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Mount Tavurvur’s Sonic Boom

September 8, 2014, 0 Comments

Caution to headphone users.

While vacationing on the island of New Britain, Papua New Guinea, Phil McNamara found himself captivated by a dormant volcano with an explosive past. The stratavolcano’s last major eruption took place in 1994, leaving the nearby capital of Rabaul decimated, ultimately forcing its relocation. But shortly after his visit to the sleeping giant, McNamara would be given the opportunity to view it in a whole new context.

Several days later, on August 29th, 2014, McNamara received word that an eruption was imminent at the recently docile volcano. When confronted with the opportunity to gain a closer vantage point by boat, the taxi driver hailing from Queensland, Australia found himself simply too intrigued to refuse.

“It was a spur of the moment thing to head out and film the volcano,” explained McNamara. “I thought I might as well try and capture something you rarely get to see.”

His footage begins with Mount Tavurvur smoking ominously in the background, providing just a glimpse of the spectacle to ensue. Suddenly, the sleeping giant roared to life in a strangely silent fashion. But despite the lack of sound, the tremendous thrust of the blast is revealed through a visible disturbance of cloud cover high above.

“Watch out for the shock, it’s coming,” remarked McNamara after the blast, armed with the knowledge that the resulting sound waves would take several seconds to reach the boat. 13 seconds, to be exact, but despite the friendly warning, nothing could prepare the boat for what would happen next.

“Oh Jesus!” exclaimed a nearby passenger who may or may not have heard McNamara’s original warning. The aftershock finally reached the boat with what seemed like the combined force of a hundred cannons. McNamara, by contrast maintained a cool, calm and collected demeanor, but still managed to express his excitement in a way that was uniquely his own.

“Hooooly smokin’ toledos!”

The resulting plume of ash soared so high, it could no longer be contained by the camera frame. And so, McNamara’s boat headed back to shore, just in time to escape the shower of ash soon to rain down from above. But as one man’s mission came to a close, another’s had just begun. Professional photographer and videographer Chris Hamilton had arrived on scene, and was poised to pick up right where McNamara left off.

Hamilton’s full set of photos is well worth a look in all of it’s ashy glory. Sir, we thank you for sacrificing the cleanliness of your boat for the greater good.

In today’s ubiquitously connected world, the rate at which information can spread has reached an unprecedented level. No longer are Mother Nature’s biggest scoops reserved for science journals and academia, but are there for the taking by anyone with a keen eye and a capable camera. The McNamaras and Hamiltons of this world are pioneers in citizen journalism, a fascinating new phenomena that is breaking down conventional barriers left and right. And as technology continues to grow alongside our own curiosities, we’ll be taken to farther and greater parts unknown.