Yellow warning given for Chile volcano expedition

One of the many dormant Volcanoes in Chile. Image: Wikipedia Commons, Michel

Three Newcastle University students travelled to Chile to study the Calbuco volcano, which erupted in April last year.

Rebecca Leitch, Alex McKee and Diana Luke who travelled more than 7,000 miles to their destination were worried about a warm welcome from their volcano destination.

Calbuco is situated in what is known as the Chilean Lake District.

“The volcano had erupted in the 1960s and people had thought it would not do so again for a long time,” said Alex. “But a week before we were due to go there was a yellow warning.”

In the colour-coded warning system for volcanoes, this meant increasing activity of seismicity and other volcanic events, and visual changes around the crater which could have affected the expedition.

That didn’t scare geography students and they travelled anyway with the aim to plot the impact of the event on the local Rio Blanco Este river and the ecology of the area which was affected by last eruptions.

“We were a bit concerned that it might erupt again as it took us around two hours to walk down from the sites,” said Alex, as she explained that the expedition site was on the flanks of the volcano.

The volcano behaved during students’ stay in Chile. The team managed to complete the expedition successfully and to see how, since the eruption, there had been massive erosion of the dumped material through heavy rainfall and the action of the river.

“We noted remarkable changes over just five days when we were there, with the banks being eroded in some places by up to 22m,” they said.

“At the end of the month there had been a crazy amount of change, with the river switching channels.”

Despite being one of the most active volcanoes in Chile, the Calbuco volcano is not constantly being monitored.

“We discovered that there are many gaps in literature that centers around volcanoes, especially those in Southern America,” Alex added.

Funding for the expedition came from the Royal Geographical Society, Newcastle University expeditions committee and the Gilchrist Educational Trust.

Once compiled and completed, the team’s findings will be sent back to Chile, where local people are seeking to open a volcano tourism and educational centre.

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