An exploration of active volcanoes in Indonesia (Mount Sinabung), Iceland, North Korea and Ethiopia (Erta Ale), Herzog follows Volcanologist and co-director Clive Oppenheimer, who hopes to minimize the volcanoes' destructive impact. Herzog's quest is to gain an image of our origins and nature as a species. He finds that the volcano is mysterious, violent, and rapturously beautiful and instructs that "there is no single one that is not connected to a belief system."Vanuatu Archipelago, Ambrym Island. 1000 miles from Northern Australia. A string of active volcanoes. The Island bears the brunt of tropical storms as well as volcanic eruptions.
Village of Endu, chief Mael Moses. The last big eruption was in 1968. The villagers believe spirits keep the fires of the volcanoes burning. The Spirits recognize the villagers but not the tourists. So tourists were banned for 3 yrs after the eruption.
The lava expresses the anger of the devil. All villagers who die, go to the volcano. The ancient rituals of the villagers are being gradually lost.Mount Erebus 12500 ft above sea level. Active volcano in Antarctica. This is where Herzog met Oppenheimer for the first time 10 yrs ago. They discuss the primary philosophy behind the fascination with volcanoes. Volcanoes created life and that nothing is permanent, not even life.
Herzog was on La Soufriere in 1976 on the Caribbean island of Gaudeloupe. The volcano was expected to erupt and 70,000 people were evacuated. 1 man refused to go. This man slept and sang as the volcano spewed lava.. but this was his home and he didn't want to leaveKatia and Maurice Kraft are a French couple who study volcanoes. They photograph eruptions and get very close to danger in doing so. They were killed by a lava flow in Japan. The super-heated gases released traveled at 100 miles per hour and heated to 800 degrees F..
Lake Toba, Indonesia. Oppenheimer first came here when he was 19. Indonesia has the most volcanoes in the world. Mount Sinabung erupted in 2010. Herzog and his team visited 6 yrs later, and the captured a live eruption, when it was least expected. Many monitoring stations have been set up to monitor active volcanoes in Indonesia. Babatan observatory monitors Mount Merapi, the most dangerous volcano in the world. If the volcano erupts, the observers will have no option but to retire into a bunker, that is provisioned with food and oxygen for a month.
Merapi last erupted in 2010. the monitoring saved 20,000 lives. First indicators are seismic earthquakes, then distance measurements (the summit expands as the lava flows up), and the the content of sulfur Di oxide in the gases around the volcano.Indonesian royals perform ceremonies to reconcile the Goddess of the ocean with the Demon of the volcano. Annual rituals are carried out to appease the volcano and the ocean.
A local farmer built a church shaped like a dove, pointing towards the Merapi, to appease the volcano. Every volcano in Indonesia is connected to a local belief system.Lake Toba is the biggest volcanic lake in the world. Formed in an eruption 74,000 yrs ago. The eruption ejected 15000 cubic Kms of ash and pumice. The biggest eruption recorded ever in Earth's history. It darkened skies globally. It almost wiped the humans out as a species, as it destroyed all tropical vegetation. Maybe 600 humans survived.
To find human fossils from this period the team travels to Danakil depression in Ethiopia, 300 m below sea level, the hottest place on the planet. Temp of 120 degrees F. The depression is part of a rift travelling across East Africa. Eventually, this rift will widen and a part of Africa will detach from the mainland and drift into the ocean. Volcanoes will form.Erta Ale, is one of the 3 in the world where magma is directly exposed. A large amount of Obsidian (Volcanic glass) was ejected around the crater. Till 1980, optical surgeries were conducted with Obsidian blades, sharper than any steel. This area has attracted hominids for millions of yrs. The paleontologists working on the site have found the remains of a hominid believed to be 100,000 yrs old. The team finds bone fragments all over the desert and using computer algorithms, they triangulate a site likely to host a human skeleton. At the site, the team unearth's many skeletal pieces, coming one step closer to solving the mystery.Westman Island, Iceland. All of Iceland is volcanic and was settled just 1200 yrs ago. Volcano erupted in Heimaey in 1973. Since then there have been eruptions every yr. In 2010 Eyjafjallajökull erupted. The eruption melted the ice around the volcano, which created huge floods. Air traffic from ash clouds was disrupted for weeks. In 1783, 40 km long fissures open up in lake Laki pouring lava all over the Icelandic landscapes. The Icelanders wrote a single manuscript, embodying the significance of volcanoes in their lives. The codex was presented to the King of Denmark by an Icelandic Bishop in 17th century. Later, Denmark returned it to Iceland by putting it on their most powerful battleship and escorting it with their entire fleet.Mt Paektu, North Korea. Dormant for 1000 yrs, and on the border with China. Considered the birthplace of the Korean nation. New army recruits graduate by singing on top of Mt Paektu. North Korea invited the team for a joint exploration of Mt Paektu, but subjected them to closely controlled propaganda. The mountain itself is 5000 yrs old. It erupted 1100 yrs ago and created a crater 3 miles wide. enough pumice came out to bury the entire new York city. the entire mountain top blew up, spewing rock across China, Japan, Russia and Korea itself.
Kim-Il Sung, the founding father of North Korea, established his secret police HQ at the base of the mountain, thereby appropriating its power and dynamism. The team witnesses great parades and huge dances in large stadiums, but the society itself seems empty and hollow. There are no international phone lines or internet available to the public. No radio or TV from the outside world. No cell phones and no ads anywhere. Instead govt propaganda everywhere. Everywhere, there are pics of the leaders in the vicinity of the volcano.Tanna Island, Mount Tasur in the Vanuatu archipelago. Active volcano. 3rd one exposed to magma. The volcano is worshiped as a deity by the locals. The deity is known as John Frum who is said to use the volcano as a portal to travel from Tanna to North America. the village flies the American flag and its church already had factions of the faith.
The locals believe that the volcanoes with destroy the world one day.