Magazine article Oceanus

Rambling and Rumbling on an Active Volcano in Samoa

Magazine article Oceanus

Rambling and Rumbling on an Active Volcano in Samoa

Article excerpt

With machete in hand and 60 pounds of satellite receiver and tripod on his back, Jeff Standish looked up into the lush tropical brush that covered the volcano, up a steep escarpment, and up again to the summit 900 meters (3,000 feet) above sea level. Then he turned to Rhea Workman, a graduate student in the WHOI/MIT Joint Program, and said, "We're going up where?"

This whole expedition was Workman's idea. In 2002, she enlisted two Joint Program (JP) colleagues, Standish and Margaret Boettcher, to join her research project on the Samoan island of Ta'u. It was an extra project she had decided to take on--a side venture to her main research of exploring chemical clues in rocks to reveal how volcanic island chains form.

This wasn't the first time that Workman interrupted her studies for a volcano. As an undergraduate, she volunteered to work for a semester at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory atop the highly active volcano of Kilauea, home of Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes. The Earth moved under her feet. But that's not unusual around active volcanoes.

Within a volcano's underlying magma chamber, magma or gas continually surges or subsides, inflating or deflating the volcano's surface and deforming it in the process. These deformations are usually tiny, but they can be measured to evaluate what's going on inside the volcano and to predict whether it might erupt. Workman was a member of the Observatory's deformation research team.

After Workman came to WHOI, first in its Summer Student Fellowship Program, then as a graduate student, her research led her to Ta'u. Like the big island of Hawaii, Ta'u is the youngest and most volcanically active island in its chain. Roughly 10 kilometers wide by 6 kilometers long (4 by 6 miles), Ta'u's central volcano rises skyward. It was formerly dome-shaped, but one of its sides collapsed in landslides that cast debris all the way onto the seafloor. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.