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Things To Know About Climbing the Mayon Volcano

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It looks peaceful here: The beautiful Mayon Volcano in Albay, just a few days before it erupted in 7 May 2013. This photo was taken in 27 April 2013.

The Mayon Volcano’s first climbers were two Scotsmen named Paton and Stewart in 1858. Since then, many mountain climbing enthusiasts around the world are eager to climb this volcano to witness its beauty. Others go here for the thrill of trekking, taking photos of the near-perfect cone and surviving in this dangerous place. But is it worth the risk? News reports and advisory from PHIVOLCS (Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology) endlessly announce that climbing this volcano is dangerous and yet many people are still magnetised into visiting this place.

 

Mount Mayon

Mayon Volcano (or Mount Mayon) is classified by geologists as a stratovolcano or a composite volcano. This is a type of volcano with composite layers accumulated by series or sequential eruptions. These composite layers are a combination of hardened lava, pumice, volcanic ash and tephra (rock fragments thrown off during volcanic eruption).  Stratovolcanoes are steep with periodic explosive and quiet eruptions. The famous Vesuvius volcano that destroyed the town of Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 AD is also an example of a stratovolcano.


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(Left) A very old photo of Mayon Volcano and the facade of the old Cagsawa Church ruins. This church was destroyed and buried during the eruption of Mayon in 1814. (Right) Map of the Philippines showing the location of Manila and Mayon Volcano.

 

Mayon Volcano is the famous landmark of the Bicol Region, which is 15 km north-west of Legazpi City and 300 km south-east of Manila. It is 2,462 meters high (or 8,077 feet) with a base diameter of 20 km. Mayon Volcano is more than 20 million years old and remains a very active volcano at the present time. Last recorded eruption was just last month, 07 May 2013.

Local volcanologists have a theory that full moon triggers the eruption of Mount Mayon. It is not always the case but in the past, around 50 eruptions for the last four centuries happened during full moon. The most recent eruptions during full moon happened in the year 2000 and 2001.

 

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Mount Mayon’s quiet effusion of lava on 14 July 2006

 

Laws Regulating Access in Mt. Mayon

Last 7th of May 2013, in relation to the death of 5 people and 7 others who were injured, the Congress was urged to pass a law that will regulate trekking and mountain climbing in the Mayon Volcano area. This was suggested by Cedric Daep, chief of the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (APSEMO). He said that currently, there is no law that legally prohibits trekking around Mayon area. There are, however, local policies that prohibit people from staying within the six-kilometer radius which is a permanent danger zone as imposed by PHIVOLCS.

Daep emphasised that, “People continue to defy this prohibition because they seem to take it as a mere warning or reiteration of a danger that anybody might expose himself to anytime the volcano turns abnormal.”

In connection with the current tragedy in Mayon, DENR-Bicol Regional Executive Director Gilbert Gonzales ordered a temporary stop in providing visitor’s permit to enter the Mayon area. He further said that they first need to ask permission from PHIVOLCS before they could allow anyone to enter Mayon area as the place is also a protected forest.

 

Fire and Rain

There are different types of hazards that we often hear from volcanologists. Mayon Volcano is known for hazards like lava flows, pyroclastic flows, airfall tephra, and lahars.

Lava flows are fast-moving, hot, liquid, molten rocks that are released from the crater. While these hot, molten rocks are still inside the earth’s crust or inside a volcano, they are called magma. Once they are released out of the volcano, they are now called lava. Pyroclastic flows (or pyroclastic density current) are on the other hand, fast-moving, hot gas and rocks. These rocks are called tephra. Airfall tephra refers to the collective rock fragments that are thrown off during volcanic eruption. There are instances when pyroclastic flows also contain fluidised masses of rock fragments. Lastly, we have lahars, the notorious mudflow or slurry composed of pyroclastic materials, rock debris, and water. Lahars are also hot and highly destructive as they can destroy or erase a whole town. Lahar flows are often induced by heavy rain during a volcanic activity.

 These are all obvious reasons why trekking at Mayon Volcano these days is not advisable.

 

What Alert Level Zero Means

PHIVOLCS Executive Director Renato Solidum clarified to the public that alert level is not the same with risk level during volcanic activity. “The alert level is about the condition of the volcano. It is not about the risk. There is always the risk from the summit. That is why alert level zero means that the condition of the volcano in terms of its monitored parameters indicate there is no imminent threat from an explosive eruption, meaning the magmatic eruption.”

PHIVOLCS is a branch of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) that vigilantly monitors the volcanic activity of Mayon Volcano. They also monitor seismic activities caused by volcanic eruption, etc.

 

Contact information of PHIVOLCS:

Official website: http://www.phivolcs.dost.gov.ph/

– Their official website contains the latest advisory and news about Mayon Volcano or seismic activities cause by volcanic eruption.

 

 

 

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Photo source:

Mayon Volcano – photo courtesy of Carla Pido, 27 April 2013

Map of the Phils. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mayon_Volcano

Old photograph of Mayon volcano – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Oldcagsawapi2.jpg

Mayon volcano at night while errupting by Yves Eli Yu – http://wowlegazpi.com/mayon-volcano-interesting-facts/

 

 

 

Author: Marcelle Villegas  

 

 

 

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