Part memoir, this book is, in author Richard V. Fisher’s words,”mostly about walks and talks with some of the volcanoes that I have studied, visited, climbed, or contemplated. It is not a scientific document… This too, is a partial autobiography to explain to my children what I was doing those too many summers absent from home.”
Fisher’s specific area of research was pyroclastic flows and surges (briefly, heavier-than-air hurricane-like clouds of volcanic particles mixed with hot gases). He says that he’s gratified that others have been able to build on his work.
As a young man, he is a witness to the detonation of atomic bomb experiments in the Bikini Atoll and shortly thereafter “stumbled” onto geology. The reader is taken to different volcanoes in the chapters that follow. He sees Fisher camp in an isolated area near Puu Hou in Hawaii, 50 feet away from the shore where waves crashing continuously. He watched as the author inspects Mount Pelée, which killed all but one of the roughly 20,000 residents of St. Pierre, Martinique in 1902, as well as Vesuvius, which destroyed Pompeii in the First century. There trips to many other volcanoes, including Mount St. Helens.
Since this is for the general reader, Fisher, who was professor of Geological Sciences at UC Santa Barbara for many years, takes times to explain some basic geology and volcanology both in the text and with a glossary at the back of the book. Each chapter ends with a reading recommendation. He also provides black and white photographs throughout, many of them his own.
Fisher has written an enjoyable and informative book for the general reader.