Feb 21st, 2010 |
Volcanic activity is not something new to Saudi Arabia. Because of western Saudi Arabia’s location along two tectonic spreading centers, eruptions and lava flows have been reported in the region throughout history. The last known one, in fact, was around 1810 AD. In recent times, there was a volcano scare last year where over 2,000 people were evacuated from the Al-Ais province in the Western Madinah region. While the frequency of these events may seem rare in human life terms, it still makes Saudi Arabia a very ‘happening’ place in geological terms. The results of this geological activity can be quite spectacular.
The Harrat Khaybar volcanic field in Saudi Arabia. Image courtesy of NASA, taken in 2008.
The region around the Wahbah crater is located in Saudi Arabia’s 5,900 square meter Harrat Kishb volcanic field. Estimates have placed its formation in the Pleistocene age (about 2 million to 12,000 years ago). The Harrat Kishb field also contains a massive lava field, a large region of nearly flat basalt rock, formed by even lava flows. This black rock shows up quite prominently in satellite photos.
The Wahbah Crater, on the western edge of Harrat Kishb. The large black area is the lava field. Photo courtesy: Google, Imaged in 2010
Because of the extreme winds the Wahbah crater is known for, it is generally inadvisable to set up an unshielded camp at the edge of the crater. As such, our expedition to the crater opted to camp in to the east of the crater, at the northeastern edge of the Harrat Kishb lava fields. On the above map, you can locate our campsite by heading east, along the edge of the lava fields, until you reach the small island of sand, just off the edge, but surrounded by black.
See it BIG
Make it small
Arriving at our campsite, the area described above. Numerous rocks, chipped from the surrounding lava flows, litter the area. An offroad vehicle is absolutely needed to make it here.
A view, looking south, of the Harrat Kishb lava fields. The flat fields of basalt rock are formed by lava flowing over the surface and cooling thousands, if not millions, of years ago.
Surrounded by the lava flows, this site makes a cozy location to set up camp. Many years ago, we would be surrounded by molten rock and steaming gases.
As the sun gets closer to the horizon and the shadows get longer, the smooth fields are transformed into a jagged landscape. And yet, thanks to the warm light, its strangely beautiful.
It would take far too much effort to explain everything in this image. So I'll state the obvious. This is Owen (left) and Liam (right) with Ito (middle) as we waited for the sun to set over the horizon.
This ranks as one of the most beautiful sunsets I have seen in Saudi Arabia.
Temperatures can drop very rapidly in the desert. As the sun dips over the horizon, there is very little left to trap the thermal energy (greenhouse effect) radiated by the sand and basalt.
A warm campfire, however, does well in keeping campers cozy until the next morning... So do hot burgers and rich desserts. But that's another story : )
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