Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Mt. Erebus and Mt. Terror on Ross Island named after ships of an expedition led by Sir James Clark Ross

The two volcanoes Mt. Erebus and Mt. Terror on Ross Island—a volcanic formation in Antarctica's Ross Sea—were named in 1841 by Sir James Clark Ross after his expedition ships H.M.S. Erebus and H.M.S. Terror, respectively. H.M.S. Erebus was named after the Greek god of primeval darkness [1-3].

Mt. Erebus is an active stratovolcano, 12,448 ft (3,794 m) high. It is the most southerly active volcano on Earth. Although one of the coldest spots on our planet, Mt. Erebus also is a hot spot: literally, considering its lava lake and fumaroles; and research-wise, considering the interesting occurrence of mosses and microbes, whose origin still is debated. Mt. Erebus belongs to the Pacific Ring of Fire. The New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology maintains the Mount Erebus Volcano Observatory (MEVO) on Ross Island, next to Scott Base, which is operated by New Zealand to support field research [4,5].

Mt. Erebus' smaller companion, Mt. Terror with an elevation of 10,702 ft (3,262 m), is a (dormant or extinct?) basaltic shield volcano, flanked by cinder cones [6].

Both volcanoes have been listed as spectacular skiing destinations with over 10,000 ft (3,000 m) of vertically skiable slopes for downhill enthusiasts [7]. Olivia Judson, in her Erebus article [1] , describes the heavy outfit that researcher on Ross Island wear to protect themselves from extreme weather conditions. What kind of precautions would skiers take?  Thinking of skiing Mt. Terror downslope, I get terrified! 

Keywords:  earth science, geography, locality names, volcanology, mythology, microbiology, history.

References and more to explore
[1] Olivia Judson: Life in an Icy Inferno. National Geographic July 2012, 222 (1), 94-115 [].
[2] Encyclopedia Britannica: Ross Island [].
[3] Encyclopedia Mythica: Erebus by Ron Leadbetter [].
[4] World Organization of Volcano Observatories: Mount Erebus Volcano Observatory [].
[5] Antarctica New Zealand: Scott Base [].
[6] Oregon State/Education: Mount Terror, Ross Island, Antarctica [].
[7] Skiing the Pacific Ring of Fire and Beyond: Mount Erebus [] and  Mount Terror [].

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