The article The Volcano Next Door: Scientists descend to a fiery lava lake to protect a Congolese city in its path from the National Geographic Magazine is written by Michael Finkel. Michael Finkel is writer and journalist best known for his 2005, memoir titled True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa.
Finkel’s article explores the volcanic activities of a volcano called Nyiragongo located in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Finkel notes that Nyiragogo is a volcano that has not been studied thoroughly owing largely to the ethnic crashes that DRC has experienced over the years. However, he notes that research into this volcano is dire because the city of Goma is located below it and this poses great danger given that the mountain has erupted twice in the past. Nyiragongo erupted in 1977 sending molten lava down the mountain and in 2002, a similar scenario occurred in 2002, which led to death of many people in the two incidences, and many people were also displaced. Finkel notes that two scientist Dario Tedesco and Ken Sims have travelled from the west to DRC to investigate Nyiragongo and possibly find a prediction when the volcano is likely to erupt again. The author notes that this is essential because little research has been done on this volcanic mountain despite the obvious signs that it is going to erupt again. Finkel describes the huge lake of lava that has formed beneath the volcano that emits sulfur dioxide in large quantities. This causes the area around the volcano to harbor toxic air that forms acid rain. The scientists in DRC are not equipped to study the volcano and such lack of information puts about 1 million people living in Goma city under danger. Tedesco and Sim are able to take a sample from the mouth of the volcano, and plan to study it and try to make accurate prediction on when the volcano is likely to erupt.
Finkel’s article presents factual evidence about the state of the Nyiragongo volcano. He uses scientific data of measuring molten lava to determine the level of crisis that the scientists are dealing with in DRC. For example, to describe the degree of heat that the volcano was emitting, he says that 1800 °F lava was exploding every minute. Further, the author indicates that each day, the lava lake is able to emit about 7,000 tons of sulfur dioxide that releases harmful air into the environment. Here, the author is trying to show the danger facing the people living in Goma city. Finkel uses scientific details to explain the importance of testing the gas emanating from the lava lake. He argues that chances of an eruption increase when there is also an increase of gas emissions from a volcano. So the team of investigators uses gas sniffer and radioactive clocks to measure the amounts of carbon dioxide and other gases in the atmosphere. Finkel explains that in order to have a deep understanding of lava and predict an eruption, a zero-age sample of lava need to be taken fresh from the lake. This makes the article authentic as the author explains the efforts of the scientists to get it despite the risk of serious bodily harm or even death. The article is explores efficiently the lack of resources for scientists in DRC and so the efforts of these two scientists is commendable. The only disadvantage of this article is that it is told as a narrative of someone else’s experience. The author does not have first-hand experience with the research and so it could be biased.
The topic of a possible erupting volcano affects the earth as a whole because the lives of many people are in danger. Further, it shows the human nature of two scientists who give their time and resources to help a nation that is poor and also that has been ignored by many others scientists.
The article personally affects me because I have compassion for the less fortunate and this is a case of humanity expressed in great detail. I feel that these two scientist despite their limited resources show great kindness to the people of DRC. This makes me appreciative of people who value and care for others deeply.
- Finkel, M. (2011, April). The Volcano Next Door: Scientists descend to a fiery lava lake to protect a Congolese city in its path. National Geographic. Retrieved from http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/04/nyiragongo-volcano/finkel-text?source=newstravel_travel