another planet


it's early days, but in our new column for AnOther we'll be exploring the geological and scientifical wonders of the world – from pink waterfalls and blue sinkholes to remote telescopes and mysterious markings in the landscape

for this edition, we checked in with our pal Klaus Thymann after his mission to  Mount Nyiragongo and neighbouring Nyamuragira in the DRC. both volcanoes lie along the Albertine Rift, an offshoot of the Great Rift Valley that defines East Africa and was home to the earliest known humans. the two volcanoes and numerous smaller ones nearby are located above a hot spot, where a plume of magma rises towards the surface. this makes them particularly active – and deadly. in 1977, Nyiragongo’s crater fractured – sending lava cascading down its steep slopes and killing at least 70 people. more recently, in 2002, a fissure opened up in the volcano and lava spread into Goma. 147 people were killed by falling buildings and release of deadly, air-displacing carbon dioxide – an ongoing threat around the volcano

the lava lake at Nyiragongo is formed and maintained by the constant motion of the two types of magma found in the volcano – which have ridiculously long descriptions like “olivine melilitite formed by partial melting at the base of the lithosphere within the dolomite-amphibolite-garnet stability field.” essentially, molten rock wells up from the heart of the volcano’s magma chamber, cools, cracks and churns because of the heat

“the lake is quite noisy,” says Thymann. “from a distance it sounds like a giant air conditioner roaring away with some bubbling sounds mixed in. it is absolutely vast, and has that kind of mesmerising effect like when you sit in front of a fire. we were up there for three days and I never got tired of looking at it.”