I was surprised to hear of the recent eruption in New Zealand’s Mount Tongariro last week.

Witnesses reported seeing “flame-like explosions”, red hot rocks being thrown into the air, lightning, hearing loud explosions and one witness reported a cloud of ash coming from “a new hole in the side of the mountain”. GNS Science said the volcanic activity at Mt Tongariro could continue for weeks, months or even years.

Back in 2004, I visited New Zealand, and Sailor Boy and I spent three lovely (and difficult days) on the Tongariro Track, the hiking trail which crosses through this national park — a marvelous, desert-like moonscape of volcanic formations and mountains that were actually heavily used as sets for “Mordor” during the filming of Lord of the Rings.

Those of you who have read “Among the Nameless Stars” will recognize the landscape, though of course, that story imagines the area long after a major volcanic explosion has turned the area into a dangerous, fiery wasteland — much more like the actual Mordor than the peaceful, sparse and sunny lands we hiked through eight years ago.

Tongariro has not actually been active in over 100 years before now, and while a blanket of ash covers the area, all the hiking trails have been closed, and geological experts are meeting to discuss what this might mean for the area if the volcano is entering into a new age of activity.

New Zealand hasn’t had the easiest time of it lately. As a country located on the Pacific Rim’s “ring of fire”, residents are used to geological activity, from the fun and/or useful geothermally warmed pools, beaches, and houses and the geysers and the beautiful hikes to the damaging ash spurts and the earthquake that so recently rocked Christchurch.

My book, For Darkness Shows the Stars, posits a future world where geology became a weapon in the Wars of the Lost, and imagines how the aftermath of such a war would look to survivors in that area of the world: altered landscapes, vast wastelands with little to no fertile topsoil, volcanic winters, and magnetic instability. This last one was probably most important to the storyline of For Darkness, as it tied into the themes of exploration by celestial navigation.

See, Dad? That Geology degree was good for something. ;-)

My thoughts are with the residents of the North Island this week.

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Published on August 13, 2012 06:59 • 65 views

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