#IAVCEI2013 – The second best volcanology conference in Kagoshima

It may come as no surprise that Kagoshima – home to the most active volcano in one of the most volcanically active countries in the world – has played host to more than this years IAVCEI meeting when it comes to getting volcanologists into town. You might guess from the spectacular way in which they play host; notices, flags and IAVCEI branded fans and accessories adorn much of the town. The conference goody bag bears not just the usual USB stick, local promotional material and a notebook, but full geological maps and hazard maps of Sakurajima and a variety of other volcanoes in Japan. In fact, one outstanding full map showing Japan in its complete volcanological beauty. Oh, and a 3D plastic map of Sakurajima. And tickets to a festival of music and fireworks. And an invitation to go and watch the ’round volcano yacht race’ and complimentary tour cruise.

The reason I feel IAVCEI may be playing second fiddle to another conference is that both these events – the festival and boat race – are held to commemorate the 1988 Kagoshima International Conference on Volcanoes. I’ve never heard of an event being staged to commemorate the anniversary of a conference before, let alone two. It must have been one hell of a conference. My mind can’t decide whether it should be picturing volcanological luminaries dangling from light fittings, dripping sake from their over-gorged throats, or some kind of terrible boating disaster with fireworks.

Anyway, this evening was the festival, so I took the opportunity to skip out of the conference early (5.30 start time for the event was not handy for the 6.30 finish of seminars – fortunately nothing took my fancy this afternoon anyway). Grabbed the complimentary ferry across to Sakurajima, and went and sat in a field. I will say this for the Japanese – they do events in a unique and special way. After finding a spot that was just about in the shade, and occasionally catching the dregs of a breeze to take the edge off the 34 degree heat, I sat down, and relaxed. Camera in hand, I was determined to get a good sunset shot of Sakurajima if nothing else. She did not disappoint, and photo will be forthcoming just as soon as I have a USB cable.

However, it would be doing the festival a disservice if I didn’t recount some of my favourite moments here. Billed as offering a Hinoshima drum performance, I was looking forward to some tubthumping music. The “6000 vigorous fireworks” also sounded appealing. The build up to these, however, was sublime. First up, we had some kind of stage play featuring what I can only describe as a guy dressed as a Power Ranger, another as a teddy bear, and a couple of guys dressed in form-fitting white lycra bodysuits having sword fights. Not knowing the language I was free to make up my own story in my head, and completely failed to come up with anything coherent. So I assume it was an actual episode of Power Rangers.

Next up, we had the local choir doing their thing. Very choral, but the crowd weren’t interested. After that we had a couple of ladies doing a fan dance, followed by another dance troupe with ribbons or scarves (I was too far away to tell). After that we had a rather bizarre karate act who sang. She would do a few karate moves, sing a song, then smash a bit of wood, another song, smash a brick, etc. With no clear idea of what was going on I decided it was some kind of superhero or videogame character, and she could only do 30 seconds of karate after a 2 minute power-up period of singing.

Next up the drums, which were excellent. However, at this point I was aware that last up were the fireworks, then there were going to be about 10,000 people or more crowding back to the ferries, so I wound my way back down the hill to try and catch the firework display from the water, with Sakurajima in the background. On my way back I took the opportunity to grab some dinner. Japanese festivals it turns out have an impressive array of Things On Sticks. Sweet things on sticks, savoury things on sticks, miscellaneous things on sticks. I treated myself to the squid-on-a-stick, although opted for the body portion rather than the Lovecraftian tentacles-on-a-stick.

And here we are back in the hotel, 9.30 pm, aiming to kill the last of the jet lag in the hope I don’t fall asleep tomorrow, particularly as I’m presenting. 3pm session in A4 for anyone here.

Some great science today – some lovely experiments looking at magma chamber dynamics, and gas-slug growth through conduits. I love me a good experiment, and Ed Llewellin and others at Durham have a 13 m monster conduit they’ve produced some fascinating results in. Also some really interesting work on the effects of melting the roof of magma chambers, although with so few variables investigated it felt a bit like a spherical cow at the moment – clearly more work to be done.

Right – off to wash the volcanic ash from my grubby feet, and rest my weary head. More updates to follow.

About Pete Rowley

Earth Scientist with a background in volcanology and sedimentology. Enjoys a good rant, beer, and games. Dislikes reality TV, crowds, and unreasonable people.
This entry was posted in Geology, News, Science, Travel, Volcanism. Bookmark the permalink.

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