It’s Halloween, so what better time to look at some of the creepier names in the world of volcanoes? Ever since people stared up at erupting volcanoes and thought “Huh, I guess that thing might kill me,” volcanoes have engendered a lot of fear and apprehension. So it’s no wonder that a pile of them have horrific-sounding names. Now, this list is by no means complete–I created it by looking at the Global Volcanism Program’s Holocene and Pleistocene volcano lists, so I likely missed a bunch of scary names in tongues I don’t understand. But it’s a good start, and if you have any suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments.
Here they are: my ten best Halloween-themed volcanoes.
Jornada del Muerto, New Mexico: We’ll start off with a volcano named “Route of the Dead Men” (mostly thanks to its remote, inhospitable location). Jornada del Muerto is a small shield volcano almost in the middle of New Mexico. The whole desert Southwest is pockmarked with these small, basaltic volcanoes, likely related to Basin and Range extension across that part of the continent. Although it likely hasn’t erupted since 760,000 years ago, Jornada del Muerto is near a potential magma body located under Sorocco, so it could be a place of renewed activity sometime in the future.
Alligator Lake, Canada: Now, I suppose Alligator Lake isn’t a particularly frightening name, unless you are afraid of alligators. However, did you notice that this Alligator Lake is in Canada? You know, that country that is more-or-less bereft of the large reptiles? Something must be especially frightening about this lake to get this name. Alligator Lake is a collection of cinder cones, shield volcanoes, and lava flows in the Yukon(!) that likely hasn’t erupted since the last Ice Age. Canada is actually full of spooky volcano names, including Crow Lagoon, Dark Mountain, and Hoodoo Mountain.
Devil’s Garden, Oregon: Look at enough volcanic terranes and you’ll find a bevy of names related to ol’ Scratch himself. Devil’s Garden is another lava flow field that stretches to the east 0f Newberry Caldera in central Oregon. This area is also full of lava tube caves from these voluminous basalts that might be as young as 10,000 to 20,000 years old. Oregon also features another Devilish volcano in the Devils Hills chain on the southern slopes of South Sister, a linear array of rhyolite domes that erupted in the last few thousand years, along with the nearby and disturbing Three Fingered Jack.
Monte Vulture, Italy: Monte Vulture is a bit of an oddball. It is located to the east of the Appenines and has quite a violent history, although it might be nearing the end of its volcanic lifespan. The volcano features a caldera at its summit but no one can agree on exactly when and how the caldera was formed. Over 150 square kilometers around the volcano are blanketed by the volcanic ash and debris from its eruptions, the most recent of which occurred ~420,000 years ago.
Descabezado Grande, Chile: One of my favorite volcano names, Descabezado Grande, translates to “the big beheaded one.” It is located in one of the most volcanically active areas in Chile, flanked to the south by Cerro Azul and Quizapu and to the east by the Calabozos caldera (which sent a dacitic lava flow almost 32 kilometers to reach the edge of Descabezado Grande). In 1932, Quizapu produced one of the largest explosive eruptions of the last few hundred years, and Descabezado Grande followed with a VEI 3 eruption of its own in 1933. A number of rhyolite flows and domes are found across the area as well.
Traitor’s Head, Vanuatu: Traitor’s Head is actually a peninsula on the island of Erromango, a string of three smaller volcanoes once part of another island that connected to Erromango after a series of eruptions. Nothing much has happened at Traitor’s Head from what we know, but some submarine volcanism had been noted in the 1880s and 1950s off the northern coast of Erramango.
Spokoiny, Russia: Alright, so there is nothing specifically Halloweeny about this volcano, but its name did remind me of “spooky,” which gets it somewhere. The nearest I can tell (using Google Translate), Spokoiny translates to “quietly” in Russian, which is a little odd considering it is a volcano. I suppose the name does make sense as it is one of the quieter volcanoes on the Kamchatka Peninsula, with no known eruptions over the last 5,000 years–unlike its very noisy neighbors like Shiveluch, Kliuchevskoi, and Kirimsky.
Devil’s Desk, Alaska: I know I covered Devil-related names above, but I couldn’t pass this one up. I mean, I suppose the devil does want hell to be fully furnished and when he/she gets down to business, and a desk would be handy while writing up those soul purchases. So, that’s where we find Devil’s Desk, an eroded remnant of a volcano that pokes through a glacier in Alaska. Heavy glaciation in Alaska means that although it is beat up, it could have erupted in the last 10,000 years, although most likely it hasn’t been active for over 250,000 years. It is also in the same volcanic complex of Mount Denison, possibly the only potentially-active volcano named after a small, liberal arts college.
Mount Terror, Antarctica: Part of Ross Island, you’d think Mount Terror would be a little more, well, terrifying. It isn’t even the most active volcano on Ross Island–that distinction belongs to nearby Erebus. It does feature TERROR POINT and TERROR SADDLE and TERROR GLACIER, which sounds pretty amazing, but even the name “Mount Terror” isn’t from some frightening event or feature of the volcano. Instead, it was named in honor of the HMS Terror, which was lost exploring the other of Earth’s poles. However, in a quirk of history, the Terror belong to the Vesuvius-class of bomb ships, so hey, volcanoes! Mount Terror likely hasn’t erupted in over 800,000 years, but that doesn’t stop it from having one of the best Halloween-related volcano names on Earth.
Hell’s Half Acre, Idaho: We’ll end the list with one of the best Halloween names of all: Hell’s Half Acre. Now, much like Devil’s Desk, you have to ask yourself why the devil would decide to purchase a measly half acre in Idaho, but who knows what the Lord of Darkness is thinking most of the year. Hell’s Half Acre, which actually covers over 400 square kilometers (Hell’s 98,842 Acres?) is yet another lava flow and shield volcano field that is part of the Snake River Plain, a lowland created by the Yellowstone hotspot track. Some of the lava flows from Hell’s Half Acre can be traced 10 kilometers, making it one of the largest lava flow fields along the Snake River Plain. Most people don’t think of Idaho as a place of active volcanoes, but Hell’s Half Acre likely erupted only about 3,200 years ago, so native Americans living in the area would have seen the eruptions.