Collecting Clues to Solve a Volcanic Mystery

Figure 1: Toby. Mascot and spiritual guide. Photo by Hugo Cordova.

Sangay volcano is remote, active and reputedly dangerous. Despite the mountain’s deadly history (as recounted in “Sangay Survived: The Story of the Ecuador Volcano Disaster”) and potential for explosive eruptions, this year Sangay volcano was in a mostly restful, benevolent state.

Our expedition (funded by the National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration) was a success in all respects. Everyone started and finished the expedition in perfect health. The spectacular trek into basecamp, albeit interesting and exciting (particularly for the horses), was seamless and uneventful. All mountain operations were well orchestrated such that we collected more than 60 geologic samples covering a range of lava compositions and ages, including older flows on the mountain’s lower flanks, historic flows from the upper slopes, and young bombs from the summit craters.

Our direct observations of the geological processes operating on Sangay have transformed our ability to interpret pending chemical and isotopic measurements. All told, we are now one step closer to our major goal: to understand the genesis, evolution, and future of Sangay volcano and its relationship to the rest of the volcanoes of the world.

The following narrative, written by expedition member, Laurel Hesse, details some of the trip’s finer moments:

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