My first experience of a volcanically active part of the world was in Costa Rica in 1990. Our local guide told us that in 1964 when President Kennedy visited Costa Rica, the country gave him a twenty one gun salute. This was the violent eruption of Volcan Irazu, a mountain over ten thousand feet, which can be seen from the capital San José. The eruption was considerable, and the city was affected by a layer of ash.
When I first visited Volcan Irazu in 1990, there was a whiff of bad eggs in the air, the crater which I was told at the time was the largest on earth was empty, and the cone sides contained masses of eroding ash.
|The main, most recent crater of Volcan Irazu photographed |
|The most recent crater photographed in 1994 and now |
filled with a sulphurous lake
|Cloud forest on the slopes of Volcan Irazu affected by |
By 1994 and my second visit, it had filled with water, and had a sulphurous lake in the cone, and the water appeared to be boiling. One of the highlights of the day for my group was to have a look at cloud forest on the upper slopes of Volcan Irazu.
Finding an open piece of woodland that would give a good opportunity to scan, I stopped the coach. The trees were stunted with considerable expanses of open grass between them. The terrain had a certain similarity with the New Forest, and I wondered what animals could be responsible for the grazing. Certainly, there was no evidence of large numbers of cattle or horses up in the mountains. One stunted tree supported a mass of flowers in its upper branches, which were only about ten feet above the ground. I noticed these flowers had attracted a tiny, jewel like hummingbird. This was the Volcano Hummingbird in its Mount Irazu form, a species confined to a very few of the higher volcanic mountains of Costa Rica. It turned out that this very unusual woodland had been created by a pyroclastic flow that had passed over the cloud forest, stunting it, killing most trees and creating a unique landscape and ecology.
|Volcan Irazu photographed in |
1994 in a more pensive mood
|Volcan Poaz photographed with a plume of steam, and still |