Let's start with a special beauty: McDonald Island on a windy, clear sky day:
McDonald from distance
Not bad, uh? And what about a close-up.. with Mawson Peak of Big Ben mountain (on Heard Island) visible from distance?? There's a layer of mist below, which makes the mountain looks like floating in the air.. A bit like a "Castle in the sky", as one of the scientists commented ("Laputa: Castle in the Sky" is also one of my favorite anime from H. Miyazaki). And also: can you see that black line the runs diagonal from the peak of Big Ben? Well.. guess what.. that's lava!!!
South-west side of McDonald island, with Mawson Peak visible in distance.
I feel, once again, privileged. Not many can say to have had the chance to see Big Ben in its beauty. Well.. I guess not many can say to have been here in these waters, either.. right? That makes me think: how many Italians have been here? :-)
Heard Island has been discovered in 1833, or 1853, and has been visited only few times, as it's quite inhospitable. Lava and ice are the 2 players responsible for its morphology. Jodi Fox, our geologist aboard, teaches us that, despite Heard Island is just 44 km distant from the McDonald islands, it shows a very different type of lava and, hence, a different eruptive style.. as these things go. Heard's kind is smoky, with high plumes, but doesn't produce big explosions. McDonalds' eruptions, on the other hand, are more explosive. With its top at 2745 m, Big Ben is the second highest mountain of the Australian territory and Australia's only active volcano!
Having the chance to SEE Heard Island is rather rare. The weather here is really bad (I probably said that "few" times) and there's always a thick layer of fog and clouds surrounding the island. We've been mapping the bathymetry around McDonald Islands for many days now, and the weather allowed just few other research activities. But every now and then, when on the right side and at the right moment, Heard Island has been has gifted us with the vision of some of its features..
One of the glaciers on Heard Island (I forgot to ask Jodi which one..), diving into the ocean.
A "pretty good" day to get more details of the island..
One of the skills of a good researcher is patience.. I believe. And I think that this time this gifted us in a magical way…
Tonight, the call from the bridge: "Big Ben's erupting!"!!!!
We all know what happens next, right? Rush to get cameras, lenses, jackets, beanies, etc. and up to the bridge! And because this was more than sensational, we just ran outside, challenging the painful wind.. In between smiles and laughs and "I cannot believe what I'm seeing", we all had our chance to get some thousands pictures of the event.. (I had a really hard time choosing the photos to post). This is a taste of what was in front of our opened-wide eyes:
Heard Island in all its beauty!
Close-up of Big Ben.
Eruption of Big Ben with lava on the side.
As quick as it showed itself, Big Ben wrapped itself up in a thick cloud.. We all sent our goodbye and went back to our work.. with pure joy in our hearts.. and a memory to share.
Time to hide again..