Out of the Crater: Chronicles of a Volcanologist

Richard V. Fisher, Author
Richard V. Fisher, Author Princeton University Press $45 (180p) ISBN 978-0-691-00226-2
Reviewed on: 12/29/1997
Release date: 01/01/1998
Fisher, a geologist and volcanologist, has spent the last half century hopping the globe, studying volcanoes and volcanic rocks. This informal account of his fieldwork, though at times workmanlike and pedestrian, is for the most part a remarkable and enlightening adventure. Fisher's memoir boasts an itinerary that encompasses the Caribbean island of Martinique, where Mount Pelee--whose explosion in 1902 wiped out St. Pierre's 29,000 residents--is continually monitored; China's eastern coast, not yet open to foreign tourists when he tours it in 1985; and Hawaii's Puu Hou, a gigantic mound of volcanic particles, created in 1868 when magma flowing from Mauna Loa into the cold Pacific explosively sprayed the land with lava. Readers who think volcanoes are confined to exotic, far-off places should stay the course with Fisher: in central France, he visits a field of active volcanoes near the city of Clermont-Ferrand; in Germany, he explores Laacher See, a lake inside a volcanic crater; in Italy, he climbs Mt. Vesuvius, hovering over Naples and overdue for eruption. And, even closer to home: the author surveys Washington State's Mt. St. Helens three weeks after it erupted in 1980, killing 57 people, and offers potentially life-saving insights for those within killing range of future eruptions. Fisher (a professor emeritus at UC-Santa Barbara) believes that the ""Gaia hypothesis,"" which views Earth as a complex living organism, may not be scientifically valid but nonetheless serves as a useful operative metaphor, and his guided tour indeed fosters an appreciation of our planet as a dynamic web of interrelated systems. Photos. (Jan.)
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