) and had made no mention of it in his journal.[1] Edge also suggested that Thomas Marmaduke, a Hull whaling captain, saw the island in 1612 and named it Trinity Island. There is no cartographical or written proof for either of these “discoveries”.

1614 discoveries and final naming

Jan Mayen was discovered in the summer of 1614, probably within one month by three separate expeditions. The English whaler John Clarke, sailing for a Dunkirk firm, had observed the island on June 28 while hunting Greenland right whales (now called Bowhead Whales) and named it Isabella.[2] In January the “Northern Company” (Noordsche Compagnie), modelled on the Dutch East India Company, had been established to support Dutch whaling in the Arctic. Two of its ships, financed by merchants from Amsterdam and Enkhuizen, reached Jan Mayen in July 1614. The captains of these ships (Jan Jacobsz May of Schellinkhout on the “Gouden Cath” (Golden Cat) and Jacob de Gouwenaar on the “Orangienboom” (Orange Tree), named it Mr. Joris Eylant after the Dutch cartographer Joris Carolus who was on board and mapped the island. The captains acknowledged that a third Dutch ship, the “Cleyn Swaentgen” (Little Swan) captained by Jan Jansz Kerckhoff and financed by Noordsche Compagnie shareholders from Delft, had already been at the island when they arrived. They had assumed that the latter, who named the island Maurits Eylandt (or Mauritius) after Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange, would report their discovery to the States General. However, the Delft merchants had decided to keep the discovery secret and returned in 1615 to hunt for their own profit. The ensuing dispute was only settled in 1617, though both companies were allowed to whale at Jan Mayen in the meantime.[2]

In 1615, Robert Fotherby went ashore, apparently thinking it a new discovery and naming the island Sir Thomas Smith’s Island and the volcano “Mount Hakluyt”.[1][3] Jean Vrolicq, a French Basque whaler who was active in the Spitsbergen fishery at least as early as 1618, renamed the island Île de Richelieu.

Jan Mayen first appeared on Willem Jansz Blaeu’s 1620 edition map of Europe originally published by Cornelis Doedz in 1606. He named it Jan Mayen after captain Jan May of the Amsterdam-financed Gouden Cath, perhaps because he was by that time based in Amsterdam. Blaeu made a first detailed map of the island in his famous “Zeespiegel” atlas of 1623, establishing its current name.[2]

Jan Mayen as a Dutch whaling base

From 1614 to 1638, Jan Mayen was used as a whaling base by the Dutch Noordsche Compagnie, which had effectively monopolized whaling in most of the Arctic Sea over those years. It took ships about three weeks to reach the island from the Netherlands. By 1616, 200 men were seasonally living and working on the island and over 10 Dutch ships hunted in the bays of the island each year. By the 1620s, six whaling stations had been established (spread along the NW coast), with wooden storehouses and dwellings and large brick furnaces, and two fortresses with batteries to protect the stations.[2] Among the sailors active at Jan Mayen was the later admiral Michiel Adriaensz de Ruyter. In 1632, at the age of 26, he was for the first time listed as an officer and his last whaling trip was in 1635.

In 1632 the Noordsche Compagnie expelled the Danish-employed Basque whalers from Spitsbergen. In revenge, the latter sailed to Jan Mayen, where the Dutch had left for the winter, to plunder the Dutch equipment and burn down the settlements and factories. Captain Outger Jacobsz of Grootebroek was asked to stay the next winter (1633/34) on Jan Mayen with six shipmates to defend the island. While a group with the same task survived the winter on Spitsbergen, all seven on Jan Mayen died of scurvy or trichinosis (from eating raw polar bear meat) combined with the harsh conditions.

The Greenland right whale was locally hunted to near extinction around 1640 (approximately 1000 had been killed and processed on the island[2]), at which time Jan Mayen was abandoned and stayed uninhabited for two-and-a-half centuries.

19th and 20th century

During the International Polar Year 1882-83 an Austro-Hungarian expedition stayed one year at Jan Mayen and performed extensive mapping of the area, their maps being used until the 1950s. Between 1900 and 1920, there were also a number of Norwegian trappers, spending the winters on Jan Mayen, hunting white and blue foxes in addition to some polar bears. But the exploitation soon made the profits decline, and the hunting ended.

The first meteorological station was opened in 1921 by the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, who annexed the island in 1922 for Norway. By law of February 27, 1930 the island was made part of the Kingdom of Norway. During World War II Jan Mayen was not occupied by Germans as continental Norway was in 1940, but still the meteorologists chose to burn down the station. In 1941, they returned with soldiers to rebuild the station. On 7 August 1942 a German Focke-Wulf Fw 200 “Condor”, probably on a mission to bomb the station, smashed into the mountainside of Danielsenkrateret near it in fog, killing all 9 crewmembers.[4] In 1950, wreck of another German plane with 4 crewmembers was discovered on the south-west side of the island.[5] In 1943, the Americans established a radio locating station named Atlantic City in the north to try to locate German radio bases in Greenland.

After the war the meteorological station was located at Atlantic City, but moved in 1949 to a new location. Radio Jan Mayen also served as an important radio station for ship traffic in the Arctic Ocean. In 1959, NATO decided to build the LORAN-C network in the Atlantic Ocean, and one of the transmitters had to be on Jan Mayen. By 1961, the new military installations, including a new air field was operational.

For some time scientists doubted if there could be any activity in the volcano Beerenberg, but in 1970 the volcano erupted, and added another three square kilometres (1.2 sq mi) of land mass to the island during the three to four weeks it lasted. It had more eruptions in 1973 and most recently in 1985. During an eruption the sea temperature around the island may increase from just above freezing to about 30 Celsius degrees (86 °F).

Historic stations and huts on the island are Hoyberg, Vera, Olsbu, Puppebu (cabin), Gamlemetten or Gamlestasjonen (the old weather station), Jan Mayen Radio, Helenehytta, Margarethhytta, and Ulla (a cabin at the foot of the Beerenberg).

Geography Location: Northern Europe, island between the Greenland Sea and the Norwegian Sea, northeast of Iceland
Geographic coordinates: 71 00 N, 8 00 W
Map references: Arctic Region
Area: total: 377 sq km
land: 377 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly more than twice the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 124.1 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 4 nm
contiguous zone: 10 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
Climate: arctic maritime with frequent storms and persistent fog
Terrain: volcanic island, partly covered by glaciers
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Norwegian Sea 0 m
highest point: Haakon VII Toppen/Beerenberg 2,277 m
Natural resources: none
Land use: arable land: 0%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 100% (2005)
Irrigated land: 0 sq km
Natural hazards: dominated by the volcano Haakon VII Toppen/Beerenberg; volcanic activity resumed in 1970; the most recent eruption occurred in 1985
Environment – current issues: NA
Geography – note: barren volcanic island with some moss and grass
Society The only inhabitants on the island are personnel working for the Royal Norwegian Defence Force or the Norwegian Meteorological Institute. There are eighteen people who spend the winter on the island, but the population may double during the summer, when heavy maintenance is performed. Personnel serve either six months or one year, and are exchanged twice a year in April and October. The main purpose of the military personnel is to operate a LORAN-C base. The support crew, including mechanics, cooks and a nurse are among the military personnel. Both the LORAN transmitter and the meteorological station are located a few kilometres away from the settlement Olonkinbyen (English: The Olonkin City), where all personnel live.

Transport to the island is provided by C-130 Hercules military transport planes operated by the Royal Norwegian Air Force that land at Jan Mayensfield, which only has a gravel runway. The planes fly in from Bodø Main Air Station eight times a year. Since the airport does not have any instrument landing capabilities, visibility is required, and it is not uncommon for the planes to have to return to Bodø, two hours away, without landing. For heavy goods, freight ships visit during the summer, but there are no harbours and the ships must anchor up.

The island has no indigenous population, but is assigned the ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 country code SJ (together with Svalbard), the Internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) .no (.sj is allocated but not used) and data code JN. Its amateur radio call sign prefix is JX. It has a postal code, N-8099 JAN MAYEN, but delivery time varies, especially during the winter.

People Population: no indigenous inhabitants
note: personnel operate the Long Range Navigation (Loran-C) base and the weather and coastal services radio station
Government Country name: conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Jan Mayen
Dependency status: territory of Norway; since August 1994, administered from Oslo through the county governor (fylkesmann) of Nordland; however, authority has been delegated to a station commander of the Norwegian Defense Communication Service
Legal system: the laws of Norway, where applicable, apply
Flag description: the flag of Norway is used
Economy Economy – overview: Jan Mayen is a volcanic island with no exploitable natural resources. Economic activity is limited to providing services for employees of Norway’s radio and meteorological stations on the island.
Communications Radio broadcast stations: AM NA, FM NA, shortwave NA (there is one radio and meteorological station) (1998)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 13 (Jan Mayen and Svalbard) (2000)
Transportation Airports: 1 (2007)
Airports – with unpaved runways: total: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2007)
Ports and terminals: none; offshore anchorage only
Military Military – note: defense is the responsibility of Norway
Transnational Issues Disputes – international: none

New carbon-dating tool could pinpoint ancient eruption, gauge if tied to Exodus

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

A NEW CHRONOLOGY

New carbon-dating tool could pinpoint ancient eruption, gauge if tied to Exodus

Calibration technique aims to show exactly when Thera erupted on Santorini, some 4,000 years ago. Volcanic blast has been linked to rise and fall of civilizations, even the Plagues

  • Assistant professor of dendrochronology Dr. Charlotte Pearson in her lab at the University of Arizona. (Robert D. Demers)
    Assistant professor of dendrochronology Dr. Charlotte Pearson in her lab at the University of Arizona. (Robert D. Demers)
  • Ancient wood sample used by assistant professor of dendrochronology Dr. Charlotte Pearson in her lab at the University of Arizona. (Robert D. Demers)
    Ancient wood sample used by assistant professor of dendrochronology Dr. Charlotte Pearson in her lab at the University of Arizona. (Robert D. Demers)
  • Image of Akrotiri, a Minoan Bronze Age settlement on Greek island of Santorini where the volcano Thera erupted, wiping out the island. (Gretchen Gibbs)
    Image of Akrotiri, a Minoan Bronze Age settlement on Greek island of Santorini where the volcano Thera erupted, wiping out the island. (Gretchen Gibbs)
  • In a May 26, 2018 photo, area residents, the media and national guard flock to what is now the end of Leilani Avenue to take in the fiery show at fissures 2, 7 and 8 of the Kilauea volcano near Pahoa. (George F. Lee/The Honolulu Advertiser via AP)
    In a May 26, 2018 photo, area residents, the media and national guard flock to what is now the end of Leilani Avenue to take in the fiery show at fissures 2, 7 and 8 of the Kilauea volcano near Pahoa. (George F. Lee/The Honolulu Advertiser via AP)
  • The Crossing of the Red Sea by Nicolas Poussin, 1634 (Public Domain)
    The Crossing of the Red Sea by Nicolas Poussin, 1634 (Public Domain)

The ancient eruption of Thera on the Greek island of Santorini has long been a font for popular flights of fancy. The volcano’s devastating blast — volcanic rock has been discovered as far away as Greenland — was thought by Plato to be the source of the famous Greek legend of Atlantis. With black ash-filled skies, pillars of fire, and disastrous tsunamis that may have reached the shores of Egypt, the eruption’s potential fallout is used as “scientific” source material by some theorists to explain the Book of Exodus plagues, and even the parting of the Red Sea.

While these theories do not currently get much mileage in academic circles, the allure and mystery of the very real eruption of Thera is abiding among scholars attempting to pinpoint its actual occurrence. And because it was such a terrifically cataclysmic event in the Mediterranean, if scientists are able to accurately date the blast, other ancient “floating,” or unattributable, dates may fall into place in its wake.

Now, a University of Arizona study on carbon dating methodology could catalyze a shift in the timeline for ancient Mediterranean chronology, and potentially set a firm date for the natural disaster.

In a new article published in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances called “Annual radiocarbon record indicates 16th century BCE date for the Thera eruption,” an interdisciplinary team led by dendrochronologist, or tree-ring expert, Dr. Charlotte Pearson attempts to use high-resolution radiocarbon dating methods to firm up the Thera blast, one of the most elusively undated events of the ancient world.

Using the study of tree-rings’ radiocarbon-14 molecules, alongside a new proposed annual radiocarbon calibration curve (as opposed to the current decade-averaging approach), Pearson’s team aims to arrive at a more precise dating for the blast.

Assistant professor of dendrochronology at the University of Arizona Dr. Charlotte Pearson. (Peter Brewer)

This data, along with radiocarbon dates of several organic samples frozen in time immediately preceding the volcano’s eruption, will then be synchronized with archaeological evidence from sites where Thera pumice was discovered, including the Aegean, Egypt, and the Levant — in particular Israel’s Tel Ashkelon and Tel el-Ajjul in Gaza.

The Odeon at Ashkelon was shaped in a semi-circle and probably held either city council meetings or musical events – or both. (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am, at Tel Ashkelon)

“What we are trying to do is be part of the global realization that the radiocarbon calibration method is ready for an improvement. Because now the technology is there to measure the radiocarbon in every single tree ring, and we’re just pulling out one treasure from the box — in this instance the carbon-14, and seeing how that can be applied to improve the way we date material in the Mediterranean… and anywhere in the world,” said Pearson, in a video explaining her project.

The Crossing of the Red Sea by Nicolas Poussin, 1634. (Public Domain)

One of the ongoing problems in dating the Thera eruption is that the timings derived from radiocarbon dating and archaeological evidence do not currently match up: The radiocarbon testing of contemporary organic material consistently results in a date of the late 17th century BCE. However, when archaeological evidence is also taken into account, two schools of thought are formed — a “high” or “low” chronology — which place the blast date about 100-150 years apart, from 1650-1500 BCE.

Now Pearson proposes that the calibration curve may be shifted to an annual resolution to resolve the discrepancy.

“We can use the annual precision of tree rings in combination with carbon-14 to underpin some big questions in terms of the rise and fall of civilizations,” said Pearson. “We can look at the tree rings as a timeline and connect with people that lived in the past, and I think that gives us more of a sense of who we are, but also a sense of where we’re going and perhaps ways to deal with some of the issues that we might collectively face.”

How does C-14 dating work?

Radiocarbon testing was developed by an American former Manhattan Project scientist, physicist Willard Libby, as a tool for archaeologists to date ancient organic material in the wake of World War II. In theory, when radioactive atmospheric rays hit nitrogen in the atmosphere, they form radiocarbon, an isotope that is distinctive in that it has eight neutrons and an atomic mass of 14 (thus the term “C-14”).

In the atmosphere, the C-14 is mixed with oxygen to form radioactive carbon dioxide, which is then “inhaled” by plants through photosynthesis. The plants are ingested by animals and transported through their bodies. When the flora or the fauna die, the C-14 also begins to decay. The smaller the amount of C-14, the older the sample, which is then assigned a date according to a calibration scale.

The current iteration of the calibration scale, called IntCal13, was crystalized in 2013 and is increasingly seen as a not fully reliable measure for assigning dates. The curve is based on securely dated findings taken from trees, usually oaks or conifers, from the northern hemisphere. But a recent study from Cornell University’s Prof. Sturt Manning asks whether these hardy northern trees are a good source or have the same growing patterns as, for example, olive, which is grown in arid regions such as the Levant.

Prof. Sturt Manning coring an example multi-century old Juniperus phoenicea tree near Petra in southern Jordan of the type employed in the Taybet Zaman buildings. (Sturt Manning, Cornell University)

An additional wrinkle, says the new Pearson study, is that the decadal or semi-decadal approach used by most labs today averages and flattens spikes in data. In her study, Pearson pushes for a more high-resolution, single-year focus, instead of taking decades of data and averaging them, so anomalies such as the Thera eruption could be more precisely addressed.

Pearson explained in an email to The Times of Israel that her team attempted to create an annual average plateau from the C-14 records gleaned from individual securely dated tree-rings, such as Irish oak trees and the North American bristlecone pine.

The next stage was to study how annual tree rings’ C-14 readings were affected during “spike” events, and how the calibration curve could be improved to accommodate these one-off occasions.

View of the damage caused by the eruption of the Fuego Volcano in village of San Miguel Los Lotes, in Escuintla Department, about 35 km southwest of Guatemala City, taken on June 5, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Johan ORDONEZ

“Such events have already been shown to have a powerful role as anchor points for synchronizing chronologies. But we also wanted to test, given the large amount of annual data that are now being published, how such data might contribute to the onward improvement of the radiocarbon calibration curve. I.e., is there any point in spending time and money on a lot of annual 14C measurements? Could it help improve calibration?” asked Pearson.

In general, the team found there would not be massive shifts in radiocarbon dating calibration using this annual approach — except for cases of catastrophic events such as the Thera eruption.

A radiocarbon ripple effect

The Thera eruption, the focus of the study, was a “spike” in radiocarbon evidence, and its dating could potentially be improved with an annual calibration — to the benefit of many other ancient Mediterranean chronologies.

“The event has been intensively studied from archaeological and paleoenvironmental perspectives because it provides a geological marker that, if precisely dated, could synchronize Bronze Age histories of the Aegean, Egypt, and the Near East and anchor a wide range of contemporary environmental data,” according to the paper.

Assistant professor of dendrochronology Dr. Charlotte Pearson in her lab at the University of Arizona. (Robert D. Demers)

One such example of how dating Thera could influence other cultures is the dating of pharaonic Egypt: It is possible the Thera eruption was noted in contemporary or close-to-contemporary documents found in Thebes.

Recently, new readings of ancient Egyptian inscriptions have led scientists to propose an Egyptian documentation of the disaster. On the Tempest Stela, the Pharaoh Ahmose describes a major catastrophic climactic event, including loud explosion, earthquakes, and darkness, according to Nadine Moellerassociate Professor of Egyptian Archaeology at the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago.

“It is now time to consider the possibility that the Tempest Stela is indeed a contemporary record of the cataclysmic Thera event,” Moeller wrote in a 2014 article.

According to a 2014 University of Chicago press release about the Stela, Ahmose was the first pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty, which marked the beginning of the powerful New Kingdom. For decades, scholars have debated the actual start-date of the New Kingdom era. Assuming the Tempest Stela is dated in close proximity to the Thera eruption, then Egyptian pharaonic chronology would have a new “anchor” for its timeline.

The Pearson article writes that “evidence indicates that the eruption occurred after the start of the New Kingdom in Egypt, which, according to proponents of conventional, archaeologically based chronology, is considered to be sometime after c.1550 to 1500 BCE.”

A picture taken on September 9, 2017 shows Egyptian archaeologist restoring a wooden sacrophagus at a newly-uncovered ancient tomb for a goldsmith dedicated to the ancient Egyptian god Amun, in the Draa Abul Naga necropolis on the west bank of the ancient city of Luxor, which boasts ancient Egyptian temples and burial grounds.(AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI)

However, according to the Pearson study, “direct radiocarbon evidence for the Thera eruption currently places this event multiple decades earlier than the earliest possible start of the New Kingdom.”

For example, in 2006, an olive tree on Santorini that was buried under volcanic ash was radiocarbon dated, and found to pinpoint the Thera eruption between 1621-1605 BCE. While this discrepancy is a blink in terms of the historical record (or the current lifespan of the State of Israel), it causes a clear conundrum for archaeologists and historians.

But is Pearson’s annual approach to solving spikes such as Thera earth shattering?

In her study, she writes, “No definitive calibrated radiocarbon range for the Thera eruption is currently possible, but the altered position of the 14C plateau indicates that improved calibration has much to offer chronological synchronization of human and environmental timelines in this period.” To paraphrase, while she cannot arrive at a solid timing for Thera, the methodology of the calibration curve may still benefit.

Cornell University’s Goldwin Smith Professor of Classical Archaeology in the Department of Classics and director of the Cornell Tree-Ring Laboratory Sturt Manning. (courtesy)

Fellow dendrochronologist Sturt Manning, a professor at Cornell University, told The Times of Israel that the Pearson study has an “impressive dataset” and that the results were “a little bit of a surprise,” for which he awaits confirmation from other labs.

“I suspect when other labs have run data on 1-year samples in this period the ‘real’ picture will be somewhere between the previous one and the Pearson et al. findings. So some change but rather less dramatic,” Manning said.

“Even so, Pearson et al. over-claim. Their revised curve, even if right, does modify dates just in this period, yes. But where there are sequences of 14C dates from longer order series, whether archaeological, or from the series of Pharaohs, etc., then it will make much less difference as the rest of the calibration curve is not changed they say,” he wrote.

A source for Exodus?

The new dating doesn’t only affect the timing of the eruption of Thera or Pharaoh Ahmose’s reign and the start of the New Kingdom. It could also help assign dates to other important events such as the end of the Babylonian Empire, as well as the rise and fall of the Anatolian Hittites and the mysterious Semitic-speaking people called Hyksos.

The Exodus: Illustration of Moses leading the Children of Israel out of Egypt in the Kaufmann Haggadah, 14th century. (Wikimedia Commons)

Some theorists say dating Thera could solidify the natural source of the Exodus narrative as well.

Asked whether she sees her study as having implications on the dating of the roots of the biblical Exodus story, Pearson questioned her qualifications to answer. In an email she wrote, “All I can say is that continued work to improve chronological frameworks is essential for the study of past civilizations!”

Image of Akrotiri, a Minoan Bronze Age settlement on Greek island of Santorini where the volcano Thera erupted, wiping out the island. (Gretchen Gibbs)

There is no doubt the eruption was an event of biblical proportions. According to Greek archaeologist Christos G. Doumas who excavated on Santorini from the 1970s to 1990s, “When the volcano literally ‘blew its top,’ the sides of the mountain collapsed into the abyss; then the sea poured into this great caldera — 32 square miles of it… The blast was so powerful that the eruption column reached an estimated height of 20 miles, sending particles of dust hundreds of miles away,” writes Doumas in a 1991 Biblical Archaeology Review article.

Every decade or so, there is a scholar or ostensible scholar willing to go on record and state that the Thera blast may have caused the Exodus narrative. In the 1980s, Johns Hopkins Prof. Hans Goedicke was lauded by the New York Times, then raked over the coals for his suggestions.

An entertaining, if not entirely drily factual, 2006 documentary called “The Exodus Decoded” by Canadian “Indiana Jones” filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici and producer/director James Cameron caused waves of backlashin scholarly circles.

In general, the theories state that Thera jump-started tsunamis that could have caused the parting of seas (location is subject to change depending upon the scholar). Additionally, it may have sparked a pillar of fire in the sky visible as far as Egypt.

Other environmental effects of the Thera eruption likewise may have caused “some major hemisphere-wide climate episodes” that could link to the plagues, wrote Cornell’s Manning in an email outlining the more popular theories. Some scientists tie the dating to the Israelites in Jericho, based on radiocarbon dating of the city’s destruction.

The linkage between Thera and the Exodus narrative is fodder for numerous articles, books, and even conferences, including the one held in 2013 at UC San Diego called “Out of Egypt: Israel’s Exodus Between Text and Memory, History and Imagination” where University of Edinburgh’s Dr. Mark Harris, a former physicist and current theologian, delivered the lecture “The Thera Theories: Science and the Modern Reception History of the Exodus.”

In his witty 20-minute talk, Harris broke down the various “Thera theories,” and noted that, regardless of their pseudo-scientific questionable veracity, the “volcano remains a rich resource for the imagination.”

The theologian said that implementing it as an interpretation of the miracles is as legitimate as reading the text through a feminist lens or through liberation theology.

“The Thera theories give us ‘scientific readings.’ They challenge or inspire the imagination without necessarily requiring a firm historical commitment that this is what really happened,” said Harris.

He personally does not think Thera had a role in the Exodus, but clearly fathoms the impulse of those who do.

“There is a fascination with the Bible in the popular imagination, and there’s a fascination with science, and when the two get together, you literally get an explosive combination,” said Harris.

Montserrat: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This Tiny Caribbean Island Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Montserrat

Introduction English and Irish colonists from St. Kitts first settled on Montserrat in 1632; the first African slaves arrived three decades later. The British and French fought for possession of the island for most of the 18th century, but it finally was confirmed as a British possession in 1783. The island’s sugar plantation economy was converted to small farm landholdings in the mid 19th century. Much of this island was devastated and two-thirds of the population fled abroad because of the eruption of the Soufriere Hills Volcano that began on 18 July 1995. Montserrat has endured volcanic activity since, with the last eruption occurring in July 2003.
History Montserrat was populated by Arawak and Carib people when it was claimed by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage for Spain in 1493, naming the island Santa María de Montserrate, after the Blessed Virgin of the Monastery of Montserrat, which is located on the Mountain of Montserrat, in Catalonia. The island fell under English control in 1632 when a group of Irish fleeing anti-Roman Catholic sentiment in Saint Kitts and Nevis settled there. The import of slaves, common to most Caribbean islands, mainly coming from West Africa, followed during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and an economy based on sugar, rum, arrowroot and Sea Island cotton was established.

In 1782, during the American Revolutionary War, Montserrat was briefly captured by France. It was returned to the United Kingdom under the Treaty of Paris which ended that conflict. A failed slave uprising on 17 March 1798 led to Montserrat later becoming one of only four places in the world that celebrates St Patrick’s Day as a public or bank holiday (the others being the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador). Slavery was finally abolished in Montserrat in 1834, presumably as a result of the general emancipation of slaves within the British Empire in that same year.

Falling sugar prices during the nineteenth century had an adverse effect on the island’s economy and in 1869 the philanthropist Joseph Sturge of Birmingham formed the Montserrat Company to buy sugar estates that were no longer economically viable. The company planted limes starting production of the island’s famous lime juice, set up a school, and sold parcels of land to the inhabitants of the island, with the result that much of Montserrat came to be owned by smallholders.

From 1871 to 1958 Montserrat was administered as part of the Federal Colony of the Leeward Islands, becoming a province of the short-lived West Indies Federation from 1958 to 1962.

With the completion of Beatles producer George Martin’s AIR Studios Montserrat in 1979, the island attracted world-famous musicians who came to record in the peace and quiet and lush tropical surroundings of Montserrat.[4] The last several years of the 20th century, however, brought two events which devastated the island.

In September 1989, Hurricane Hugo struck Montserrat with full force, damaging over 90 percent of the structures on the island. AIR Studios closed, and the tourist trade upon which the island depended was nearly wiped out. Within a few years, however, the island had recovered considerably—only to be struck again by disaster.

In July 1995, Montserrat’s Soufriere Hills volcano, dormant throughout recorded history, rumbled to life and began an eruption which eventually buried the island’s capital, Plymouth, in more than 40 feet (12 m) (12 m) of mud, destroyed its airport and docking facilities, and rendered the southern half of the island uninhabitable. This forced more than half of the population to flee the island because they lacked housing. After a period of regular eruptive events during the late 1990s including one on June 25, 1997 in which 19 people lost their lives, the volcano’s activity in recent years has been confined mostly to infrequent ventings of ash into the uninhabited areas in the south. However, this ash venting does occasionally extend into the populated areas of the northern and western parts of the island. As an example, on May 20, 2006, the lava dome that had been slowly building collapsed, resulting in an ashfall of about an inch (2.5 cm) in Old Towne and parts of Olveston. There were no injuries or significant property damage.

Long referred to as “The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean” for both its Irish heritage and its resemblance to coastal Ireland, Montserrat today remains lush and green. A new airport, opened officially by the Princess Royal Princess Anne in February 2005, received its first commercial flights on July 11, 2005, and docking facilities are in place at Little Bay where a new capital is being constructed out of reach of any further volcanic activity.

The people of Montserrat were granted full residency rights in the United Kingdom in 1998, and citizenship was granted in 2002.

Geography Location: Caribbean, island in the Caribbean Sea, southeast of Puerto Rico
Geographic coordinates: 16 45 N, 62 12 W
Map references: Central America and the Caribbean
Area: total: 102 sq km
land: 102 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area – comparative: about 0.6 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 40 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 3 nm
exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm
Climate: tropical; little daily or seasonal temperature variation
Terrain: volcanic island, mostly mountainous, with small coastal lowland
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: lava dome in English’s Crater (in the Soufriere Hills volcanic complex) estimated at over 930 m (2006)
Natural resources: NEGL
Land use: arable land: 20%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 80% (2005)
Irrigated land: NA
Natural hazards: severe hurricanes (June to November); volcanic eruptions (Soufriere Hills volcano has erupted continuously since 1995)
Environment – current issues: land erosion occurs on slopes that have been cleared for cultivation
Geography – note: the island is entirely volcanic in origin and comprised of three major volcanic centers of differing ages
Famous Montserratians Alphonsus “Arrow” Cassell, MBE born in Montserrat is well known for his soca song “Hot Hot Hot” which has sold over 4 million copies.
Shabazz Baidoo—A football player of Montserrat descent, plays in Football League 2 for Dagenham & Redbridge.
Tesfaye Bramble—A football player, currently unattached, but who most recently played in the Conference National in England for Stevenage Borough.
Junior Mendes—A professional footballer who has represented Montserrat twice in international games, currently playing for Aldershot Town in the Conference National League.
Jim Allen—A former cricketer who represented the World Series Cricket West Indians.
People Population: 9,638
note: an estimated 8,000 refugees left the island following the resumption of volcanic activity in July 1995; some have returned (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 23.5% (male 1,159/female 1,108)
15-64 years: 65.9% (male 3,027/female 3,323)
65 years and over: 10.6% (male 521/female 500) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 29.7 years
male: 29.3 years
female: 30.2 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.038% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 17.33 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 6.95 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: NA
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.91 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.04 male(s)/female
total population: 0.95 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 6.86 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 7.95 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 5.71 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 79.15 years
male: 76.93 years
female: 81.47 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.76 children born/woman (2008 est.)

Guatemala ‘fire’ volcano spews new hot mud

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI CHINA NEWS AGENCY ‘SHINE’)

 

Guatemala ‘fire’ volcano spews new hot mud

Shine

A hot flow of mud, ash and gas swept down from Guatemala’s Fuego volcano yesterday, after a new explosion in the morning interrupted disaster workers’ efforts in pulling out bodies from the brown sludge known as a pyroclastic flow that engulfed the village of El Rodeo.

The morning eruption also halted rescue efforts on the southern slopes of Fuego, Spanish for “fire.” The national disaster agency raised the death toll to 38 from 25 on Sunday, but it was unclear whether more bodies had been found or whether more people died in yesterday’s eruption.

The day after the volcano’s eruption, its biggest in more than four decades, residents in the capital Guatemala City woke to sweep ash from rooftops and streets. Technicians assessed whether the runway at the international airport was clear enough to restart commercial flights.

“The landscape on the volcano is totally changed, everything is totally destroyed,” government volcanologist Gustavo Chigna said on local radio.

A witness near the volcano said more people had been evacuated beyond an 8-kilometer perimeter from the site after the new explosion.

Fuego, one of several active volcanoes in the Central American country, is near the colonial city of Antigua, a UNESCO world heritage site that has survived several volcanic eruptions. The latest activity from Fuego is mostly on the far side of the volcano, facing the Pacific coast.

Around 300 people have been injured since the eruption on Sunday that sent columns ash and smoke 10km into the sky, dusting several regions with ash.

National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction (CONRED) shared a photo showing the flows of gas and mud sweeping down a mountainside and across a broad valley, engulfing a small village.

The Institute of Volcanology said the eruption on Sunday ended after over 16 hours of activity. The eruption of the 3,763-meter volcano sent ash billowing over the surrounding area, turning plants and trees gray and blanketing streets, cars and people.

Farmers covered in ash fled for their lives as civil defense workers tried to relocate them to shelters during the event.

“This time we were saved; in another (eruption) no,” said Efrain Gonzalez, 52, sitting on the floor of a shelter in the city of Escuintla, where he arrived with his wife and 1-year-old daughter after fleeing the hard-hit El Rodeo community.

Gonzalez was overwhelmed with despair, as two more of his children, aged 10 and 4, are missing.

They were trapped in their home, which was flooded with hot mud that descended from the volcano.

Guatemala’s President Jimmy Morales and his government declared three days of mourning and a state of emergency for Escuintla, Chimaltenango and Sacatepequez, which must still be ratified by Congress.

Hundreds of personnel from the police, Red Cross and military have been dispatched to support emergency operations, Morales said.

The eruption is the second major one this year from the peak, following another that subsided at the beginning of February after sending ash towering 1.7km into the sky.

Guatemala volcano: Dozens die as Fuego volcano erupts

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Guatemala volcano: Dozens die as Fuego volcano erupts

Fuego volcano, GuatemalaImage copyrightGUATEMALA GOVERNMENT
Image captionThis eruption of Fuego is the biggest since 1974, experts say

Twenty-five people have been killed and hundreds injured after Guatemala’s Fuego volcano erupted, officials say.

The volcano, about 40km (25 miles) south-west of the capital Guatemala City, has been spewing rock, black smoke and ash into the sky.

The National Disaster Management Agency (Conred) said a river of lava hit the village of El Rodeo, destroying houses and burning people inside.

In Guatemala City, La Aurora airport has been closed due to ash.

President Jimmy Morales said a national emergency response had been launched.

“We think that there could be a state of devastation in at least three areas,” President Morales said.

This eruption is the biggest since 1974, according to local experts.

The Conred head Sergio Cabañas told a local radio station that a river of lava had changed course towards El Rodeo.

“It’s a river of lava that overflowed its banks and affected the El Rodeo village. There are injured, burned and dead people.

“Unfortunately El Rodeo was buried and we haven’t been able to reach the La Libertad village because of the lava and maybe there are people that died there too.”

Police carry a wounded man in El Rodeo villageImage copyrightAFP/GETTY
Image captionHundreds have been wounded by the eruption

Mr Cabañas later said the dead included a member of his agency’s staff.

Several children are among those confirmed dead.

Videos published by local media show bodies lying on top of a lava flow and rescuers attending to people covered in ash.

woman rests at a temporary shelterImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionThousands have been evacuated

One woman told the Diario de Centroamerica that lava had poured through corn fields and she thought more people may have died.

“Not everyone escaped, I think they were buried,” Consuelo Hernandez said.

A total of about 1.7 million people have been affected by the eruption, the Guatemalan government says.

Officials have advised citizens to wear masks due to falling ash, which has been raining down in four of Guatemala’s administrative regions.

Bikes covered in ashImage copyrightAFP/GETTY
Image captionFalling ash has coated streets
man covers faceImage copyrightAFP/GETTY
Image captionOfficials have advised people to wear masks

A disaster authority spokesman said a change in wind direction was to blame for the volcanic ash falling on parts of the capital.

The Guatemalan military said it was providing assistance from rescue operations to setting up temporary shelters and clearing volcanic ash from La Aurora airport’s runway.

Latin America & Caribbean

Situation at Kilauea Volcano ‘steadily worsening’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF EARTHSKY NEWS SITE)

 

Situation at Kilauea Volcano ‘steadily worsening’

A large explosion happened Friday night into Saturday at Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano. The 1st serious injury is reported. USGS warns of the release of toxic gases in a plume called a laze, which happens when molten lava hits sea water. Latest images and videos here.

Kilauea Volcano has been spewing lava and belching hazardous gases on Hawaii’s Big Island since early May, and the BBC reported on Sunday, May 20, 2018, that the situation for residents is “steadily worsening.” At the summit, a large explosion happened at around midnight on Friday night (May 18) into Saturday, sending a plume of volcanic gas some 10,000 feet (two miles, or 3 km) into the air. Early in the day on May 20, media outlets were reporting the first serious injury from Kilauea. HawaiiNewsNow reported:

The injured man was sitting on a balcony at his home when “lava spatter” – projectile molten rock – landed on him. “It hit him on the shin and shattered everything there down on his leg,” a spokeswoman for the county mayor said.

Lava spatters can weigh “as much a refrigerator,” she told Reuters.

The man has reportedly been hospitalized with serious injuries.

In the meantime, on Saturday night, May 19, Hawaii Civil Defense confirmed that lava from Kilauea’s Fissure 20 had entered the ocean, creating conditions for toxic laze. Laze is what happens when molten lava hits sea water; a chemical reaction creates “hazy and noxious conditions” laced with hydrochloric acid and tiny particles of glass. USGS said:

Even the wispy edges of it can cause skin and eye irritation and breathing difficulties.

Helicopter overflight of Kilauea Volcano’s lower East Rift zone on May 19, 2018, around 8:18 a.m., HST. Lava flows emerging from the elongated Fissure 16-20 form channels. The flow direction in this picture is from upper center to the lower left. Image via USGS.

The USGS reported on Saturday, May 19, 2018:

Eruption of lava and ground cracking in the area of Leilani Estates subdivision continues. Beginning yesterday and into today, the rate of lava eruption has increased. Fissure 17 is weakly active now, and Fissures 16-20 have merged into a continuous line of spatter and fountaining. Flows from the consolidated Fissure 20 crossed upper Pohoiki road late yesterday afternoon and continued flowing southward. This afternoon two flows from the merged fissure complex have joined less than a mile from the coast and continue to flow southward between Pohoiki and Opihikao Roads. The lava flow from Fissure 18 is stalled. It is unknown whether the flows will continue to advance, or stop, and new lava flows are likely given the rate of activity seen at the rift zone. Volcanic gas emissions remain very high. Read more

Click here for maps of recent activity at Kilauea Volcano

Click here for the latest photos and videos from USGS, at Kilauea

The following is the most recent video update from a USGS scientist (May 18):

More than 1,700 people have already evacuated their homes, particularly in the area around Leilani Estates, located in Hawaii’s District of Puna, where 27 homes had been destroyed as of May 9.

Helicopter overflight of the southeast coast of the Puna district during the early morning hours of May 19, 2018. Flows are moving downslope toward the ocean. Photograph courtesy of the Hawai`i County Fire Department/via USGS.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported on May 14 on “speculative stories, rumors and blogs” about a possible Pacific-wide tsunami, caused by conditions at Kilauea:

There have been several recent highly speculative stories, rumors and blogs about the stability of the south flank of Kilauea and the potential for a catastrophic collapse that could generate a Pacific-wide tsunami. We wish to put these speculations in their proper context by presenting observations of the current situation and an assessment of past evidence of landslides from Kilauea.

There is no geologic evidence for past catastrophic collapses of Kilauea Volcano that would lead to a major Pacific tsunami, and such an event is extremely unlikely in the future based on monitoring of surface deformation … Geologic history combined with models of south flank motion suggest that the likelihood of a catastrophic failure event is incredibly remote. Read more

The following video is from May 14, when a new fissure in Hawaii’s Puna District sent gases and lava exploding into the air, spurring officials to call for more evacuations as residents waited for a possible major eruption at Kilauea Volcano’s summit.

The view between Kilauea Fissures 16 and 20 on May 16, 2018. Image via USGS.

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The Overlook vent on the summit of Kilauea threw out chunks of rock on May 16 that hit the ground near a parking lot, breaking apart on impact. The rocks were about 24 inches (60 cm) before they hit. Image via USGS.

Steam jets out of Fissure 17 on May 14. Image via USGS.

A flow emerges from Fissure 17 on May 13. Image via USGS.

Cracks on Highway 132 on the Big Island on May 13. Researchers marked the cracks with orange spray paint to track changes over time. Image via USGS.

Bottom line: A large explosion happened on the night of May 18, 2018, at Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano. The 1st serious injury was reported on May 19. Molten lava reached the ocean on May 20, and the USGS warns of the release of toxic gases in a plume called a laze. Latest images and videos here.

Further Hawaii Volcano Eruptions after Major Quake

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Further Hawaii Volcano Eruptions after Major Quake

Saturday, 5 May, 2018 – 08:30
Lava is seen coming from a fissure in Leilani Estates subdivision on Hawaii’s Big Island on May 4, 2018. FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP
Asharq Al-Awsat
A magnitude 6.9 earthquake shook Hawaii’s Big Island on Friday, prompting fresh eruptions of the Kilauea volcano that has been spewing lava into residential areas, and forcing hundreds of people to flee amid a high alert.

The US Geological Survey said the quake struck at 12:32 pm and was centered on the south flank of the volcano, which first erupted on Thursday after a series of tremors on the island.

“This is in almost exactly the same location as the deadly 1975 M 7.1 quake,” USGC said in a tweet.

Another 5.7-magnitude tremor hit the island earlier on Friday and authorities said they expect more seismic activity.

The quakes have prompted the volcano, one of five active on the island, to erupt.

Drone and video footage showed orange magma gushing up from cracks in the ground and snaking through a wooded area.

Molten lava could also be seen bubbling up through cracks on streets in the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens neighborhood where residents were ordered to evacuate on Thursday.

The area is home to about 1,700 people and 770 structures. The broader district potentially impacted by the threat is home to some 10,000 people.

No injuries have been reported but several homes were said to have been destroyed or badly damaged on Friday, authorities said.

Officials urged any remaining residents to evacuate and warned of extremely high levels of toxic fumes.

“Elderly, young and people with respiratory issues need to comply with the mandatory evacuation order and leave the area,” a statement from the mayor’s office said.

Governor David Ige said residents were being housed in community centers until the danger from Kilauea has passed.

Ige signed an emergency proclamation releasing disaster funds to the Big Island.

The Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency said in an alert that a total of six lava fissures had occurred. Although no significant lava flows have yet formed, additional outbreaks of lava, which can reach temperatures of about 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit (1,150 Celsius), were expected, the agency said.

Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes and one of five on the island, has been in constant eruption for 35 years.