My son was given a book about volcanoes and we have been reading a bit of it each night. Now we both like volcanoes a lot. They are powerful and unpredictable. They are usually sleeping. Mount Tambora in Indonesia is set to go any time, destroying everything. Japan’s Mount Fujiyama has a perfect conical shape with Gods that live at its top, peacefully… for now. Volcanoes make me question priorities. They are big, powerful and they seem very meaningful, but they are dead. They are part of a geological process. It seems weird that we ascribe importance to pedestrian things like shoe brands when big, dead wonders like volcanoes exist.
My son and I are most interested in what happens beneath volcanoes. Like any engine or machine, volcanoes have parts: feeders, chambers, tubes. Their natures are defined by complicated chemical processes. They depend on an infinite ocean of fire that circulates down below. Our volcano book features a picture of the earth with one quarter of it cut away — like an apple. We wonder what would happen if the world was suddenly sliced up like that. All of the molten core would surely slosh in to fill that space. The oceans would pour in too, quickly vapourising. The continental plates would crack apart and fall. Everything would incinerate in a blast of smoke and confusion. It would only briefly look like a neat textbook cut-away before it all collapsed into steamy, fiery mush.
My son and I consider a volcano. We consider its magma chamber, filled with white hot rock that is pushed upwards by an ocean plate; a plate thrust downwards by tectonic pressures. We consider maps of the earth showing all of the continents stuck together like they may have been hundreds of millions of years ago. We think about slow, powerful changes.
There must other things beneath volcanoes. Instinctively we know this. Things curled and waiting, taking in the heat. Something like a great snake curled-up there, or a ghostly ship all folded up small, anchor set deep into the earth’s iron core. Something like that is certainly down there, swirling around for now, aimless in the fiery drift. Until a time when it is caught in some sort of volcanic wedge or flow-vent — then it will be thrust up and blasted… spreading its red wings or sails or other vast, enveloping parts.