Few natural occurrences are more impressive than a geyser’s repeated eruption.
A geyser’s eruption pans out as a stunning visual event with a powerful, sulfurous stench and mass of heat. A good geyser engages all the senses.
Few people, however, could name more than one or two. Come with us on a recon of the world’s most breathtaking geysers – giant plumes of wrath bursting out of the earth.
Old Faithful is the definitive geyser. You will find it in Yellowstone Park, which fits, given geysers’ close association with the yellow element sulfur. Yellowstone, in Wyoming, is an ancient American icon and home to some of the most famous geysers in the world. Despite it’s age, it is high-tech and bursting with webcams that expose the antics of the likes of Old Faithful. You can watch the eternally youthful energy pulse live online whenever you like. Old Faithful is special in lots of ways. For starters, it was the first geyser in the park to be given a name. Also, it is renowned for its clockwork regularity. Old Faithful is one of the most predictable geographical features on Earth, erupting almost every 91 minutes, hence, its name. During one of those eruptions, its height can top 180 feet (55 meters). The water temperature at the Wyoming wonder’s opening is exceedingly hot – think 203 to 204 degrees Fahrenheit (95 to 95.6 degrees Celsius).
Grand Prismatic Spring
As its name implies, Grand Prismatic Spring is wilder and more exciting than fellow Yellowstone landmark steady, Old Faithful. Additionally, Grand Prismatic Spring has all kinds of claims to fame. For starters, Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in the United States and the third largest in the world, after Frying Pan Lake in New Zealand and Boiling Lake in Dominica. The 300 feet-wide geyser with the dazzling name stands in the Midway Geyser Basin, which writer Rudyard Kipling dubbed “Hell’s Half Acre.” Grand Prismatic Spring is blessed with dazzling coloration – it dishes up blue, green, yellow, orange, gold, red and brown, as in the rainbow spread of light yielded by an optical prism. Grand Prismatic Spring almost feels as if it was created to offset the dour steady power of Old Faithful. Grand Prismatic Spring’s burning color stems from pigmented bacteria in the microbial mats sprouting from the rim of the mineral-rich water.
Steamboat Geyser strengthens the sense that Yellowstone Park is Geyser Central – the hotbed for the world’s most jaw-dropping geysers. Steamboat Geyser is especially striking because it ranks as the world’s tallest active geyser. During massive eruptions, Steamboat Geyser kicks up over 300 feet (90 m) into the air. Seen from afar, it looks like the site of a rocket explosion. Up close, it showers you with pungent, mineral-rich water. For hours in the aftermath of its occasional big-ticket outbursts, Steamboat thunders, producing searing spurts of steam. Enhancing the drama, you never know when the next big eruption is set to happen. Sometimes, it takes some long breathers. For instance, it lay dormant between 1911 and 1961 when it roared into action. A serious Steamboat Geyser eruption can last no less than 40 minutes – quite a show. Columns of boiling water soar to heights of up to 100 meters, succeeded by a raucous steam phase that can last more than a day, loudly spewing steam almost 200 m into the air.
Lady Knox Geyser
Moving on from Yellowstone Park, the next destination is the extreme sports magnet of New Zealand. Welcome to Lady Knox Geyser. The geyser with the deceptively genteel name lies in the Wai-O-Tapu area of the Taupo Volcanic Zone. Lady Knox Geyser was discovered by prisoners in the early 20th century, who supposedly sparked an eruption by adding soap to its water. Eruptions reach a height of up to 65 ft. The fireworks can last for over an hour. The forceful landmark is named for Lady Constance Knox, a daughter of the 15th governor of New Zealand. You wonder if she had such a fiery temper. Obligingly, Lady Knox Geyser bursts into life at 10:15 AM every day when a park guide coaxes her to perform by dropping a bar of soap into her gullet.
No round-up of the world’s wildest geysers would be complete without a visit to Iceland. One of the country’s top geysers, Strokkur, whose name means “churn,” is even more obliging than Lady Knox Geyser. A lot more, actually. Strokkur erupts with sensational regularity every four to eight minutes, surging up to 130-feet high. You can see why, in a country synonymous with messy eruptions, Strokkur is a legend. Strokkur is part of Haukadalur geothermal zone, which is riddled with geothermal quirks, including mud pools, fumaroles (steam vents) and algal deposits. Then, there are the rival geysers. Don’t miss the equally spectacular Geysir - the force behind the name of the phenomenon under the spotlight. The name Geysir itself comes from the Icelandic verb “geysa,” meaning “to gush.”
Have you ever visited these thunderous geysers? Send us your pictures on Facebook or on Twitter @DegreeMen.
Cover photo credit: LassenNPS / Flickr.com