Mount Erebus blows USD 6,000 worth of gold into the air every day | Polarjournal
Mount Erebus is located in East Antarctica and is considered the southernmost active volcano on earth. The 3,794 m high stratovolcano forms the western side of Ross Island, a volcanic island in the Ross Sea of the same name. (Photo: Wikipedia)

The southernmost continent is known for being cold and inhospitable. But thousands of years ago, many volcanoes spewed their lava and hot vapors into the atmosphere. This happened before it got cold in the Antarctic. Mount Erebus is a volcano that has survived the cooling and is always good for surprises.

The active volcano Mount Erebus spews 6,000 US dollars worth of gold dust into the air every day, as the NASA Earh Observatory announced last week. According to the press release, the volcano spews out gas bubbles containing 80 grams of crystallized gold every day.

Satellite image of Mount Erebus from November 25, 2023. (Photo: Landsat 9)

Mount Erebus is certainly the most famous volcano in Antarctica. With a summit height of 3,794 meters (12,448 feet), it is the highest active volcano in Antarctica and also the southernmost active volcano on earth.

The glacier-covered mountain was discovered in 1841 by Sir James Clark Ross during the expedition named after him and after the HMS “Erebus”, the flagship of his two-ship expedition fleet. When the Ross expedition arrived on the island, they witnessed an eruption of the volcano.

The mountain was first climbed in 1908 by a group of participants in the British Nimrod expedition led by Sir Ernest Shackleton. Among the climbers were the well-known Antarctic explorers Douglas Mawson and Tannatt William Edgeworth David.

The New Zealand Scott Base on Ross Island, Mount Erebus in the background. (Photo: Antarctica New Zealand)

One of the strangest features of the volcano, however, is that it spreads gold dust particles on the Antarctic ice every day. It is estimated that the volcano spews out around 80 grams of gold in the course of a single day – equivalent to a current value of around 6,000 US dollars. The NASA Earth Observatory reported that the precious metal dust was detected at a distance of 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) from Mount Erebus. Philip Kyle from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro found that the gold deposits could originate from volcanic rock.

Conor Bacon from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, New York, says that the volcano has been erupting continuously since 1972. Bacon also thought that Mount Erebus included a lava lake at one of its summit craters.

The Air New Zealand DC-10-30 was almost completely destroyed on impact. Only the vertical stabilizer had remained largely intact after the impact. (Image: Archive)

Serious aviation accident on Mount Erebus

Mount Erebus was also the site of one of the worst air disasters. On November 28, 1979, Air New Zealand Flight 901 flew head-on into the side of the volcano, killing all 257 people on board.

The flight was part of an Air New Zealand program that allowed passengers to fly from Auckland to Antarctica and then back to New Zealand on an 11-hour round trip.

It was cloudy on that sad day in November 1979, but the sightseeing flight took place anyway. As the BBC reported, the pilot, Captain Jim Collins, attempted to lower the plane to about 2,000 feet (610 meters) by spiraling down in two large loops. During the maneuver, shortly before 1 p.m., the aircraft crashed into the side of Mount Erebus, killing all passengers and crew members.

It is assumed that a “whiteout” was responsible for the crash. The ice-covered volcano was rendered virtually invisible by low light with the sun being just above the horizon, making it impossible to see against the backdrop of the ice-covered ground and cloudy sky. The pilot was unable to judge the distance and assumed that the “whiteout” visible in front of the cockpit was ice and snow in the landscape below and not the face of a mountain.

After several costly legal disputes, Air New Zealand discontinued its sightseeing flights over Antarctica.

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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