Monday, March 24, 2014

#697 Taal Volcano, Philippines by Jet Alvarado
In the Philippines, volcanoes are really nothing new, no big deal. Whether it's the infamous and destructive Pinatubo eruption in the early 90s, the picture perfect cone of Mt. Mayon towering over the city of Legazpi at the southern end of Luzon Island, the Mt. Makiling that every Manila student has climbed at one time or another, or the cutely named Hibok-Hibok in Camiguin province. Wikipedia lists 25 active volcanoes and 339 inactive ones. Like Indonesia, New Zealand, the Aleutian Islands, Guatemala and Ecuador -- it epitomizes the Pacific's Ring of Fire. Despite this commonality, Taal volcano is one of the most unique I've ever seen in the world, because it is the relic of a massive volcanic explosion (the mountain could have been 18,000 feet high) of one of the biggest volcanoes in the world. This formed a caldera lake (Lake Taal, aka Lake Bonbon in historical texts, 3m above sea level, 172m deep, 15-30km wide, formed between 500,000 and 100,000 years ago) with little Volcano Island in the middle (5km long, 23 square kilometers), with a little lake in the middle of that, and another little volcano in the middle of that. And the lakes are on different levels and breathe, incredibly. The recent explosions originate from Volcano Island, but are simply the surface level of the massive activity happening below. - Volcano Island with Mt. Macolod in the background as viewed from Tagatay Ridge
Unfortunately, my own photos are printed and stacked under our family home, and they mostly consist of the views from the ridge town on the caldera cliffs, Tagaytay so probably not all that impressive anyway, but I have tried to collect some of the most awe-inspiring ones I could find -- what a spectacular place.
During the recorded history since 1572, more than 33 eruptions have been recorded and 6 major eruptions have claimed several fatalities from pyroclastic flows and tsunamis in the lake (1572, 1591, 1605-1611, 1707, 1709, 1715-16, 1729, 1749, 1754 was a 200 day eruption, 1790, 1808, 1874 killed all the livestock on the island, 1878, 1904, 1965, etc, etc). One of the most famous was in 1911, which killed 1334 people. It has been dormant since 1977, despite increases in activity in 1991, 2003, 2007, 2009 and 2011 showing hot pools, earthquakes, mud flows/geysirs and a raised lake level. The lake is home to species such as the freshwater sardine (the only one in the world) and the Taal Lake Seasnake as well as endemic blue green algae, diatom, ostracod, sponge, reptile and fish.

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