A Volcanic Victoria
Would you believe me if I said that you only had to drive 40 minutes out west from Melbourne to see a volcano? Although I wouldn’t recommend venturing around Victoria just yet, when the travel restrictions ease, there are some fantastic volcanic sites to see right in our own backyard!
But first, what is a volcano?
A volcano is almost like a doorway between the hot inner layers of the Earth and the cooler outer layer of the Earth’s crust. They come in all shapes and sizes. Iceland, for instance, is home to a variety of volcanoes, from the tall and formidable Öræfajökull to the smaller, and comparatively gentler, fissure volcanoes.
Hot magma made in the Earth’s mantle, flows (or erupts) up and out through openings (vents or fissures) in the Earth’s crust. Magma can be quite thick and viscous or thin and more fluid. Think of the consistency of honey compared to peanut butter!
Depending on what the lava (magma’s name once it’s outside the volcano) is made up of, it flows differently. Whether lava meets with ice or water and whether there’s a lot of high pressure gas being released with it, there are many things that affect just how explosive an eruption can be. Think of the time you had oil in a pan and you accidentally got some water into it and it sputtered everywhere. Now imagine that magnified and add in hot rocks and ash. Basically a cloud of destruction.
Although terribly devastating, volcanoes are really important for lots of reasons including soil fertility, power generation and even tourism. Life on Earth may have been impossible without their fiery contribution.
Volcanoes of our own
You only have to drive out west to areas like Rockbank to start seeing bumps along the horizon. One of these bumps include the humble Mount Cottrell which although it doesn’t look it on first glance, is the largest of the Victorian shield volcanoes. Although I don’t know if you can actually climb to the peak (the last time I was there fourteen years ago, it was fenced), it’s a structure that can be fully appreciated from afar, especially from the You Yangs, another great place to visit if you’re keen about rocks!
Now if you’ve been to Daylesford, you’ve probably heard of the Hepburn Springs. But have you heard of Mount Franklin? Other than being a beautiful picnic area, it’s also a picturesque example of a breached scoria cone. You’ve probably seen scoria in people’s gardens or driveways, the red and bubbly-looking little rocks.
There are many more beautiful places to visit such as Mount Elephant (another magnificent breached scoria cone), Lake Bullen Meri and Gnotuk (a pair of beautiful volcanic lakes) and the Organ Pipes (which were created by lava flowing from Mount Holden).
Rumblings in Victoria?
The NPV is still thought to be active and geologists have continued to look and understand where and how an eruption might happen in Victoria. Although the eruption may not happen anytime soon, it’s always very useful to start thinking about how an eruption might look so we can be somewhat prepared if one were to happen.
If you want to know more:
- Not an exhaustive list but it’s got some good ones: https://mediahub.visitvictoria.com/inspiration/six-must-visit-volcanoes-victoria
- Volcanoes 101 by National Geographic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNGUdObDoLk
- One for when we can cross the border again: https://www.environment.sa.gov.au/topics/heritage/state-heritage-areas/Mount_Gambier_Volcanic_Complex