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Photographers brave searing heat to capture erupting Russian volcanoes

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 3rd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

That volcanoes erupt in Kamchatka, Russia is hardly news, as it boasts 29 active volcanoes . but for four to be active at any one time is the vulcanological equivalent of winning the lottery. Fearless photographers captured the terrifying beauty in Russia's remote Far East, braving searing heat to capture 360-degree panoramic views.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Russian film crew swooped across in a helicopter and braved roasting hot pyroclastic flows to create an immersive, interactive panorama. Plosky Tolbachik, one of four volcanoes, is all within 110 miles of each other that have been active simultaneously since late November.

Consisting of the active Plosky Tolbachik and its extinct sister Ostry Tolbachik, the Tolbachik Volcano system is the largest of the south-western sector of the Klyuchevskaya volcanic group. Formed about 10,000 years ago in the Early Holocene, the range has been host to spectacular eruptions.

Kamchatka is a 780 mile peninsula in the Russian Far East, with an area of about 100,000 sq/miles.

The Kamchatka River and the surrounding central side valley are flanked by large volcanic belts containing around 160 volcanoes, 29 of them still active.

The peninsula has a high density of volcanoes and associated volcanic phenomena, with 19 active volcanoes being included in the six UNESCO World Heritage List sites in the Volcanoes of Kamchatka group, most of them on the Kamchatka Peninsula.
 
The south zone of the Tolbachik system extends about 45-50 kilometers down to the Nikolka volcano and is called Tolbachinsky Dol. The latest eruption began there at the end of November.
 
Photographed in December by the Russian non-profit outfit AirPano, photographers and panorama enthusiasts created high-resolution 3-D aerial panoramas.

"The Tolbachik volcano eruption is classified as an unconventional fissure eruption. Fissure eruptions are known for emitting great volume of lava," Oleg Gaponyuk said. He also spoke of how the team cancelled a trip to Dubai to shoot the Burj skyscraper at the last minute to capture the spectacular eruptions.

"They are also called 'touristic' eruptions for relatively low level of danger and photogenic beauty of flowing rivers of lava.

"Weather permitting, one can fly up close to a volcanic crater or hover right above a lava stream. We knew it all in theory, but in reality we kept our fingers crossed for a good weather."

A member of the Airpano team, Stas Sedov recalled the dramatic scenes that met them as they arrived. "The volcano in front of us is covered with clouds and smoke," he wrote. "We decided to move up the lava flow. Finally there are the first red hot lava streams underneath us!

"We slow down the helicopter and shoot several spherical panoramas. We are overwhelmed - we finally saw IT!"

In the center of Kamchatka is Eurasia's world famous Geyser Valley, which was partly destroyed by a massive mudslide in June 2007.

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