Mount Nyiragongo

Mount Nyiragongo is an active stratovolcano with an elevation of 3,470 m and 11,380 ft in the Virunga Mountains and it’s associated with the Albertine Rift valley. The mountain is located inside Virunga National Park, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo northern town of Goma and Lake Kivu western bordering with Rwanda. The main crater is about 2km wide and contains a lava lake. Nyiragongo’s lava lake has at times been the most voluminous known lava lake in recent history.

The volcano partly overlaps with two older volcanoes, Baratu and Shaheru, and surrounded by hundreds of small volcanic cinder cones from flank eruptions.

Hawaiian volcanic eruptions are also characterized by lavas with low silica content, but the Hawaiian volcanoes are broad, shallow-sloped shield volcanoes in contrast to the steep-sided cone of Nyiragongo, and the silica content is high enough to slow most Hawaiian flows to walking pace.

Mount Nyiragongo has erupted at least 34 times, including many periods where activity was continuous for years at a time, often in the form of a churning lava lake in the crater. The existence of the lava lake had been suspected for some time, but was not scientifically confirmed until 1948. At that time, it was measured at nearly 120,000 square meters and (1,300,000 sq ft). Subsequent expeditions showed that the lake fluctuated in size, depth, and temperature over time. The Nyiragongo Mountain and the Nyamuragira are responsible for about 40% of past volcanic eruptions in Africa.

This volcano also erupts with other older volcanoes; Shaheru and Baratu; these are also surrounded by many other undersized volcanic residue cones from the frank eruptions. Lava erupted is usually of fluid state and it’s made of melilite Nephelinite. This lava flow cause no harm to the life of humans due to low silica content inside it. The lava lake on the volcanic mountain is about 60 ft high and is in a wide steep-sided cinder cone which was created on the crater base.

There have been about 34 eruptions that have taken place around the Nyiragongo volcanic mountains and these include; the 1977 eruption, this happened when the crater walls of the volcano fractured which led to the draining of the lava lake within an hour. This led to the flooding of the lava down on the edges of the volcano and on the higher slopes which resulted into killing over seventy (70) people in the nearby villages. 1977 eruption that took place tried to raise awareness about the dangers of this volcano and it also created a fresh small volcano called Murara which is a few kilometers away from Nyamuragira.

2002 eruption, this happened after several processes of Fumarolic and seismic activities which happened on this volcano. There was a fissure that was released in the southern flank and was about 13km spreading from about 2800m to 1550m of elevation hence reaching the town of Goma which is the capital along the northern shores of Lake Kivu.

The lava greatly streamed towards the city of Goma, however over 400000 people had been vacated from the city to the border of Rwanda in Gisenyi town. Lava run and covered Goma airport raising threat that it might release larger amounts of Carbondioxide as well as Methane. This eruption killed over 147 people and the city of Goma collapsed due to the fact that the building was falling apart leaving over 120000 people without homes. Many more buildings in the city of Goma continued to fall due to the massive earthquake that continued to happen for close to 3 months following the eruptions.

The ongoing threats of mountain Nyiragongo include the Carbondioxide that killed many children up to the recent times. Also in places where gas was released from underground and dispersed in the wind had many deadly effects to the lives of the people. Just recently on the 8th of March 2016, the Goma observatory discovered yet another vent which opened at the Northeastern side of the crater; there is a possibility of this bringing yet another eruption in Goma town.

Mount Nyiragongo Hike tours are arranged by a number of reputable tour operators starting from Gisenyi Rwanda crossing to Goma in Congo and then the drive to Kibatsi village where the Nyiragongo trail head is situated.