Kilauea visit

I recently got surprised by my mother with a surprise trip to Hawaii. Aside from this being an utterly stellar gift, I can now say I personally witnessed  two erupting volcanoes and visited 3 hot spots. I definitely have a mother who knows me, and does more than she needs to support my passions and interests. She showed endless patience watching me scramble around the volcanic park on the Big Island

I’m not sure where my love of geology came from. My mother says when I was little, shiny little rocks used to utterly fascinate me. I remember finding a block of pumice in the forest behind my house, dusty and full of holes. I took it home and placed it on the window sill in the kitchen. It was my rock, and I liked to look at it and handle it, feeling the strange texture. I also remember getting panicked, because people always told you about erosion and weathering, but I don’t remember hearing about lithification. I thought we were going to run out of rocks. I was so terrified of running out of rocks, I wondered where would we all stand?

What a weird fear for a child to have.

In my teenage years, I collected rocks. Particularly the shiny ones. I still do that, if I’m honest. It wasn’t until I went on my first field trip, in Antrim, that geology really caught me though. A part of me keeps waiting for that interest to run out. I keep wondering how much passion for rocks can a person really have? I’ve made my entire life about geology. It’s my career path and one of my favourite hobbies. When I go on holidays, I always look up the geology of the area in advance. That initial joy has never died down or been diluted. In geology I learnt a whole new way of seeing the world. When you can read a landscape, you can learn the story of a region. Not everyone in life gets to find their passion. I often pinch myself, hoping that I never lose it. Like I had to do recently in Hawaii.

To Kilauea:

I went on the lavaone boat tour. On the one hand I actually try to avoid going on geological guided tours. I usually know more than the tour guides, because I’ll read up on the area before I go ( I have the research bug). I generally don’t have much patience to stand around and listen to stuff that has become quite basic to me, after years of study. On the other hand, on an active volcano I would choose a guide with a park ranger just for safety reasons. They have up to date information on where is safe to go, and that sort of information is really important.

I didn’t choose the hiking option. Since I was surprised with the trip, I had a winter wardrobe and no hiking gear to handle the hike. Forcing me into either buying hiking gear or the boat option. That and we were somewhat pressed for time. The entire experience was surreal. My mother dropped me off at the meeting spot. After listening to the safety talk I got on the boat and sat on my own a few rows from the front. You could see the cloud of steam from quite far away.


At this point I was pretty excited. I had previously seen the Copahue eruption in 2014, but I didn’t see any lava in that eruption. I vaguely listened in to the explanation the tour guides were giving, and aside from calling the lava pouring out ‘magma’ (which I guess can be forgiven, since correct terminology isn’t as important to them as it is to scientists), their information was correct.

Coming up close to the lava, it got quite warm. Seeing steam rise up off the heated water was beautiful. Overall there was only a very light sulphur smell. But maybe I compare everything to Fogo in Cape Verde, where my lips prickled with all of the Sulphur Dioxide in the air, and it’s all mild after that. I got my first sighting of lava when I viewed the crater from the Jaggar Museum (best seen at night for taking photographs). It doesn’t photograph all that well (with my lack of talent as a photographer, and the fact that I was using an iPhone to take the pictures) but I could see some of the lava bubbling when I went during the day.

I may have teared up a little. I can’t help it. I love geology. I spent a full year of my life working just on research in igneous petrology and geochemistry. I got attached.

Since I had already seen the little fountains of lava from the lava lake in the crater, I felt a little bit more prepared to see the lava tunnel pouring out of the cliff side. A little.

It was such a surreal experience. I did not take a photo that does it justice. It was so much more dramatic in person. I’ll attach two youtube links to videos I took for anyone interested. What was particularly cool was the fact that the steam cloud coming off the ocean was twisting in a helix shape (look at the second link I attach to see that). It was so beautiful.

If you want to look at some of the geology behind it all, or more scientific background, I definitely can’t do it better justice than the USGS:

On a final note, I can’t recommend visiting the volcano park enough. Just make sure you do it with a park ranger if you’re doing any hikes close to hot lava. They know what’s safe to do or not! I highly recommend the lava tour, I am so glad I did it. Though as a geologist I would have preferred to do the hike.

There’s always next time…

Close up of lava coming out. These videos were taken on a much fancier camera than my phone, so they are quite good quality aside from my not so steady hands. The black flecks are cooled lava. You could see quite a few large chunks of the stuff floating for a while:

This video shows the twisting cloud. Really awesome to look up at that:



Western Jihad: Islam for Dummies

A dear friend of mine wrote this blog post. Every time these insane fundamentalists carry out these heinous acts, she in turn experiences hatred. She gets it in the street and on social media. The same thing happened to Jewish friends of mine when the Gaza strip was the hot topic. So if you haven’t heard the perspective of a Muslim, here’s one to read.

Maybe one day ignorance will become just a little less rampant, through honest, open and heartfelt communications like this one.

I eat very well when I am bored

My field trip to Cape Verde got postponed, so I have had a lot of free time this week, since I was supposed to be in a different country. What to do I thought?

The answer: cooking.

The first thing I made was a mushroom risotto. It was my first risotto. It went VERY well. I even garnished it for the photo.


The recipe was very easy to follow, and it turns out the trick is to just keep stirring, and not over cook. I didn’t have any dried porcini mushrooms, so for a little extra flavour I used both chicken and pork stock.

Then I made panna cotta with a raspberry coulis. I was so excited when I put the raspberries in the pan for the coulis. They look tasty already.The panna cotta in the pan doesn’t look quite as exciting, but the final product looks delicious. Tastes delicious too.


I used a recipe with gelatin leaves. I put in 3. The recipe I used called for milk and cream. I used skimmed milk, and I noticed that the milk and cream seemed to separate during cooling. So maybe next time i will go for full fat milk, or just use cream only, for that heavier more decadent flavour.

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I even had everything at home to make the recipe! it was so easy. Takes about ten minutes to make, and an hour to cool. If I had known it was this easy I would have started making this years ago.

I also made a tea cosy for my Mormor.


Then there was a chocolate mousse, but it’s not set yet. It tasted pretty good when I licked the bowl clean….

Whoever I end up spending my life with, be it a spouse or several cats, they are going to get fat. I accept that now.

I went to Ireland. It was not rock related, but is full of memories that I want to remember!

Two of my closest friends threw a mini party for me. See Below. As you can tell, it was a resounding success, and we were not able to move after for all the food. I will note for future reference, that Olwyn cooked. This will be possibly become an important fact one day.

I wish I could see the expressions of the people who made that banner though. Darren said they repeatedly asked ‘are you sure?’.

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I got to meet the newest member of my family, a beautiful little girl called Harriet.


She was quite tiny, and so adorable. We had a lovely cuddle. I’m excited to get to know her as she grows up. For now, I enjoyed cuddling her while she couldn’t tell me to stop talking. It was all very exciting for me.

It was so very exciting to see everyone, and see how Dublin hasn’t really changed, even though I no longer live there. The Liffey still looks gorgeous at night, and though the Molly Malone statue has moved, I felt right at home again.


Canary Islands field trip

I never had any desire to visit these islands. My mental image has never been a complimentary one. I have to admit, after visiting: I was right. It is a tourist hell. Every single aspect of the towns seems to be directed at tourists.

But there is a single redeeming factor. If you like volcanology, like I do, it’s freaking awesome. Gran Canaria has the most awesome ignimbrites that I have ever seen or heard of. There was a time, where if you had been on that Island, you would have died. Melted down and formed part of an ignimbrite. The eruptions, in my imagination, are utterly epic and they probably don’t come close to the reality. Look at how happy I was studying those bad boys.2015-03-04 14.55.16

When a volcano erupts, there are two main (very broadly) types of eruptions: lava & pyroclastic. Lava, like we see in stromboli, Italy. Pyroclastic, like we see in Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland. On Gran Canaria, both have occured, but the pyroclastic eruptions are way way cooler in this situation.

Do you know what a Caldera is? It’s pretty sweet. It’s an eruption that is so strong, it has so much force, that it completely vacates it’s magma chamber and then it collapses in on itself, forming a crater. You get a series of ring faults along the margins of the Caldera where the collapse mainly occurs. In Gran Canaria, the ignimbrite has been hydrothermally altered around the caldera fault, resulting in some really beautiful views.


The red, is oxidised, whilst the green is reduced. You can see the ignimbrite on the next mountain side in the photo. This does not show you how big the Caldera was, if you’re starting to think: huh that’s big. This Caldera is 15 km in diameter. It is not close to the largest. In Indonesia, lake Toba, there is a caldera that is 100 km in diameter. That’s a super volcano.

You would not want to be there during a Caldera Collapse.

The ignimbrite on Gran Canaria, which occurred around the same time as this Caldera collapse is found all over the island. This thing went for km’s. Just imagine, this primordial hell. Hot, like nothing else, and turbulent forces that would rip everything apart in its path. Blobs & bombs of magma flying in the air, flung across the breadth of the island. Just utter incomprehensible, destructive insanity.

At the base of the ignimbrites, most of them are not oxidised. This tells us that there was no oxygen when they were deposited. These eruptions were so violent, so turbulent, that oxygen couldn’t get in.

If you don’t think that that is awesome, don’t tell me. I will merely send you videos of volcanic eruptions until you change your mind. If you want videos of volcanic eruptions, I can oblige.


You see in the above photo, there is a mouth shaped light coloured part, next to a tiny hammer? That hammer is about 30 cms. That shit was a bomb of magma during the eruption. Otherwise, that is called a fiamme. Beneath it, harder to see, is an 8 m long fiamme. What is fiamme you ask? Well! Fiamme is essentially collapsed pumice. What is pumice, say those who have never heard of volcanos? Pumice was lava, that cooled in the air. All the bubbles or vesicles in it are from gas escaping. After the ignimbrite gets deposited, sometimes they move afterwards. This stretches out and collapses the pumice.

So imagine a blob of gas rich lava, the size of a house, hurtling towards you.

Less educationally, here are some pretty pictures for you to look at:

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The gist of it all, is that I really truly love volcanoes. The more I learn about them, the cooler they are. If you ever visit this place; go inland. The inner sections of the island are absolutely gorgeous. The coast is pretty much horrendous and tacky.