Order out of chaos: In the volcano

At the start of the year I spent 10 days on Lanzarote in the Canary Islands.? The whole island has been created by volcanic activity and I was fascinated by its many different geological features such as the Jameos del Agua and La Cueva de los Verdes.

I also visited one volcano where you can walk into the crater created by an eruption. I climbed up the outside and looked down into it before I realised that you could just walk in at one point where there was a gap in the crater wall.

View of crater from above

View of crater from above

Looking down, I could see that people had created a spiral of stones in the centre of the crater.? But when I went inside I realised that this was just the most obvious sign of people making patterns with the volcanic rock

The rock spiral from closer up

The rock spiral from closer up

If you look carefully at the photo above you will notice that there are lots of small cairns built around the spiral.? There’s one in the very front of the photo that is quite obvious, but there were many, many more.

Looking around the inside of the crater I also saw that people had created representations of the volcanic crater using the rocks scattered around.

Representing the crater using rocks found inside it

Representing the crater using rocks found inside it

One person had decided to leave their mark by creating their initials using the stones. Two of the stones had been used to build something else so I found a couple to replace them.? This was mainly because I liked the coincidence that they are my initials.

Initials made out of stones

Initials made out of stones

While I was there a German family were also looking around, and the mum and son went and walked around the spiral, moving from the outside to the centre.? I did the same afterwards, and put an additional stone on the end of it, extending it just a little bit further.

All of this fascinated me.? If you want a symbol of the chaotic power of nature then you’ll have to go a long way to beat the crater of a volcano.? And here, in its centre, the human instinct was to make some kind of order out of it, to record it and to record our presence in it.

It was also striking that at the centre people had created something, the spiral, that was like a child’s game.? When I was there I thought how this was as though we were belittling the volcano and making light of its destructive power.

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