Volcanic wonders

The heat from volcanoes creates amazing volcanic landscape which include hot springs and mud pools. The soil around volcanoes also makes good land for growing crops.

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In hot spring, the water is heated by hot rocks underground. People like to bathe in the warm water. Some monkeys in Japan bathe in hot volcanic springs to keep warm during the icy winter.

Water trickling underground may be heated by hot rocks. When the water reaches boiling point, it shoots upwards, like steam shooting from a kettle. The fountain of hot water is called geyser.

Did you know, in Yellowstone National Park, USA a geyser shoots a jet of water every 72 minutes. The geyser is called Old Faithful. The hot fountain can shoot up to 40 metres high.

In some volcanic areas, water mixed with hot ash to make pools of bubbling mud. The mud is rich in minerals. Some people put volcanic mud on their faces and bodies because they believe it is good for their skin.

Studying Volcanoes

Nothing can stop a volcano from erupting. But experts can often tell when a volcano is about to erupt. They warn people to leave if they are in danger.



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Scientists who study volcanoes are called volcanologists. A volcanologits is taking a sample of lava from an eruption on Hawaii to learn more about the volcano.

These scientists are taking gas samples from a volcano. If there is more gas than usual, it may mean that the volcano is about to erupt. One volcanic gas, sulphur dioxide, smells like rotten eggs.

When people have to leave because a volcano is about to erupt, it is called an evacuation. These people are evacuating the island of Montserrat in the Caribbean because of danger from a nearby volcano.

If an eruption is coming, gas and steam may start to leak from a volcano. The mountain may bulge as melted rock builds up inside.


The plates that form the Earth’s crust are always moving slowly. This puts the rocks below ground under great strain. An earthquakes happens when the rocks suddenly jolt into a new position.

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Earthquakes usually start deep underground. The point where rocks grind and shatter is called the focus. Shock waves spread out in all directions. The damage is worst on the surface directly above.

Powerful earthquakes make the ground shake. Buildings can be torn from their foundations. Glass shatters and steel beams bend like rubber. Houses sway and crash to the ground.

When an earthquakes strike, the violent shaking can make the ground split open. Huge cracks can appear in roads and pavements. Some cracks are big enough to swallow cars.

Strong earthquakes can damage roads and bridge. In 1995 an earthquakes in Japan destroyed this motorway. Wrecked roads and railways can make it difficult for outside help to reach a region hit by an earthquake.

Effects of Earthquakes

An earthquake lasts only a few seconds, but the shaking can do terrible damage. Earthquakes also start fires, cause landslides and turn solid ground to mud.

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Fires start when gas pipes and electricity lines are damaged by earthquakes. In 1989 fire swept through San Francisco, USA after an earthquake. Water pipes were damaged by earthquake, making it difficult for firefighters to put out the flames.

Powerful earthquakes can destroy dams built on rivers. A wall of water then bursts through the dam and rushes downriver. Towns and villages lower down get swept away. This dam in Taiwan was wrecked by an earthquake in 1989.

When the ground shakes, loose soil and rock can slip away in a landslide. This landslide happened after a quake in Central America in 2001.

Violent shaking can turn clay or sandy soil to mud. Buildings sink into the mud or topple over. These blocks of flats collapsed after an earthquake hit Niigata in Japan in 1964.


Earthquakes can strike under the sea as well as on land. When an earthquake shakes the seabed, it can cause enormous waves called tsunamis. These waves race across the ocean and wreck towns when they reach the coast.


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In December 2004 a strong earthquake rocked the seabed off Indonesia in Southeast Asia. Giant waves spread out like ripples. The waves travelled nearly 5000 kilometres to wreck towns on the shores of India and even Africa.

Volcanic eruptions can also cause tsunamis. In 1883, a volcano on an island called Krakatoa near Indonesia exploded. The explosion set off tsunamis that spread far and wide. The waves swamped coastal towns, and 36,000 people died.

When Krakatoa exploded, the bang was heard 5000 kilometres away. The explosion destroyed most of the island, but fresh flows of lava formed a new island. The new island was named Anak Krakatoa which means Child of Krakatoa.

Out to sea, tsunamis form low waves that aren’t very noticeable. They build up to become much taller when they reach shallow water. The huge waves are a terrifying sight when they smash onto the shore.

Damage from the 2004 tsunami was worst on the coast of Indonesia. Whole towns were completely flattened by the waves. Boats were swept onto the shore and carried far inland.

Deadly earthquakes

Earthquakes can be incredibly destructive. The damage is often worst in cities, where many people are killed by falling buildings. Earthquakes have brought disaster to many parts of the world.

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In 1906, a powerful earthquake wrecked the city of San Francisco in the USA. Fires broke out and raged for days because firefighters ran out of water.

San Francisco lies on a fault where two plates scrape past each other. This fault runs for 1200 kilometres along the coast of western USA.. Earthquakes have struck San Francisco quite often- in 1906,1989 and again in 1994.

In 1755, an earthquake struck out the sea near the city of Lisbon, Portugal. Huge wave wrecked Lisbon’s harbour. Candles burning in churches and houses were knocked over and fires started all over the city.

In 1988, a strong earthquake struck Armenia in western Asia. The town of Spitak was destroyed. About 50,000 people died and many more lost their homes.

In 2005, a powerful quake rocked the region of Kashmir high in the Himalayas. Landslides destroyed roads and bridges, which made it difficult to rescue survivors.

Watching earthquakes

Scientists use machines to measure the strength of earthquakes. If experts believe an earthquake is due, they warn everyone. But it is hard to say exactly when and where an earthquake will strike.

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A seismograph measures the shaking caused by earthquakes. Pens fixed to weights hang above a roll of paper. When an earthquakes strikes, the paper shakes, and the pens draw zigzags on the paper.

Animals often act strangely just before an earthquake. Rats run away, while cats miaow and dogs bark. Some experts believe that animals can hear the very high faint noises made by rocks that are stretched to breaking point before the quakes.

In 1975, scientists in the Chinese city of Haicheng noticed animals acting strangely. They gave the order for everyone to leave the city. A few hours later an earthquakes struck.

If an earthquakes strikes, people should stay indoors and hide under a strong desk or table. In areas where earthquakes are likely people design buildings that will cope with the shaking. This tall building in San Francisco has strong steel beams to support it.

Towering mountains

Mountains are high, rocky areas that rise above their surroundings. Many mountains have steep, sloping sides and the tops of very high mountains are cold and covered with snow.

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Some mountains stand alone but many form long lines called chains or are found in groups called ranges. The Andes in South America is the longest mountain chain on land, stretching for 7200 kilometres.

The Himalayas in Southern Asia are the worlds’s highest mountains. This mighty range includes Mount Everest which at 8863 metres is the Earth’s highest mountain on land.

Mountains are usually measured from sea level. Mauna Kea a mountain in Hawaii rises 4205 metres above the surface of the sea, but the rest of the peak lies underwater. Mauna Kea is taller than Mount Everest when measured from the seabed.

Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest peak in Africa. This mountain rises to 5895 metres. The top is covered with snow even though Kilimanjaro is near the equator, where the climate is hot.

Blocks and Domes

Two other types of mountains are steep-sided block mountains and rounded dome mountains. All mountains take millions of years to form, but some are much older than others. Young mountains are usually much higher than old mountains.

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The movements of the Earth’s plates sometimes causes long cracks called faults to appear. If a huge slab of rock is pushed upwards between two faults , it makes a steep-sided peak called a block mountain.

Dome mountains form where hot, melted rock pushes up but cools before it reaches the surface. The layered rocks on top are pushed up into a dome shape. Later the rocks on top wear away to reveal the dome of volcanic rock.

Mountains are slowly worn away by the weather. Over millions of years high jagged mountains become lower and smoother. Ben Nevis in Scotland is a very old dome mountain with a rounded top.

Mount Everest

At 8863 metres tall, Mount Everest is the world’s highest mountain. This famous peak lies in the Himalayas, on the boarder between Nepal and Tibet in China. The mountain’s local name Chomolungma means ‘mother goddess of the world’.

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The first climbers to reach the top of Everest were Edmund Hillary from New Zealand and Tenzing Norgay from Nepal in 1953. Since then many others have climbed the mountain even though it is difficult and dangerous.

Did you know Lhotse the world’s fourth-highest mountain, lies very close to Everest. The two mountains are linked by a snowy ridge.

Sherpas are mountain people that live in the Everest region in Nepal. These people are used to cold and are very fit. Some work as mountain guides and others carry loads up the steep slopes.

Namche Bazaar is the biggest village near Everest. Sherpas live there. Not long ago the village was tiny but now climbers and walkers atay there on their way to Everest. Namche Bazaar has become a busy town.

Mount Of Everest Facts

* The height of Everest was first measured bu surveyors in the 1800s. They name it after Sir George Everest a famous British Surveyor

* Italian Reinhold Messner was the first person to climb Everest alone and without using bottled oxygen to help him breathe.

* More than 2000 people have reached the top of Everest.