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Out of the Crater: Chronicles of a Volcanologist

Biography / Memoir

By: Richard V Fisher(Author)

180 pages, 28 b/w photos

Princeton University Press

Paperback | Oct 2000 | #111226 | ISBN: 0691070172
Temporarily out of stock: order now to get this when available Details
NHBS Price: £25.99 $34/€29 approx
Hardback | Dec 1999 | #82202 | ISBN: 0691002266
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About this book

Volcanologists venture to treacherous volcanoes the world over in the pursuit of their science. They work around craters of boiling magma and amidst smoke, flames, scorched rocks, and clouds of noxious gases – balancing personal risk against advancing knowledge about one of nature's most dangerous and unpredictable forces. Richard Fisher, a world-renowned volcanologist, has had more than forty years of experience in the field. In Out of the Crater, he blends autobiography with clear, accessible science to introduce readers to the basics of volcanology and to the wonders of volcanoes that he has studied and learned to both fear and admire.

In the course of Out of the Crater, we follow Fisher as he descends into the steaming crater of the Soufri re Volcano on the island of St. Vincent, as he conducts research on lava flows on the desolate south shore of the Island of Hawaii, and as he struggles to understand the explosion at Mount St. Helens. We learn about his pioneering work on pyroclastic flows and surges – the hurricanes of gases, molten lava, and volcanic debris that cause most of the death and destruction when volcanoes explode. He tells of solving a historic scientific problem at Mount Pelee, Martinique, where 29 000 people were killed in a pyroclastic flow in 1902. Fisher also offers a volcanologist's view of the explosion of Mount Vesuvius that devastated Pompeii and Herculaneum. He writes about the cultural rewards and challenges of conducting research in isolated areas of such countries as Argentina, Mexico, and China. And he discusses the early influences that steered him toward volcanology – including his army experiences as a witness to two atom-bomb explosions at Bikini atoll.

Out of the Crater is written in an inviting, nontechnical style. With its deft combination of personal stories and scientific information, it is an inspiring account of a remarkable life and a compelling examination of some of the most spectacular forces shaping the face of the Earth.

"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

"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


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

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