Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Of Literature and Lava

The other day, I spent several lovely hours returning to my childhood as I read The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois. It follows the adventures of the explorer Professor William Waterman Sherman who takes off from San Francisco in a balloon and ends up escaping with twenty-one balloons from the island of Krakatoa just before it explodes in a huge volcano. But before the explosion, he discovers….

But you’ll have to read that part for yourself.

Krakaota is right near Jakarta,  a couple hundred miles from PNG

Of course, being the rather curious individual that I am, I had to look up the location of the infamous island Krakatoa, which was nearly destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 1883. To my delight (or dismay?), notice how close it is to Papua New Guinea! Professor Sherman could have flown over my island :-)

Similar to Krakatoa, Papua New Guinea is well known for its volcanic activity. In fact, it contains the most active volcanoes in the South West Pacific, just bordering the infamous Ring of Fire. The volcanoes strech in an arc from the north coast of New Guinea near the border with Indonesia, to Bougainville Island in the east. Volcanoes in Papua New Guinea occur in nine provinces. They have formed as a result of the Australian and Pacific plates colliding.

Tavurvur is an active stratovolcano in Papua New Guinea

Eighty volcanoes have been located within Papua New Guinea, 14 of which are active, 22 dormant, and the remainder are extinct. The most recent volcanic eruption was Rabaul in 2006. The Rabaul Volcanological Observatory keeps an eye on the activity of the tempestuous mountains and is careful to warn citizens if there is any threat.

Maybe they even use balloons!