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Friday, April 16, 2010

Volcanoes Across the Globe and In the Smithsonian

Photograph of Lake Ashi and Hakone, Japan"I have seen so many eruptions in the last 20 years that I don't care if I die tomorrow."
Maurice Krafft (Volcanologist) on the day before he was killed on Unzen Volcano, Japan 1991.

Volcanoes have always had a wonderful mystique surrounding them. They provide beautiful, majestic views that span thousands of miles across the globe. People have been inspired and entranced by volcanoes enough to endanger their own lives to get closer, learn more. It is easy to forget that paired with the majesty is an all-powerful ability to combust and destroy all life in its deadly path.

Recent current events regarding the Icelandic volcanic eruption proves just how far reaching the consequences of a volcanic eruption can have. This most recent eruption was fortunately in a remote area, but it has still unleashed enough powerful volcanic ash that over 17,000 flights (at the time of this post) have been cancelled; causing all air flight travel in northern Europe to grind to a halt, and affecting travelers on all 6 well populated continents on the globe.

I began looking at collections across the Smithsonian about volcanoes
and found 1657 records relating to expeditions, scientific study, photography (scientific and landscape) and inspired artwork. The selected images I chose are from our collections at Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Archives.

Top Left Image: View of Lake Ashi and mountains at Hakone, Japan, circa 1860s, is a panorama landscape photograph of Hakone Japan, taken by famous photographer Felice Beato. Lake Ashi, or Ashinoko, is a crater lake that lies along the southwest wall of the caldera of Mount Hakone, an active volcano in the Hakone area of Kanagawa Prefecture in Honshū, Japan. The lake is popular with tourists because of its hot springs and views of Mt. Fuji.

Underwood and Underwood, Aso-San, JapanThe Middle Right Image: (98) Gazing through sulphurous vapors into the crater's frightful depths Aso-San, Japan. 1904 or earlier. [graphic], is part of the larger Henry and Nancy Rosin Collection of Early Photography of Japan, 1860 - ca. 1900. There is text on the reverse side of the stereograph which is well worth a read. Here is just a sampling that goes into vivid descriptiveness, illustrating the volcano's attractive pull:

"You are in the province of Higo on the island of Kyushu, near the southwestern end of the Mikado's island empire. This is the largest active volcano in the world. You come over from Kumamoto and get coolie guides like these bare-legged fellows, to show you the way up here to the rim of the crater. It is like the open door of the infernal regions. Those vapors are sulphur smoke and scalding steam; if you were to wait awhile, great tongues of fiery flame might very likely shoot up, lapping with hideous suggestiveness these very lips of volcanic rock on which you are dizzily perched. Horrid cracklings and roarings rise continually out of that bottomless pit into which the men are peering - there are sounds of ooiling and bubblings as of the Evil One's own caldron, and every little while the crash of a thunderous explosion fills all this upper air."

This stereograph also has a match at National Museum of American History - Archives Center: Underwood & Underwood Glass Stereograph Collection, 1895-1921.

Sir Edmund Percival Hillary on Mt. EverestBottom Left Image: Sir Edmund Hillary autograph, November 16, 1998. This last one is for a bit of fun. Sir Edmund Percival Hillary (1919-2008) was New Zealand mountaineer and explorer. As part of the ninth British expedition to Everest, Hillary and his Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay were the first men to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, the highest point on Earth, on May 29, 1953. For this feat, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, while Tenzing received the George Medal, one of Britain's highest civilian awards. In 1998, Hillary was the recipient of the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal in honor of his “monumental explorations and humanitarian achievements." This autograph drawing was made by Hillary during a press conference at the Freer Gallery on November 16, 1998.

I hope you've enjoyed! And don't forget to click on the pictures in the blog to see them larger and in all their glory!

Rachael Cristine Woody
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives


  1. I found the second image via a google image search. The image was so compelling I had to click on it. I was delighted to see this post! Thanks for the wonderful story!

  2. stuck at the airport. thanx for distraction.

  3. <3 the quotes and the pics!

  4. Excerpts from this Blog have been republished in an article in