India’s only volcano in Barren Islands, Andaman and Nicobar seen spurting lava and spewing ashes

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Ash clouds seen at the crater mouth in otherwise clear sky along with red lava spurting out from the volcano in Barren Islands. Credit: National Institute of Oceanography

The subcontinent’s only active volcano in the Andaman and Nicobar islands is erupting once again! The Barren Island volcano, located 140 km northeast of Port Blair started erupting again.

The volcano has been dormant for more than 150 years. It started erupting in 1991 and since then showing intermittent activity. A team of scientists led by Dr. Abhay V. Mudholkar noticed the volcanic activity, earlier this year. They reported that the volcano is active and spewing smoke along with lava, once again.

On 23 January 2017, the scientific team on board CSIR- National Institute of Oceanography’s research ship were collecting sea floor sample when they witnessed this. The ship RV Sindhu Sankalp, stationed near Andaman Basin near Barren volcano, helped the scientists view the ash clearly.

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The team, moved further to explore more and began a close observation on the volcano. The volcano was erupting in small episodes lasting about 5 to 10 minutes. During the daytime they observed only the ash clouds. However at the dusk, they observed red lava spewing from the crater. They also saw hot lava streaming down the slopes of the volcano. On 26 January, a team led by Dr. Nagender Nath revisited the volcano during the second leg of cruise.

Barren Islands Aerial View.
Source: Paul Johnson/ volcanohotspot

So far, several spurts of blasts and smoke have been observed. The teams have sampled the sediments and water in the vicinity of the volcano. They have also sampled ‘recovered coal-like black pyroclastic material’.  These samples will help in deciphering the nature of the present and past volcanic activity in the region.

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The Andaman Basin is an active back-arc spreading basin. It is known for its strong seismic activity, many submarine volcanoes and hydrothermal activity. The volcanic island is uninhabited and the northern part of the island is literally barren as the name suggests. The Barren Island is devoid of vegetation. One can visit this island only after obtaining permission of the Forest Department in Port Blair. With this volcanic island becoming active once again, its time to evacuate the near by villages and relocate the cruises stationed for research to avoid any major loss.