Between a Rock and a Hard Place


A fond farewell

A fond farewell

Since August 2013, Elspeth and Charly, editors of Between a Rock and a Hard Place, have contributed a range of interesting and thought-provoking posts to the EGU network blogs: from a broad volcanology and petrology theme, through to sharing valuable insights they picked up during their journey towards completing their PhDs.

However, the PhD theses are now submitted and defended, and Elspeth and Carly are fully immersed in the ‘real-world’ of work! With their careers now in disciplines outside of the Earth sciences, the editorial duo has decided that it is no longer viable to maintain the blog as part of the EGU blog network. Sadly, the time has come to wave goodbye.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place had an earlier home, prior to joining the network, and you’ll be able to keep up to date with Elspeth and Carly (and a wider blogging team) here. All the posts they shared via the network are also archived there, so you’ll be able to revisit your favourites from their three years as EGU bloggers too. You can also follow Elspeth and Charly on twitter.

From the EGU, we thank Charly and Elspeth for contributing excellent content to the blogs and wish them the very best of luck for the future.

By Laura Roberts, EGU Communications Officer

Science Snap (#34) – Kick ’em Jenny

Kick ’em Jenny is a submarine volcano located 8km to the north of the Caribbean island of Grenada. It lies close to the small, uninhabited volcanic islands of Ronde, Diamond, Ill Caille and Les Tantes, though no physical evidence of the volcano is evident from land.


Location of Kick ’em Jenny. Credit: USGS

At least twelve recorded eruptions have occurred since Kick ’em Jenny’s discovery in 1939 (the last in 2001), and it is currently the most active volcano in the Lesser Antilles arc. Underwater surveys conducted over the last 50 years have demonstrated that the summit lies at a depth of between 150 – 250m below sea level, with the height varying as the volcano goes through cycles of dome growth and collapse. [Read More]

Supervisor profile #3: Dr Matt Watson


Dr Matt Watson


Senior Lecturer in Natural Hazards

PhD (2000) “Remote Sensing of Tropospheric Volcanic Plumes”




1) The Twitter challenge: Describe your PhD in 140 characters (if you can remember it)

I used ground- and satellite-based data to quantify volcanic emissions in order to look at volcanic plumbing systems and plume chemistry.

2) What was the best part of your PhD?

Fieldwork with Clive Oppenheimer and Peter Francis. Their schoolboy excitement and English eccentrism coupled with a significant mischievous streak (mostly Clive) set against the backdrop of Etna, Masaya and Soufriere Hills made for some memorable experiences. [Read More]

Science Snap (8): White Island erupts!

James Hickey is a PhD student in the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol. A geophysicist and volcanologist by trade, his PhD project is focussed on attempting to place constraints on volcanic unrest using integrated geodetic modelling.

White Island is a small volcano roughly 30 miles off the coast of the Bay of Plenty in New Zealand. It is part of the Taupo Volcanic Zone, which is also home to the impressive Lake Taupo, a flooded caldera that formed in an eruption (a ‘super-eruption’ if you must) approximately 27,000 years ago. White Island, or Whakaãri in Maori, has been one of the most active volcanoes in New Zealand for the past 150,000 years, and its close accessibility makes it a haven for volcanologists and tourists alike. It was even once mined for sulphur. However, its danger shouldn’t be underestimated.

On the evening of the 11th October 2013 (local time) a small explosive eruption occurred, throwing up a column of ash and depositing mud over the crater floor – as can be seen in the image below (and check the video here, including volcanic lightning at 15 seconds). Alert levels were immediately raised and the Aviation Colour Code upped to Orange. This activity was preceded by 15 months of unrest, that is deviation from the background behaviour of a volcano towards a level that might be cause for concern in the short-term. The aviation warning was soon reduced back down, but the volcanic alert level remains at 2, as a similar event can be expected without prior warning.

Before (left) and after (right) images of the small eruption taken from a web camera positioned on the north crater rim. You can clearly see the mud layer deposited by the explosion. Image credit: GNS Science


Fortunately no one was injured in this recent eruption. But as this island offers such a unique opportunity for tourists, with up to 10,000 visitors a year, there is a real need to maintain the monitoring and improve our understanding of the processes that preclude volcanic eruptions.

Above: a photo I took as a bumbling 18 year-old tourist in 2006 whilst on a visit to White Island. It’s likely the stream of people in the picture would have been seriously injured by the eruption that took place. In the background you can see steam from fumaroles that give the island its ‘White’ name. Credit: James Hickey