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san benedicto crater

Volcanic eruption at San Benedicto Island (close by Socorro)

June 5, 2015 Written by

Ok. The eruption wasn’t this week. Rather it was August 1st, 1952 on a beautiful sunny and calm day when the crew of the tuna clipper M/V Challenger noticed a vertical plume of steam on the tiny island of San Benedicto. The steam rapidly turned into a towering cloud of heavy smoke and ash with explosions hurtling bombs into the air. Daylight turned to darkness. The air became thick with pumice. I can only imagine what the poor guys on the Challenger were feeling. And actually, I wonder what our poor mantas were thinking!! San Benedicto had erupted and the fishermen fled to the west at full throttle not knowing if they were living their last minutes on this earth as hunks of pumice thudded onto their decks. They were lucky and managed to escape. San Benedicto continued to erupt for the next 10 months as a volcanic peak emerged from the sea with magma breaking through a notch on the southeastern side of the lava dome and flowing into the sea forming a spectacular semi-circular lava delta which just happens to be one of the best places in the world to interact with giant manta rays. et voila – the dive site “El Canyon”.

San benedicto island exploding
(San Benedicto – beginning of the explosive eruption of August 1, 1952 – Photo GVP / by Robert Petrie, 1952 ( U.S. Navy , courtesy of Sherman Neuschel , U.S. Geological Survey).)

The San Benedicto of today is a very different place. The eruption doubled the size of the island. The pumice and ash from the eruption still look fresh today except where the ocean has nibbled away at the bottom of the volcano exposing black basaltic rock underneath. The Boiler, which is a pinnacle and manta cleaning station to the west of the island, is actually part of the remains of yet another volcano crater eroded away from long ago. San Benedicto is a fascinating place to visit but the one thing we can’t do is go ashore and explore. At least that was always our restriction until the recent advent of quadracopters. Yahooo. Video following is a flight up the east side of the main volcanic peak. The copter then returns to the Nautilus Belle Amie which is moored to the north of the lava delta.


Huge thanks to Michael Topolovac for sharing this footage with us.
Captain Mike



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