When will Nyiragongo erupt? — ‘It’s the question that may determine the fate of close to one million people. Nyiragongo is a two-mile-high volcano towering over the eastern edge of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)—one of the most active volcanoes on the planet and also one of the least studied. The chief reason for the lack of research is that for the past 20 years the eastern DRC has seen nearly constant warfare, including a spillover of the massacres in neighboring Rwanda.
Our team set up camp on a wide ledge 800 feet below the rim, a few hundred feet above the thundering lake. The environment was noxious, the air full of acid and metallic aerosol particles. Raindrops sizzled as they landed in fumaroles. Gas masks were worn. Within days, zipper pulls corroded; camera lenses began disintegrating.
With temperatures around 0°F, the lava lake is wildly erratic. As molten rock meets the air, it cools and forms plates on the lake’s surface. Rising gas bubbles often explode and can splatter lava some 60 feet in the air. Every day the lava lake emits around 7,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, the chief element in acid rain. This is more than the total from every car and factory in the United States. ‘Basically, it's one big chimney,’
Location: Nyiragongo Volcano, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Photograph Date: 2010
Medium: Chromogenic Print