Northeastern Section - 56th Annual Meeting - 2021

Paper No. 11-2
Presentation Time: 8:25 AM


GOSS, Adam, 323 W. 22nd St, Houston, TX 77008

Jelle Zeilinga de Boer, raised in the shadows of Javanese stratovolcanoes, once called active volcanoes a “scornful mother” – as the often-destructive forces of eruptions associated with smothering ash falls and scorching pyroclastic flows have simultaneously nurtured vibrant cultures and filled abundant breadbaskets around the world. During his travels to active and dormant volcanic provinces, de Boer became fascinated by this paradoxical relationship and instilled in many an undergraduate an appreciation for the alpha and omega of geology. As with his work in Greece, where he proved the vapour-induced predictions of the Oracle of Delphi were due to migration of hallucinogenic hydrocarbon gas (ethelyne) via two intersecting faults, Jelle hunted for rational geological answers to explain mythology, history, and religion. From a volcanic standpoint, this culminated in the publication of Volcanoes in Human History (de Boer and Sanders, 2002) where the authors examine nine epic volcanic eruptions and the long reaching effects they have had on human history.

Inspired by de Boer’s passion in linking geology with mortality, I completed a Watson Fellowship in 2002 titled The Scornful Mother: The Active Volcano as Cultural Nurturer. The objective was to immerse myself within a myriad of communities at risk for active volcanic hazards to unravel the complex relationship between society, religion, superstition and modern volcanology. What is the role of the active volcano in the economic growth and development of communities at risk from volcanic hazards? How have religion, education, and politics aided or interfered with prediction and monitoring? Does society trust the advice of technology-wielding scientists or is the volcano is a mystical force bigger than human understanding? Finally, when inevitable disaster strikes, what is the response of the government, civic and religious leaders, teachers, children, volcanologists, NGOs, relief groups, and tourists? From the liquefied blood of St. Gennaro and memento mori in modern Naples to the intersection of scientific truth and legacy of a colonial past in Montserrat to Apo Namalyari of the Pinatubo Ayta in the Philippines, this work showed that volcanic processes have and continue to shape the diverse human condition.