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he ground shakes. Suddenly, it cracks open.


T e crack is right under my camera gear. I grab it just in time! Moments later, hot lava shoots out of the crack. It flies into the air and lands with a splatter. I’m used to such close calls. I’m a National


Geographic photographer. To get the perfect shot, I go to some of the most dangerous places on Earth. T ere’s nothing I love more than coming face-to-face with an active volcano. I’ve crawled into active craters. I’ve dodged


globs of erupting lava. I’ve stood on the edge of boiling lava lakes. It thrills me to think of where the lava


comes from. T is hot, melted rock starts as magma flowing deep inside Earth. It pushes up through cracks in Earth’s crust. Aſt er it erupts, the lava hardens into rock. It builds volcanoes. To me, volcanoes aren’t just mountains of


rock. When I’m standing on the edge of one, it feels like Earth is alive under my feet. T e sound of lava hissing, crackling, and popping is music to me. I’ve explored volcanoes all over the world.


My favorite volcano might surprise you. It’s not the most dangerous one. It doesn’t explode with huge fountains of lava. In fact, it may be the strangest volcano on Earth.


Getting There To get to this volcano, my team and I fly to


Tanzania. It’s a country in Africa. T en we hop into a 4-wheel-drive vehicle for a day of hard driving. First, we cross a vast valley. It’s hot, dry, and dangerous. Whirlwinds of dust called dust devils swirl in the distance. When we reach a dry riverbed, the car ride


suddenly gets extra bumpy. T is isn’t good. We have a flat tire, and we’re stuck in a bad place. T e driver nervously looks out for lions. He


keeps an eye on the sky, too. A sudden storm could cause a flash flood and wash us away. T e spare tire is bad, too. So we’re stuck


until morning. Finally, we get going again. T is valley seems to go on and on. T at’s because it’s not just any valley.


12 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC EXPLORER


Magma Rising Here, two giant pieces of Earth’s crust slowly


pull apart. T is action creates a giant riſt , or gap. T e movement weakens Earth’s crust. T at makes it easier for magma to bubble up here than in other places. Once magma reaches the surface, it’s called lava. In spots, lava erupts through cracks in the crust. I see proof of that in the distance. A big


mountain pokes above the valley floor. It’s the volcano. From far away, it looks like a typical stratovolcano. It’s shaped like a pyramid. T is volcano may have started to form 700,000 years ago. With each eruption, lava flowed and hardened. T en ash settled on top of it. Layer by layer, the volcano grew. Now its steep sides rise nearly 3,000 meters (9,700 feet).


This volcano in Tanzania looks like a pyramid. It’s called a stratovolcano.


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