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Unusual techniques for an unusual volcano – Monitoring Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano, Tanzania


Kate Laxton
University College London

ABSTRACT: Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano truly is one of a kind, famous for its cool fluid natrocarbonatite lava flows and explosive alter ego. From 1983 until 2007, natrocarbonatite flows gradually filled the deep 1966 crater until Ol Doinyo Lengai unexpectedly exploded again in September 2007, forming a new crater over 100 m deep. Since 2009, effusive activity has resumed on the crater floor but access to precious lava samples and gas measurements was then considered impossible.With the aid of technical skills and equipment provided by Vertica Ltd and DMM Wales, our expedition team successfully rigged the summit of Ol Doinyo Lengai, stretching 300 m lines across the active crater. From here, we were able to deploy a multitude of unusual sampling techniques including suspended MultiGAS traverses and lava sampling. Over the course of eight days at the summit, we collected the most comprehensive dataset of volcanic gas emissions from within the crater itself. Using the same rig, we were also able to bring back lava samples scooped directly from the belly of an open lava pond, the first samples retrieved in over 12 years. Chemical and experimental results from these will help us to further investigations into carbonate-silicate interactions, explosive cycles and degassing mechanisms at Ol Doinyo Lengai. 

BIO:  I am a doctoral student at University College London, aspiring to improve volcanic monitoring networks in resource-poor regions of the world. My PhD focuses on Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano in northern Tanzania, the only actively erupting carbonatite on Earth. This project now forms part of a wider network of collaborations, working to improve the volcanic monitoring capacity of the United Republic of Tanzania. I first delved into the world of volcanology as an undergraduate, studying the health hazards associated with ultra-fine volcanic ash. From there, I volunteered at the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory monitoring Kilauea’s gas plume. This inspired me to return to school, where I completed a Master of Research degree at the University of Leeds, investigating the birth, life and death of the Kyushu Palau Ridge and its reincarnation into the present day Izu-Bonin-Mariana volcanic arc system.