Mar 20, 200603:12 PMThe Life
Salton Sea mud volcanoes
Mar 20, 2006 - 03:12 PMInspired by Janice Kleinschmidt's excellent article in this month's PSL ("Sea of Wonders," p.110), my wife and I made our own mud-volcano pilgrimage yesterday. [Click any of these photos to enlarge.]
In 1876, Lieutenant E. Bergland visited these natural wonders and wrote: "The ground within an area of 200 by 500 yards is covered with large and small craters formed from the mud which had been thrown up into conical mounds. These mounds vary in height from 3 to 6 feet, and in diameter, at the base, from 5 to 20 feet. Some have large open craters, within which the hot mud can be seen constantly boiling and bubbling. At short intervals columns of mud are thrown up to the height of 4 to 6 feet, but no regularity in the pulsations could be discovered, nor did they occur at the same instant in the different craters. The smaller cones had small openings at the apex, from which issued sulphurous vapor with a hissing noise."
The largest eruptions we witnessed were somewhat smaller in magnitude, but they were quite impressive nonetheless. I stuck my finger into a couple of the liquid pools of mud, and they felt pleasantly lukewarm.
Here are some sound samples. The wind provides a strong counterpoint, but from 0:01 to 0:08, you'll hear the hissing of a gas-only vent. From 0:08 to 0:13, listen to the burbling of one of the mud-soup volcanoes. 0:13 to 0:21 is a second volcano, and 0:21 to 0:26 is a third.
If you visit this amazing area in Calipatria (the last few miles are on dirt roads, and don't get confused by the signs for Mud Pots - they're much less interesting), bring a set of galoshes or wear a pair of old shoes. It's a bit muddy in spots, but well worth the effort!