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1997 Initial Visit

Page history last edited by Frederick Belton 10 years ago

On July 17, 1997,  I climbed Ol Doinyo Lengai for the first time, with Scott Smith and our guide, Burra Ami Gadiye.  We spent only a few hours in the crater and descended the same day.  We found a large black lava flow covering much of the NW part of the crater.  It was cracking and popping as we walked across it and was probably only two or three hours old.  The source of the flow was two large open vents in the NW central part of the crater floor.  The larger vent was much longer than it was wide and had evidently contained a lava lake just a few hours prior to our arrival.  Loud degassing sounds issued from its depths, but no lava was visible.  The lake had overflowed into a large, deeply cut lava channel and from there had spread out over the crater floor.  Spattering and sloshing of the lake had built up large overhangs around much of its perimeter. The second vent was considerably smaller and almost perfectly round.  It had also contained lava recently.  It was impossible to inspect the inside of the vent because its overhanging rim was dangerous.  One cone (possibly T23) was ejecting small chunks of solid lava (lapilli) with puffs of steam.  We heard sloshing sounds deep within several other cones, and the air within the vent of T40 was sufficiently hot to ignite a stick held inside it. During my first visit I regrettably did not make detailed measurements of the active vents to determine if they were new.  I also did not measure the height of the lowest part of the NW crater rim but estimate that it was around 2m.



Burra Ami Gadiye poses in front of T40.



This odd rectangular vent was inside T37.



Looking toward the low NW crater rim from the central crater. The large empty lava lake is visible to the right of the cones.



View into the empty lava lake. The open channel in the foreground fed the lava flows that had covered the NW part of the crater floor.



This crater was probably full of lava the day before we climbed.  West rim in background.



A recent flow of pahoehoe lava in the process of weathering.  When exposed to moisture in the air the lava rapidly turns white.



White deposits often form around cracks and holes on cooling lava flows.



Masai children asked us for water near the base of Lengai.





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