VOLCANOES: BENEFACTORS NOT MALEFACTORS

ARTUR0 ALCARAZ
Chief Volcanologist
Commission on Volcanology

 

 

 

INTRODUCTION



Ever since man became aware of the world around him, he must have been bewildered, awed and fascinated by the manifestation of intense unbridled natural power from the earth’s subsurface. From the peaks of conical mountains, and at times from newly opened fissures, would issue large volumes of very hot gases and molten rock matter that would set the countryside afire and cause great havoc. Those that were caught in the holocaust died violently and suddenly.

As the human mind then had not as yet unravelled many of the mysteries of nature, the ancients ascribed volcanic eruptions to the wrath of some supernatural beings. They regarded the "fire mountain," as a volcano was called then, as the home of the god of fire. To stop an eruption, offerings and even human sacrifices have to be made to the fire god to appease his wrath. Even at present this misconception about volcanic eruptions may still be encountered in a few areas of the world.

Today, however, much is already known about volcanoes and so it may be said that we are no longer in the limbo of ignorance but in the enlightened hall of scientific knowledge regarding volcanic eruptions. And with understanding of the nature of volcanism came the awareness that volcanoes, from overall considerations, are not the scourges of man but his blessings - not malefactors but benefactors of mankind.

In the light of the very recent disaster at Bali where the eruption of Agung volcano has killed 1,500 persons and rendered several thousands homeless, it would be quite hard to believe this about volcanoes. More so if the records of death and destruction from other great eruptions are called to mind. Did not 600 persons perish in 1951 when Mount Hibok-Hibok in Camiguin Island erupted? How about the 1,300 victims of the 1911 eruption of Taal volcano? Nonetheless, that volcanoes are in a broad sense a boon to man instead of a menace is defensible and quite true.
 

 

 

 

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