Out of the Crater

Fisher, Richard V.

Published by Princeton University Press, 2000
ISBN 10: 0691070172 / ISBN 13: 9780691070179
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Volcanologists venture to treacherous volcanoes the world over in the pursuit of their science. They work around craters of boiling magma and amidst smoke, flames, scorched rocks, and clouds of noxious gases--balancing personal risk against advancing knowledge about one of nature's most dangerous and unpredictable forces. Richard Fisher, a world-renowned volcanologist, has had more than forty years of experience in the field. In this book, he blends autobiography with clear, accessible science to introduce readers to the basics of volcanology and to the wonders of volcanoes that he has studied and learned to both fear and admire.


In the course of the book, we follow Fisher as he descends into the steaming crater of the Soufri re Volcano on the island of St. Vincent, as he conducts research on lava flows on the desolate south shore of the Island of Hawaii, and as he struggles to understand the explosion at Mount St. Helens. We learn about his pioneering work on pyroclastic flows and surges--the hurricanes of gases, molten lava, and volcanic debris that cause most of the death and destruction when volcanoes explode. He tells of solving a historic scientific problem at Mount Pelee, Martinique, where 29,000 people were killed in a pyroclastic flow in 1902. Fisher also offers a volcanologist's view of the explosion of Mount Vesuvius that devastated Pompeii and Herculaneum. He writes about the cultural rewards and challenges of conducting research in isolated areas of such countries as Argentina, Mexico, and China. And he discusses the early influences that steered him toward volcanology--including his army experiences as a witness to two atom-bomb explosions at Bikini atoll.



Out of the Crater is written in an inviting, nontechnical style. With its deft combination of personal stories and scientific information, it is an inspiring account of a remarkable life and a compelling examination of some of the most spectacular forces shaping the face of the Earth.

Review: The title of this book is a slight misnomer, since author Richard Fisher seems to get out of a volcanic crater only long enough to board a plane bound for another one. This is a professional rather than personal memoir, although Fisher's wife of nearly 52 years, Beverly, pops up engagingly in several chapters. Fisher lyrically describes the physical landscapes in which he did his field work, amply revealing his own inner life--in particular his quiet conviction that the earth is a sacred place with workings human beings may study and marvel at but never fully comprehend. A volcanologist specializing in pyroclastic rocks (the kind shot out of a volcano during its explosive phases), Fisher was a professor of geology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, from 1955 until his retirement in 1993. In this memoir, he lucidly chronicles the evolution of his knowledge and career as he moves from one otherworldly site to the next. The lava smoldering in remote regions of Hawaii and the enormous crater in which the Italian city of Naples is situated are evoked with vividness. Fisher conveys the romance of volcanology to the general reader without dumbing down the science of his fascinating profession. --Wendy Smith

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Out of the Crater
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication Date: 2000
Binding: Paperback
Book Condition: Good

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