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Out of the Crater


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Table of Contents

Contents ix Acknowledgments 3 Prologue 8 Chapter 1. Los Alamos, New Mexico Chapter 2. Bikini and the Atom Bomb 13 Chapter 3. The Beginnings of a Career 22 Chapter 4. Central Oregon: Tuff, Fossils, and Lava 28 Chapter 5. Puu Hou, Hawaii: Solitary Isolation 35 Chapter 6. Volcanoes and Water 46 Chapter 7. Mount Pele, Martinique 62 Chapter 8. Soufriere, St. Vincent 69 Chapter 9. Volcanoes in Europe 80 Chapter 10. Mount St. Helens 89 Chapter 11. Mount Vesuvius 104 Chapter 12. El Chichon, Southern Mexico 115 Chapter 13. Calderas 126 Chapter 14. Communist China 137 Chapter 15. Italy and Ignimbrite 156 Epilogue 170 Glossary 173 Index 177

Promotional Information

Once I began reading this book, I had a very difficult time putting it down. It is a well-written and lively account of Dr. Fisher's research during several decades of work, highlighting the interplay between scientific method and serendipity in the advancement of science. He presents the hazards of explosive volcanoes in a way that the general reader can easily understand. -- Bart S. Martin, Ohio Wesleyan University

About the Author

Richard V. Fisher is Professor Emeritus of Geological Sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he has taught and researched since 1955. In 1997, he was awarded the Thorarinsson Medal, the highest honor of the International Society of Volcanologists. Fisher is the coauthor, with Grant Heiken and Jeffrey B. Hulen, of Volcanoes: Crucibles of Change (Princeton). He also wrote Pyroclastic Rocks with H.-U. Schmincke and coedited Sedimentation in Volcanic Settings with G. A. Smith.


Fisher, a geologist and volcanologist, has spent the last half century hopping the globe, studying volcanoes and volcanic rocks. This informal account of his fieldwork, though at times workmanlike and pedestrian, is for the most part a remarkable and enlightening adventure. Fisher's memoir boasts an itinerary that encompasses the Caribbean island of Martinique, where Mount Pelée‘whose explosion in 1902 wiped out St. Pierre's 29,000 residents‘is continually monitored; China's eastern coast, not yet open to foreign tourists when he tours it in 1985; and Hawaii's Puu Hou, a gigantic mound of volcanic particles, created in 1868 when magma flowing from Mauna Loa into the cold Pacific explosively sprayed the land with lava. Readers who think volcanoes are confined to exotic, far-off places should stay the course with Fisher: in central France, he visits a field of active volcanoes near the city of Clermont-Ferrand; in Germany, he explores Laacher See, a lake inside a volcanic crater; in Italy, he climbs Mt. Vesuvius, hovering over Naples and overdue for eruption. And, even closer to home: the author surveys Washington State's Mt. St. Helens three weeks after it erupted in 1980, killing 57 people, and offers potentially life-saving insights for those within killing range of future eruptions. Fisher (a professor emeritus at UC-Santa Barbara) believes that the "Gaia hypothesis," which views Earth as a complex living organism, may not be scientifically valid but nonetheless serves as a useful operative metaphor, and his guided tour indeed fosters an appreciation of our planet as a dynamic web of interrelated systems. Photos. (Jan.)

"Interesting and entertaining reading... Fisher is a good writer and mixes tales of his travels, science, and personal anecdotes as well. The book is entertaining and an easy read... Perhaps the only regret is that the book is not a bit longer."--Steve Sparks, Nature "Good first-person descriptions of science are always welcome, and doubly so from scientists in fascinating fields... [Out of the Crater] reveals much about research in a tough environmental science where extensive fieldwork is the only road to enlightenment."--Martin Ince, New Scientist "R. V. Fisher is, without a doubt, one of the premier volcanologists of the latter half of the twentieth century. Fisher writes in a light and lucid prose... The result is an engaging, human and modest account."--David Pyle, Geological Magazine

A volcanologist for 40 years, Fisher was awarded the Thorarinsson Medal, the highest honor of the International Society of Volcanologists, in 1997. He follows Volcanoes: Crucibles of Change (Princeton Univ., 1997), on the interaction of volcanoes and people, with this more personal account, a scientific memoir intended for a lay audience. Locations range from the exotic (mainland China, Martinique) to the more familiar (Vesuvius, Mount St. Helens), and discussions of the various cultures Fisher encounters are a side benefit. Danger is not a prime issue, though he does not skirt it. Fisher aims to understand how to predict the paths of volcanic activity, particularly pyroclastic flows and surges. He doesn't give answers but opens more questions, as good science always does. A glossary is helpful, and suggested reading appears at the end of each chapter. Recommended for scientists and interested lay readers.‘Jean E. Crampon, Science & Engineering Lib., Univ. of Southern California, Los Angeles

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