Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Arenal and Poas
Costa Rica is a land OF volcanoes because it was made FROM volcanoes. Within 50 miles of my doorstep are six volcanoes...four of them active. Arenal, Poas, Irazu, Turrialba, Barva, and Cache Negro. I am working on a series of volcano paintings, but I thought I'd show you what wonderful subject material I have to work with. I have included two shots with my picture on them, not to show off my mug, but to show you how brave I am.
The top two are Poas. Poas is now a gurgling, belching composite volcano, having nine distinct craters. It's being a good boy now, but back around 11 million years ago, Poas and its buddy, Barva, started coughing up enough stuff to form the floor of the entire central valley. And it has remained active ever since, with an occasional flare up. On January 25, 1910, it spewed almost a million tons of ash into the atmosphere...nearly as much dust as piles up behind my refrigerator each week. In 1989, they closed the whole park for the year. And nowadays, it's rather serene. It is actually in a cloud forest region and the clouds do come and go very unpredictably. The last time I was there, nothing was visible...like being in a cloud and looking into another cloud. But you could hear it. Sounds like a bunch of bulldozers working at a distance. There's some great hiking trails and overlooks, but you're pretty high up, so it pays to be in shape.
Arenal is the attention getter. Around 1200-1500 AD, Arenal was quite active. Then it abruptly quit smoking and folks classified it as inactive. Then, just as abruptly, it erupted in 1968 in a huge pyroclastic explosion, killing 78 people in a very sparsely populated region. There were no seismic instruments of warning then, so no one knew it was coming. But the old-timers tell tales...livestock and pets acting nervous...hot rocks around the mountain...the Tabacon river running warm...even an evacuation of insects and wildlife from the mountain. It has remained active ever since and spawned a tourist Mecca and hot springs spa business. It is beautifully awesome at night. Only once have I been there when it was quiet and not showy. For 2 days, not a glimmer. Then about 10 A.M. the morning I was leaving, there was a terrific sound like a big jet fixing to take off, and POOP, a big billow of smoke came out and rose about 2 miles into the sky. Then it went back to sleep.