Island on Fire: The Extraordinary Story of a Forgotten Volcano That Changed the World

Pegasus Books
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Can a single explosion change the course of history? An eruption at the end of the 18th century led to years of climate change while igniting famine, disease, even perhaps revolution. Laki is one of Iceland’s most fearsome volcanoes.

Laki is Iceland’s largest volcano. Its eruption in 1783 is one of history’s great, untold natural disasters. Spewing out sun-blocking ash and then a poisonous fog for eight long months, the effects of the eruption lingered across the world for years.  It caused the deaths of people as far away as the Nile and created catastrophic conditions throughout Europe.

Island on Fire is the story not only of a single eruption but the people whose lives it changed, the dawn of modern volcanology, as well as the history—and potential—of other super-volcanoes like Laki around the world. And perhaps most pertinently, in the wake of the eruption of another Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, which closed European air space in 2010, acclaimed science writers Witze and Kanipe look at what might transpire should Laki erupt again in our lifetime.

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About the author

Alexandra Witze is an award-winning science journalist and correspondent for the journal Nature. Her reporting has taken her from the North Pole (to report on climate change) to the jungles of Guatemala (to cover Maya archaeology) to China's quake-ravaged Sichuan province. Island on Fire is her first book and she lives in Boulder, CO.

Jeff Kanipe is an experienced science writer and the author of a number of books on astronomy including Chasing Hubble’s Shadows (Hill & Wang, 2006) and The Cosmic Connection (Prometheus, 2008). He has an asteroid (84447 Jeffkanipe) named after him.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Pegasus Books
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Published on
Jan 15, 2015
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Pages
224
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ISBN
9781605987354
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Language
English
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Genres
Nature / Natural Disasters
Science / Earth Sciences / Seismology & Volcanism
Science / History
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Ranging from Yellowstone in Wyoming to Mount Pelee in the Caribbean, from Bogoslof and Pavlov in Alaska, to Sakurajima in Japan, and, finally, to the massive volcanoes of Kilauea and Mauna Loa in Hawaii—The Last Volcano reveals the incredible journey of a man on a mission to understand the awesome power of volcanic eruptions.

Volcanoes have fascinated—and terrified—people for ages. They have destroyed cities and ended civilizations. John Dvorak, the acclaimed author of Earthquake Storms, looks into the early scientific study of volcanoes and the life of the man who pioneered the field, Thomas Jaggar.

Educated at Harvard, Jaggar went to the Caribbean after Mount Pelee exploded in 1902, killing more than 26,000 people. Witnessing the destruction and learning about the horrible deaths these people had suffered, Jaggar vowed to dedicate himself to a study of volcanoes. What followed was fifty years of global travel to eruptions in Italy, Alaska, Central America, Japan and the Pacific.

In 1912, he built a small science station at the edge of a lake of molten lava at Kilauea volcano in the Hawaiian Islands, with the goal of solving the mystery of why volcanoes erupt and how they could be predicted. Jaggar found something else at Kilauea: true love.

She was Isabel Maydwell, a widowed school teacher who came to Kilauea to restart her life. For more than twenty ears, she and Jaggar ran the science station, living in a small house at the edge of a high cliff that overlooked the lava lake. Maydwell would quickly becoming one of the world’s most astute observers of volcanic activity.

Mixed with tales of myths and rituals, as well as the author’s own experiences and insight into volcanic activity, The Last Volcano reveals the lure and romance of confronting nature in its most magnificent form—the edge of a volcanic eruption.

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