Active Volcanoes in Guatemala
|These pages will date me considerably but I think they represent a
good photographic record of these mountains in the 1970's. In the Fall
of 1973 I was a Junior at Dartmouth. I participated on the Dartmouth Geology
Field Camp, known as the "Three-Way Stretch". One component of the "Stretch"
was to visit the active volcanoes of Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala.
Most of these photos were taken on that trip. A couple were taken when
I was a Senior, mapping in southeastern Guatemala, in early 1975, and some
were taken when I was a Master's student doing field work in the Tertiary
volcanic belt in the Fall of 1976.
The Guatemalan volcanoes highlighted here are:
|Pacaya volcano, just south of Guatemala City, is one of the most active volcanoes in Central America. I climbed the mountain three times: in 1973, 1975, and 1976. I made a point of standing in the same place each time to photograph the active cone, known as McKenny Crater. This is how it looked in 1973. Lots of gas and occasional ash eruptions came from the crater. It was a cloudy, drizzley day so our viewing was quite limited.|
|By January 1975 a new cone had formed in the crater and there was a continuously active strombolian eruption that could be seen from downtown Guatemala City at night. When we arrived, the summit was in the clouds but the fog dropped down into the valley just after sunset providing us with a spectacular view.|
|Prior to getting the view in the image above, my four companions, Carl Nelson, Jake Dann, David Hyde, and Lorney Clement (Jake's cousin), and I climbed up into the clouds to the active crater for a very up-close look at the eruption. This was taken from a distance of about 15 m. Moments after the shot was taken a lava fountain erupted and we ran for ur lives. Don't try this at home!|
|By December 1976 the cone that was building during my previous visit had collapsed into the volcano's interior. Once again gas emissions dominated the active eruption. I was a teaching assistant on the 1976 "Stretch" on this visit. We climbed the slope at the left and peeMay 2, 2009s/pacaya1976.jpg" height=264 width=400>|
|Lake Amatitlán is situated in a large caldera at the northern base of Pacaya . The last eruption of this caldera was around 40,000 years ago. A resurgent dome is seen on the left. This caldera is situated on the southern outskirts of Guatemala City. Renewed activity here would be catastrophic.|
Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango
|Agua volcano is one of the world's most symmetrical stratovolcanoes. Located just south of Guatemala City, it stands more than 4,000 m high. It has not erupted in recorded history. For that reason, it is considered by many to be one of the most dangerous volcanoes in Central America. This image was taken in December 1973 from the western slope of Pacaya. The summits of Fuego and Acatenango volcanoes, farther to the west, are hidden by the cloud.|
|This image was taken from Pacaya in January 1975.
From left to right, the volcanoes are Fuego, Acatenamgo, and Agua. Fuego
and Acatenango are joined by a high saddle. In 1974 Fuego had a large eruption.
Gases can be seen floating off of the summit. Turning about 120º to
the left, I took the picture of Pacaya (above).
In Spanish, fuego means fire. The volcano takes that name because it is one of the more active volcanoes in Central America. It usually produces vulcanian eruptions: beginning with ash clouds and nuées ardentes and followed by lava flows.
|This was taken from about the same place on Pacaya
as the last image but in December 1976. The gas emissions from Fuego had
dropped to near background levels.
Agua, which means water, had a small lake in its crater when the area was colonized. The Spanish built their capital at Antigua, between Fuego-Acatenango and Agua. One night, the crater was breached and emptied all of its water down into the city causing widespread destruction. The Spanish decided to move the capital farther away from the volcanoes to its present site.
|By January 2006, Fuego had grown a substantial cone at its summit. This view of a vulcanian ash eruption was taken from Pacaya.|
|Lake Atitlán is a large, late Pleistocene, caldera lake in the western part of Guatemala's volcanic belt. This photomosaic was shot from the town of Sololá. Three, tall stratovolcanoes grew along the southern margin of the lake: Atitlán, Tolimán, and San Pedro. Numerous native villages are situated on the lakeshore. Some could only be accessed by foot or by water in the 1970's but a road connects them all now. The resort town of Panajachel is on the northeast shoreline (below the trees in the lower left of the photo).|
This video panorama of Lake Atitlán was taken from an overlook above San Lucas Tolimán on the southeastern shore of the lake in January 2006.
|Atitlán and Tolimán volcanoes are paired but distinct cones. A large andesitic dome can be seen at the base of Tolimán in the center of the photo. These peaks have only shown minor activity since colonization.|
|Atitlán and Tolimán volcanoes as seen from one of the miradors above the southeast side of the lake: the town of San Lucas Tolimán can been seen in back in the bay.|
|Cerro de Oro is a large andesitic dome that rises above the lake at the base of Tolimán. This foto was taken during my January 2006 lake crossing to visit Nabaj and Santiago Atitlán.|
|None of the volcanoes around the lake are terribly active although all of them have had historic eruptions. Here, the deep incision of barrancas into the side of San Pedro suggests that this volcano does not erupt too often.|
|This view of San Pedro shows the town of Panajachel in the foreground. Note how it is constructed on a fan delta. In October 2005, Hurricane Stan ravaged the region but Panajachel suffered only minor flooding. Nabaj, on the far side of the lake, was not as lucky.|
|The village of Panabaj, on the west side of the lake near Santiago Atitlán, was destroyed by a mudflow during Hurricane Stan in October 2005. Thirty-five people were buried by the flow as they slept. San Pedro rises in the background.|
|The Panabaj hospital was brand new and had only operated a short while before being buried by the mud. As of January 2006, the plan was to rebuild in a location closer to the lakeshore and out of the main drainage.|