Virtual Volcano Vacation #101 WINNERS! – Antuco

Antuco volcano - photo by Mono Andes [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia

Antuco volcano – photo by Mono Andes [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia

It is dead of winter (so much as you can call this relatively colder weather in Georgia a proper winter), so I went volcano-voyaging south of the equator. I traded chilly winter for Chile summer in the Bío Bío Region on the south shore of Laguna del Laja on a quiet old volcano called Antuco.

The tall Pleistocene volcano that rises to the southwest of Antuco is called Sierra Velluda, and is actually part of the Antuco volcano family, along with Cerra Condor stratovolcano on the west flank of Antuco and Los Pangues cone a little further west. Such as the case of other volcanoes we have visited, Antuco was formed in two phases. The first volcano, called Antuco I, grew where the present volcano now stands, but its edifice failed in the early Holocene, leaving behind a 5 km wide caldera breached to the west as well as a debris field that follows the path of the Rio Laja . Antocu II then grew within the caldera and constitutes the volcano’s modern summit.

Antuco volcano with Laguna de la Laja in the foreground - Photo by Hugo Moreno (University of Chile) via GVP

Antuco volcano with Laguna de la Laja in the foreground – Photo by Hugo Moreno (University of Chile) via GVP

He is a peaceful volcano at present, having last erupted VEI 2 in 1869. Prior to that, he had been rather busy, having had nine historically-observed eruptions since 1750. However, there was one “false alarm” on 20 April of 2013 in which some locals and one airline pilot claimed to have seen ash spewing from the volcano, but webcam and satellite images could not substantiate the evidence and the Buenos Aires VAAC (Volcanic Ash Advisory Center) said that only trace amounts of steam or ash were being produced.

Perhaps the most remarkable and tragic event surrounding Antuco did not involve volcanism at all. On 18 May of 2005, five companies of conscripts in the Chilean army were sent on a high-altitude hike around the side of Antuco as a training exercise. Despite being warned of incoming bad weather, and despite the fact that only one of the companies had proper mountain survival gear, and despite the fact that most of the soldiers were young men in their late teens doing their mandatory military service and had only been training for three months, the exercise was not postponed. Five hours in, a blinding storm was upon them, and forty-five lives were lost. Following the tragedy at Antuco, there was a push to put an end to compulsary military service in Chile.

Memorial to the lives lost on the slopes of Antuco in 2013 - photo by Diego Alarcón [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Memorial to the lives lost on the slopes of Antuco in 2013 – photo by Diego Alarcón [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Antuco is also sometimes called Laja or Antojo, and although I cannot find anything official regarding the origin of the volcano’s name, “Laja” is a Spanish word referring to a flat stone or slab, and (much to my personal delight), “antojo” is a Spanish word meaning capriccio or whimsy.

Congratulations Granyia and Glenn Rivers for finding me this week. Also, my deepest apologies for the late update. While my volcano-spirit may be footloose and fancy-free, in this real world, I have found myself rather bogged down with real-world foolishness. But do not fear. Volcanohead’s voyages will continue this Monday with a fresh adventure at a new volcano.

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