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El Reventador    


This active stratovolcano is located in a remote area of the higher Amazon jungle region near the San Rafael Waterfalls. A younger composite cone arose1300m above an older caldera with a diameter of 3 km, which was formed by an edifice collapse and is breached to the east. It reaches a height of 3560m and its geographical co-ordinates are 0.078S and 77.656W, which locates itself 90 km east of Quito.


January 9th of 2003

On the picture to the right, you can see how the younger cone arises from the older caldera floor. The caldera is breached to the east, where there is access into the caldera filled with large boulders, which are overgrown with small bushes and plants. The crater on top of the cone is wide and deep and part of the rim was destroyed by the huge eruption of November 3rd, 2002. Lava descends into the caldera when stronger explosions occur.


. El Reventador has a history of explosive eruptions, lava flows and lahars. It is well documented that those events were seen as far away as Quito and that ashes fell occassionally on the capital. The last period of eruptions occurred in the sixties of the last century and from then on the volcano entered into a period of lesser activities till November 3rd of 2002, when a huge explosion took everybody completely by surprise as no forewarning at all was given (see story below).


         Quito, November 3rd, 2002 at 2 pm

El Reventador had a major eruption on Sunday, November 3rd after 35 years of slumbering peacefully with no visible sign of activity. This eruption with a vertical ash column, reaching a height of 15 kilometer and ejection of hot pyroclastic material of 400 C+ and lava flow down the flanks, surprised everybody with no advanced warning at all. The eruptive process started early in the morning and the huge explosion occurred at around 9 am. Ashes covered in the following hours an area in the Amazon and Andes of 20 000 square kilometers from the border to Colombia and south to Cuenca. Ashes began to fall on Quito, 90 km west of it, at around 2 pm and continuing on into the night, covering the entire city with up to one centimeter of a fine ash layer. Mud flows reached the main road connecting Quito with Lago Agrio and blocking the access to the nearby villages, where around 1500 people left the area, leaving behind their belongings and animals. No victims were reported yet but 5 cm of ash has covered the surrounding areas making the pasture inedible for the cattle. The oil pipeline, which connects the oil producing areas in the Amazon with the Pacific coast, still is functioning as most of it is underground passing the volcano. In Quito, the international airport was closed and classes suspended for a week. Dusty conditions prevailed for the following days and the sun was blocked out by the fine ash particles suspended in the air. November 4th was declared a work free day for people so they could start to clean the ashes off their yards and roofs.


Cayambe, Ecuador's third highest peak, is a volcano covered by a mighty glacier, some 60 km straight west of Reventador and was completely covered by ash from its eruption. This photo was taken on December 25th, some 7 weeks after that event and shows the west side, facing away from Reventador. A similar fate happened also to Chimborazo a few times in the last years, however receiving the ashes from Tungurahua. This combination of ash and ice makes for a very hard ice surface, difficult to climb on.


The lahar, by-product of the first explosion, which is an avalanche of a mixture of lava, water and mud destroyed parts of the road from Quito connecting to Lago Agrio (Photo was taken by the author on January 9th, 2003).


Latest Update:

Danger alert: none as it is not monitored
As predicted by experts, the volcano continued with lesser eruptions after the initial strong one. Smaller ash columns and fumaroles can still be observed on clear days but pyroclastic and lava flows ceased to be. An increase in activities occurred in the summer of 2005 with lava flows.

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