The India Story Chest: The country’s solo spewer


Over the past month, two sleeping beasts, the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island and the Fuego volcano in Guatemala, have stirred and made their voices heard. Both have spewed lava, ash and rock down their slopes which has destroyed homes, blocked roads and devastated vegetation. As the lava from Kilauea flowed into the ocean, it cooled and created 1.5 km of new land, changing the landscape of the island.

Photo Credit: USGS

But what about closer to home? For a country with significant geological history, India has only one active volcano. North-east of the Andaman capital of Port Blair is a tiny island with a giant volcano. The Barren Volcano on Barren island sits across the Indian and Burmese plates (not the ones you eat on, but large moving pieces of the Earth’s outer layer)

How low does it go? Its broad base is 2,250 meters underwater! And it’s ancient too. Using Argon-Argon dating, a method of finding out how old volcanic rocks are, it has been suggested that the island is over 1.5 million years old!

The Barren Island volcano was born underwater but after successive eruptions, magma (hot molten or semi-molten rock found under the Earth’s surface) kept piling up and it has grown to be a very tall 354m, as of today. The closest volcano is on Narcondam Island, about 150 km away, but the Geological Society of India has termed it ‘dormant’, so it’s not much competition.

The volcano’s first recorded eruption was in 1787. It was reported by British Lieutenant Colebrook who was sailing in these waters at the time. A few more eruptions were reported till 1852, and then the volcano fell into a long slumber for nearly 150 years. It showed its might again in 1991 when a massive eruption occurred that proved harmful to all natural life on the island. A lighthouse that was built in 1993 was destroyed by the more recent eruptions, the last being in 2017.

Photo Credit:

As its name suggests, the island is barren. It has little vegetation but it does have a few birds and animals like flying foxes and a few rodent species and feral goats! Feral goats are hardy and remarkably, managed to survive the super harsh conditions on the island. Apparently one of their survival tricks is to be able to drink salty sea water! Though the land is barren the sea around is buzzing with turtles, reef sharks and manta rays that swim around stunning coral gardens. No wonder it’s on the top of many scuba divers’ must-do list!  


Q: What did the male volcano say to the female volcano?

A: I lava you!

Q: What did the dinosaur say when he saw the volcano explode?

A: Have a lava-ly day!  

Written by: Pereena Lamba. Pereena is a freelance writer, editor and creative consultant . She is also co-author of Totally Mumbai.




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