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Crazy Victorians

September 23, 2009

In the absence of regular volcano profile posts I thought it would be a good idea to provide a few images that show the beauty or uniqueness of Japanese volcanoes, or have a good story behind them – well, this photograph certainly has!

The image above comes from Okinawa Soba’s excellent flickr photostream and shows was taken by the the British photographer Herbert G. Ponting (left) capturing during an eruption at Mt. Asama (浅間山) volcano in 1903. Upon ascending the mountain, the climbing party suddenly found themselves engulfed in an explosion, in which Ponting himself thought his “last moment had surely come” as they managed to avoid the falling stones and escape the sulphurous fumes that enveloped them. Ponting relives the episode in his book ‘In Lotus Land’, providing a quite beautiful description of the explosive forces in action:

Great black whorls of smoke belched from the crater, being emitted with such force and volume that they were pushed far back into the teeth of the wind; and several times we had to retreat quickly as they bellied towards us. They rose to the heavens in writhing convolutions, and from the centre of the mass billows of snow-white steam puffed out, and bulged beyond the smoke.

However the real story here is not the explosion, but the reaction of our Victorian friend:

Here was a wonderful chance to secure a unique photograph, but on looking around for the coolies I saw them rushing madly down the mountainside with my cameras as fast as legs could carry them. Realising that if I did not stop them I would miss the chance of a lifetime to get a picture at the lip of a volcano in a state of violent activity, I ran after them calling for them to stop.

… Failing to check them with my shouts, I went after them, and, being unencumbered, soon overhauled the man with my hand camera; but he was half-crazed with fear, and not all my entreaties could make him slack his pace. Seeing the chance of a unique picture slip away – for I knew the best smoke effects would quickly be over – I was reluctantly compelled to use a more forcible method, which had the desired effect.

I haven’t actually visited Mt. Asama yet, but until I do I am left with the enduring image of a moustached man in a suit, in the words of Okinawa Soba, beating the crap out of some poor Japanese guy on the side of an erupting volcano. I suppose you could do worse…

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 29, 2009 1:03 pm

    One of my pet peeves, too. Damn irritating when the coolies run off at the first eruption.

    Seriously, though, I did enjoy this. A wonderful bit of history.

  2. October 5, 2009 8:30 pm

    Ha! That’s the Britishness in you!
    Thanks, I think it’s a great story…

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