The World’s Eighth Lava Lake Was Just Discovered on a Remote Sub-Antarctic Island

Mount Michael from above.
Mount Michael from above.
Pete Bucktrout, British Antarctic Survey

Lakes of flowing, angry lava hidden within volcanoes are not as common as movies like The Lord of the Rings and Shrek would have us think. Before today, there were only seven known persistent lava lakes on Earth.

British satellite images just confirmed the eighth, inside the crater of Mount Michael, an active volcano located on Saunders Island, a British Overseas Territory (BOT) in the Southern Ocean near Antarctica, Gizmodo reports.

False color image of the lava lake in Mount Michel
This false color image captured by Landsat 8 shows the red lava lake within Mount Michael's crater.
Landsat 8, British Antarctic Survey

The existence of the lava lake wasn’t exactly a surprise; researchers from the British Antarctic Survey and University College London have suspected as much for as long as 30 years. In the 1990s, images showed thermal anomalies around the crater, but the resolution of the images wasn’t good enough to prove anything. With the help of satellites Landsat, Sentinel-2, and ASTER, they now know for sure, and they’ve published their findings in the latest issue of the Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research.

Mount Michael’s lava lake is impressively terrifying. Though it’s not the largest in the world (that record is held by the Democratic Republic of Congo's Mount Nyiragongo, whose lava lake reaches 820 feet across), this lake's diameter ranges from 295 to 705 feet, which is almost as long as two football fields. And it can heat up to 2334°F—at that temperature, your cast iron skillet would melt into cast iron soup.

It's also the first discovered in a British territory. The others are located in Ethiopia, Antarctica, Nicaragua, Hawaii, Vanuatu (which has two), and the aforementioned Democratic Republic of Congo.

"We are delighted to have discovered such a remarkable geological feature in the British Overseas Territory,” author and geologist Dr. Alex Burton-Johnson from the British Antarctic Survey said in a statement. "Identifying the lava lake has improved our understanding of the volcanic activity and hazard on this remote island, and tells us more about these rare features, and finally, it has helped us develop techniques to monitor volcanoes from space."

For more on monitoring volcanoes from space, check out this incredible photo of a volcano eruption taken from space just last week.

[h/t Gizmodo]

You Can Now Go Inside Chernobyl’s Reactor 4 Control Room

bionerd23, YouTube
bionerd23, YouTube

The eerie interior of Chernobyl’s Reactor 4 control room, the site of the devastating nuclear explosion in 1986, is now officially open to tourists—as long as they’re willing to don full hazmat suits before entering and undergo two radiology tests upon exiting.

Gizmodo reports that the structure, which emits 40,000 times more radiation than any natural environment, is encased in what's called the New Safe Confinement, a 32,000-ton structure that seals the space off from its surroundings. All things considered, it seems like a jolly jaunt to these ruins might be ill-advised—but radiology tests are par for the course when it comes to visiting the exclusion zone, and even tour guides have said that they don’t usually reach dangerous levels of radiation on an annual basis.

Though souvenir opportunists have made off with most of the plastic switches on the machinery, the control room still contains original diagrams and wiring; and, according to Ruptly, it’s also been covered with an adhesive substance that prevents dust from forming.

The newly public attraction is part of a concerted effort by the Ukrainian government to rebrand what has historically been considered an internationally shameful chapter of the country's past.

“We must give this territory of Chernobyl a new life,” Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelensky said in July. “Chernobyl is a unique place on the planet where nature revives after a global man-made disaster, where there is a real 'ghost town.' We have to show this place to the world: scientists, ecologists, historians, tourists."

It’s also an attempt to capitalize upon the tourism boom born from HBO’s wildly successful miniseries Chernobyl, which prompted a 35 percent spike in travel to the exclusion zone earlier this year. Zelensky’s administration, in addition to declaring the zone an official tourist destination, has worked to renovate paths, establish safe entry points and guidelines for visitors, and abolish the photo ban.

Prefer to enjoy Chernobyl’s chilling atmosphere without all the radioactivity? Check out these creepy photos from the comfort of your own couch.

[h/t Gizmodo]

Invasive Snakehead Fish That Can Breathe on Land Is Roaming Georgia

Mohd Fazlin Mohd Effendy Ooi, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Mohd Fazlin Mohd Effendy Ooi, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

A fish recently found in Georgia has wildlife officials stirred up. In fact, they’re advising anyone who sees a northern snakehead to kill it on sight.

That death sentence might sound extreme, but there’s good reason for it. The northern snakehead, which can survive for brief periods on land and breathe air, is an invasive species in North America. With one specimen found in a privately owned pond in Gwinnett County, the state wants to take swift action to make certain the fish, which is native to East Asia, doesn’t continue to spread. Non-native species can upset local ecosystems by competing with native species for food and habitat.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division is advising people who encounter the snakehead—a long, splotchy-brown fish that can reach 3 feet in length—to kill it and freeze it, then report the catch to the agency's fisheries office.

Wildlife authorities believe snakeheads wind up in non-native areas as a result of the aquarium trade or food industry. A snakehead was recently caught in southwestern Pennsylvania. The species has been spotted in 14 states.

[h/t CNN]