Volcanic Eruption on Matua Island - June 14
The 'Spirit of Enderby' moved into her anchoring position as the day’s first light appeared. Our morning would be spent in the vicinity of Matua Island, one of the smaller islands of the central Kuriles -- Russian islands which compose one of the most active portions of the “Ring of Fire”. In the darkness we could see large amounts of red hot lava flowing out of Matua’s cone, an amazing spectacle. As the light grew we could also see dark brown smoke steaming out of the cone. Then the Kurile island fog descended and shrouded the volcano cone blocking out any more views.
After breakfast we made a landing on the seabird-filled Toporkovy Island, a small island located about 3 nautical miles from Matua’s cone. Sadly, the cone itself remained shrouded in fog as we landed on the rocks and gathered ashore. We split up into three groups and enjoyed the masses of fulmars, tufted puffins, Siberian rubythroats, and other birdlife that filled the island. A small rumbling was heard shortly after we landed then all was quiet until about a half hour before our planned return to the ship.
Suddenly there was a deep booming noise and loud pops. Mild airborne shockwaves could be felt and those along the beach witnessed a dark ash cloud head out to sea. The expedition leader quickly ordered everyone back to the landing site, onto zodiacs and back to the ship. As everyone scrambled onto the zodiacs, the volcano continued its deep, loud rumblings and the sky darkened. As the last passengers and zodiac drivers left the beach area, ash began to fall on their heads. As we quickly departed the area the loud rumblings continued and some spectacular thunderbolts and rolling thunder added to the power of the moment.
The entire time we were not able to witness the cone due to the fog, however the indescribeable intensity of the sound, the sight of the ash plume, the dark sky, and the feeling of power will endure in our minds for a very long time.