Volcano!

10 Aug

Vulcanologists have to be a bit mad, I suspect, but this chappie back in 1933 took it to a whole new level:

800 feet on a fireproof rope inside a flaming volcano

A SLENDER white thread, a rope of asbestos, rose straight above my head to the edge of the cliff. Below me were boiling lava and billowing fumes. Dangling at the end of the rope. I was being lowered 800 feet into the mouth of an active volcano!

A steel helmet protected my head from flying rocks. My suit, my shoes, my gloves, were all made of asbestos. Strapped to my back, were oxygen tanks that enabled me to breathe amid the fumes. I was realizing a scientific adventure which I had planned for years.

My friends thought I was crazy when I announced my intention to explore the crater of an active volcano, to descend the depths of its enormous pit, to photograph the infernal vent-hole while it fumed and grumbled, to go where explosions rapidly follow one another and where phenomena, still mysterious, constantly occur.


It was with the greatest difficulty that we hauled the equipment up the side of Stromboli, which rises sharply from the water without the slightest beach. At the spot previously selected, I prepared for the test. I was secured to the asbestos rope by means of a heavy leather belt similar to those used by mountain climbers. Control of my descent was handled from the top by means of a windlass set up several yards from the edge of the crater. To prevent the rope from being worn away by scraping against the rocks, a pulley was placed at the crater’s edge.

Several friends, and some of the island natives chosen for their strength, had accompanied me and worked the windlass to which my rope was attached. As a means of signaling them after my entry into the crater, I carried an electric hand lamp. Wires running down the asbestos rope supplied the current for the powerful little light.

  • Dangling at the end of an asbestos rope, the intrepid author is seen during his descent 800 feet into the heart of the volcano, Stromboli.

  • Kirner and his friend, Paul Muster, wearing armor of steel preparatory for the climb up the lava bed called Sciara del Fuoco.

Love those suits! If someone had shown me this photo I’d have been convinced it was a still from a 1950s Science Fiction movie.

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