Nyiragongo volcano (DR Congo): expedition to the lava lake (June 2017)

A selection of photographs taken by Ingrid Smet during our June 2017 Nyiragongo lava lake and mountain gorillas expedition in the DR Congo which included a 3 days / nights stay on Nyiragongo volcano.
On 6 June the group completed their hike to the summit in dry weather (the people coming up in the next two days were not so lucky) but had to wait a few hours for a first glance onto the red hot lava lake until the clouds around the stratovolcano´s summit and the thick volcanic gasses inside the caldera had temporarily lifted. The next 2 days (7 and 8 June) visibility into the caldera was usually best in the mornings and at intervals during the night, with more clear circumstances in the early morning and right through to dawn and sunrise on the 8th of June. The world´s largest lava lake (about 220 m across) is situated some 400 m below the rim of Nyiragongo´s summit caldera (a diameter of 1.2 km). When visible, the surface of the active lava lake was continuously in motion as exploding gas bubbles create small degassing fountains that recycle the cold black crust back into the red hot liquid lava. Strong degassing also occurred from the edges of the lava lake, the 2016 hornito and along the southern fracture zone.
Morning view on Nyiragongo´s main summit cone (right) and southern satellite crater Shaheru (left) on the way to Kibati, the starting point for the hike up the volcano. (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
Morning view on Nyiragongo´s main summit cone (right) and southern satellite crater Shaheru (left) o... [info]
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Silhouette of the Nyiragongo massif and its 3 overlapping cones: the southern Shaheru crater (left), the main Nyiragongo crater (central) and northern Baruta crater (right). (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
Silhouette of the Nyiragongo massif and its 3 overlapping cones: the southern Shaheru crater (left),... [info]
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The successful climb to Nyiragongo´s summit was rewarded with views onto its actively churning lava lake later that evening when clouds and volcanic gass plumes had partially lifted. (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
The successful climb to Nyiragongo´s summit was rewarded with views onto its actively churning lava ... [info]
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Geometric pattern of the thin black crust on the lava lake´s surface that is continuously broken apart by heat and degassing from the underlying liquid lava. (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
Geometric pattern of the thin black crust on the lava lake´s surface that is continuously broken apa... [info]
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Nyiragongo´s lava lake seen on the night of 6 June 2017 when clouds and gass plumes were minor and allowed good visibility. (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
Nyiragongo´s lava lake seen on the night of 6 June 2017 when clouds and gass plumes were minor and a... [info]
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Deeper within the lava lake, gas collects into bubbles that rise to its surface where they explode, tearing apart the overlying thin crust and splashing around drops of hot lava. (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
Deeper within the lava lake, gas collects into bubbles that rise to its surface where they explode, ... [info]
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On the morning of 7 June 2017 there are no clouds over the volcano´s summit and the gasses rise vertically into the air, finally allowing a good daytime view across the ca 1,2 km diameter Nyiragongo summit caldera. (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
On the morning of 7 June 2017 there are no clouds over the volcano´s summit and the gasses rise vert... [info]
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Closer view onto the still degassing hornito that suddenly erupted in the spring of 2016 southeast of the crater with the active lava lake and created a few lava flows that drained into the lake (dark brown meandering deposits in the lower half of the image). (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
Closer view onto the still degassing hornito that suddenly erupted in the spring of 2016 southeast o... [info]
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View onto the central part of the Nyiragongo summit caldera with its different terraces and ca 220 m diameter active lava lake, some 400 m below the caldera rim. (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
View onto the central part of the Nyiragongo summit caldera with its different terraces and ca 220 m... [info]
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Radially arranged nepheline crystal aggregates can be found in some of Nyiragongo´s lavas. The very low silica content of the volcano´s magmas is the reason why they have such a low viscosity, making them some of the fastest moving and hence deadliest lavas on earth. Minerals crystallising from such magmas are hence also silica poor, for example the white feldspathoids shown in this image. (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
Radially arranged nepheline crystal aggregates can be found in some of Nyiragongo´s lavas. The very ... [info]
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View onto Shaheru crater from the summit of Nyiragongo (with the camp´s toilet in the bottom right corner). (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
View onto Shaheru crater from the summit of Nyiragongo (with the camp´s toilet in the bottom right c... [info]
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Nyiragongo´s lava lake in the early hours of 8 June 2017. Strong degassing from the rim of the lake creates plumes which reflect the lava´s red glow and partially obscure the view onto the lake´s surface. (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
Nyiragongo´s lava lake in the early hours of 8 June 2017. Strong degassing from the rim of the lake ... [info]
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View onto the breaking up lava lake crust and some degassing fountains through the fumarole plumes. (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
View onto the breaking up lava lake crust and some degassing fountains through the fumarole plumes. ... [info]
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The lava lake´s red glow illuminates the steep  inner walls of Nyiragongo´s summit caldera whilst the sky to the east shows both the nightly stars and first morning light. (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
The lava lake´s red glow illuminates the steep inner walls of Nyiragongo´s summit caldera whilst th... [info]
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Observing and photographing Nyiragongo´s lava lake in the early hours of 8 June 2017. (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
Observing and photographing Nyiragongo´s lava lake in the early hours of 8 June 2017. (Photo: Ingrid... [info]
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View onto the lava lake from Nyiragongo´s summit with the first day light appearing in the sky behind. (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
View onto the lava lake from Nyiragongo´s summit with the first day light appearing in the sky behin... [info]
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Nyiragongo´s summit caldera and lava lake at dawn of 8 June 2017. (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
Nyiragongo´s summit caldera and lava lake at dawn of 8 June 2017. (Photo: Ingrid Smet) [info]
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Closer view onto the world´s largest lava lake just before sunrise when the gass plumes reflect the glow in endless shades of yellow, orange and red. (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
Closer view onto the world´s largest lava lake just before sunrise when the gass plumes reflect the ... [info]
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The silhouettes of neighbouring Mikeno (left) and Karisimbi (right) volcanoes peaking out behind the rim of Nyiragongo´s summit caldera. (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
The silhouettes of neighbouring Mikeno (left) and Karisimbi (right) volcanoes peaking out behind the... [info]
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Two adventure travelers watching the sunrise between Mikeno and Karisimbi volcano from the rim of Nyiragongo´s summit caldera. Fumarolic gasses are emanated from the steep inner caldera walls where a south oriented main fracture zone  that cuts across the volcano´s summit. (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
Two adventure travelers watching the sunrise between Mikeno and Karisimbi volcano from the rim of Ny... [info]
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View towards the west across Nyiragongo´s summit caldera in the morning of 8 June. (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
View towards the west across Nyiragongo´s summit caldera in the morning of 8 June. (Photo: Ingrid Sm... [info]
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Relatively clear view into Nyiragongo´s caldera with the central active lava lake and to its east-southeast the 2016 hornito and dark brown lava flows. (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
Relatively clear view into Nyiragongo´s caldera with the central active lava lake and to its east-so... [info]
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Panorama of Nyiragongo´s summit caldera in the early morning light of 8 June 2017, looking towards the northwest. (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
Panorama of Nyiragongo´s summit caldera in the early morning light of 8 June 2017, looking towards t... [info]
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View onto the colourful layers of volcanic deposits that make up the inner walls of Nyiragongo´s summit caldera. (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
View onto the colourful layers of volcanic deposits that make up the inner walls of Nyiragongo´s sum... [info]
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Dead shrubs are scattered between the lava flows and volcanic deposits on the southwest part of Nyiragongo´s summit. Although initially conditions must have been right for them to seed and grow, a change in the volcano´s activity, probably increased degassing, killed plant life in this section. (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
Dead shrubs are scattered between the lava flows and volcanic deposits on the southwest part of Nyir... [info]
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8 June 2017 morning hike along Nyiragongo´s caldera rim towards the western part of the volcano´s summit. (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
8 June 2017 morning hike along Nyiragongo´s caldera rim towards the western part of the volcano´s su... [info]
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View onto the active lava lake and the western inner caldera walls. The more or less horizontal volcanic deposits are in some locations crosscut by lighter coloured subvertical dykes which represent younger intrusions of  magma along fracture zones. (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
View onto the active lava lake and the western inner caldera walls. The more or less horizontal volc... [info]
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When there are no clouds resting on Nyiragongo´s summit and the volcanic gasses rise straight up one can observe the active lava lake´s continuous degassing and churning. (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
When there are no clouds resting on Nyiragongo´s summit and the volcanic gasses rise straight up one... [info]
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The magma rising up from deep below Nyiragongo is rich in volcanic gasses which nearer the surface collect into large bubbles that burst through the lava lake´s thin cooled crust. (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
The magma rising up from deep below Nyiragongo is rich in volcanic gasses which nearer the surface c... [info]
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Locations where there is a steady rise of gas bubbles for a prolonged period of time will form intermittent small lava fountains that tear up and recycle the thin crust. (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
Locations where there is a steady rise of gas bubbles for a prolonged period of time will form inter... [info]
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View onto the steep cliffs inside the souther part of Nyiragongo´s summit caldera. (Note few small huts peaking out along the rim in the central part of the image)  (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
View onto the steep cliffs inside the souther part of Nyiragongo´s summit caldera. (Note few small h... [info]
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Zig zag pattern of the cracked crust that forms on top of Nyiragongo´s lava lake through instant cooling of the more than 1000 degree C lava when it comes in contact with the air. (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
Zig zag pattern of the cracked crust that forms on top of Nyiragongo´s lava lake through instant coo... [info]
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A gas bubble breaks through the lava lake´s crust and explodes, scattering around drops of hot liquid lava.  (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
A gas bubble breaks through the lava lake´s crust and explodes, scattering around drops of hot liqui... [info]
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A few small lava fountains are exploding lava into the air, breaking through the rapidly formed thin crusts. (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
A few small lava fountains are exploding lava into the air, breaking through the rapidly formed thin... [info]
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As the sun sets, the orange red glow of the lava lake is reflected in the gass clouds into different shades of pink of purple. (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
As the sun sets, the orange red glow of the lava lake is reflected in the gass clouds into different... [info]
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The ghostly red glow and bright yellow fracture pattern and gas bubble explosions of the lava lake in the evening of 8 June 2017.  (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
The ghostly red glow and bright yellow fracture pattern and gas bubble explosions of the lava lake i... [info]
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Nyiragongo´s lava lake and summit caldera in hues of pink and purple at dusk on 8 June 2017. (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
Nyiragongo´s lava lake and summit caldera in hues of pink and purple at dusk on 8 June 2017. (Photo:... [info]
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Silhouette of Nyamuragira, the active shield volcano and neighbour of Nyiragongo. (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
Silhouette of Nyamuragira, the active shield volcano and neighbour of Nyiragongo. (Photo: Ingrid Sme... [info]
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The volcanic peaks of Mikeno (right) and Karisimbi (left) as seen during the hike to the Virunga National Park for mountain gorilla tracking. (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
The volcanic peaks of Mikeno (right) and Karisimbi (left) as seen during the hike to the Virunga Nat... [info]
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Mikeno volcano (left), Karisimbi volcano (right) and a cinder cone (centre right) in the warm evening light of the 10th of June when returned back to Goma from the mountain gorilla tracking. (Photo: Ingrid Smet)
Mikeno volcano (left), Karisimbi volcano (right) and a cinder cone (centre right) in the warm evenin... [info]
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