Friday, January 8, 2010


I don't usually write about current events, but yesterday morning I was shocked to learn that there is a volcano currently erupting in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is where a bunch my distant basenji cousins live.  So I got very worried, and I did some research to find out all I could about this scary situation.

First of all, I will say that there are several countries in Africa that have or used to have the word "Congo" in their names, and besides that, they keep changing their names, so it can all be a little confusing.  But the country we are talking about, where the volcano is, is called Democratic Republic of Congo.  It has had a bunch of other names, including Zaire, but the correct name now is Democratic Republic of Congo, which can be shortened to DRCongo or DROC or DRC.  Here's a map so that you will know exactly where this country is located:

Okay, so now that we all know what country we're talking about, I will tell you that the volcano that is erupting is called Mount Nyamuragira.  This is a really long name, and I'm sure it means something very interesting, but I could not discover what the meaning of Nyamuragira was.  Anyway, Mount Nyamuragira should not be confused with Mount Nyiragongo, which is only 12 kilometers away, but is a totally different volcano.  On this map, you can see the two volcanoes and also the city of Goma, which has about 200,000 people living in it, plus another 100,000 refugees who are trying to get away from some of the nearby wars.  I don't know how many basenjis live in Goma.  I tried to find out, but for some reason this important information is not available on the internet.

Anyway, right now, there are supposedly not any people in danger because of the volcano, which probably means there aren't any basenjis in danger either because basenjis are likely to live where people are.  Basenjis are no fools, and they know which side their bread is buttered on!

But even though the basenjis are not in danger, some chimpanzees are.  This is because there are chimpanzees who live in Virunga National Park, where part of the lava from the volcano is going.  Here's a picture of some chimpanzees discussing whether they should maybe head for Kinshasa or some other place far away from the volcano.

Now I will tell you how a volcano happens.  In the middle of the earth, there's a whole bunch of really hot stuff called lava.  I don't know why it is there.  It just is.  Anyway, this lava is always looking for ways to get out of the middle of the earth, so whenever it finds a hole or a crack or some kind of opening, it squirts out.  Also a bunch of ash and nasty gas and stuff comes out, and it's all hot and dangerous to breathe, and you can die from it if you are too close to the volcano.

Mount Nyamuragira is the most active volcano in all of Africa.  It is 10,033 feet tall, and it has erupted 35 times since 1882.  The last time it erupted was in 2006.  Mount Nyamuragira is what is called a "shield volcano."  This is kind of a short, really wide volcano that looks like a satellite dish would if you turned it upside-down and put it on the ground.  Of course, you wouldn't get very good TV reception this way, but you could see the shape of a shield volcano.

Some of the very biggest volcanoes in the whole world are shield volcanoes.  Like, for instance, the Hawaiian Islands.  They are all shield volcanoes.  The reason shield volcanoes are so big is because they have lava that's kind of thin, so it flows a long way and builds up the mountain over a big, wide, mounded area.

There's another kind of volcano that makes taller, pointier mountains, and these volcanoes are called stratovolcanoes.  Mount Nyiragongo is one of these types of volcanoes, even though it is a nearby neighbor of Mount Nyamuragira, so you would think they'd both be the same sort of volcano.  But they're not.  So people in DRCongo are worried that if Mount Nyiragongo decides to erupt, too, it could do a lot more damage because that's what happened last time when it erupted and killed a lot of people in Goma.

I have never seen a volcano erupting because we don't usually have volcanoes in Missouri.  But I watched a video of Mount Nyamuragira erupting on YouTube.  It was a very good video, and only about a minute long, and I think everyone should watch it.  You can see it here. 

That's all I have to say about volcanoes right now, so I'll shut up, and you can to watch the video.

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