And it Burns, Burns, Burns… The Ring of Fire… The Ring of Fire…
Mt Kinabalu, Rinjani and Apo are just three of a string of dormant volcanoes that make up the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’. The inspiration, for the inspiration for Johnny Cash’s No.1 US single of the same name released in 1963.
The ring of active and dormant volcanoes that comprise the ‘Ring of Fire’ stretches from the Japanese Home Islands to the San Andreas fault below the Californian coast, to the South as far as serene mountains of New Zealand and as far North as the ice-covered peaks of Alaska.
The result of millions of years of tectonic movement, these Volcanic Mountains have evolved as a consequence of trillions of tons of solid material that comprise the four immense tectonic plates; the Pacific, Australian, Eurasian and Philippine sea tectonic plates all converge under the Celebes Sea, making it the most seismically active location on Earth.
Volcanoes themselves are constructed on the plate boundaries, where magma under the earth’s crust breaks through to the surface, cools, hardens and builds up over a millennium to form a volcano.
However, this process can vary depending on the movement of tectonic plates relative to each other, when two plates move apart, this is known as a divergent tectonic plate or constructive plate boundary. The mid-Atlantic plate boundary separating the Eurasian and North American plate currently moving away at a speed of 2.5 centimeters (0.98 in) per year creating Iceland in the mid-Atlantic is a prime example of this process.
Over many years lava, having escaped the core when the plates move apart, has formed layer upon layer to eventually create the Icelandic land mass rising out of the depth of the Atlantic. Iceland’s geology has created various natural spectacles, The Great Geysir, Reykjanes Ridge and the well-known Eyjafjallajökull volcano, causing major European air traffic disruption in 2010, and allows the country to fulfill almost all its electricity requirements through geothermal energy.
From the Ground Up
The Philippine Sea tectonic plate, around which Mount Kinabalu, Rinjani, and Apo emerged is being forced under the larger plates along its borders. This creates massive amounts of pressure under the Earth and when Volcanoes, the weak pressure points, erupt that pressure is released. Resulting in thousands of tons of debris and lava spewed out the mountain-top with the natural landscape is irrevocably transformed.
The lava itself is high in minerals beneficial to the fauna especially when broken down and mixed in with the soil making the landscape around many volcanos some of the most fertile on Earth, on which humans have tended to settle in large numbers which explain the high mortality rate following major eruptions. The examples of Mount Vesuvius Italy 79 A.D. Mount St. Helens U.S. 1980 and Nevado del Ruiz, Mexico 1985 come to mind.
On the Rocks
The world largest recorded volcanic eruption, Krakatoa in 1883, that ejected 25 km3 (6 cubic miles) of rock, is located within the vicinity of all three peaks that make up the challenge. Most worrying of all, the last eruption only occurred just over a year ago, February 19, 2017.
Although a relatively small eruption, it threw up 200,000 tons of material into the atmosphere and caused major disruption to flights from Australia and South Asia. Geologist, having inspected the volcano have suggested that the January eruption could be the prelude to a major eruption, Currently overdue according to official estimates
“Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice.”
– Will Durant –