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A Portrait of a World on Fire

by Donna O'Meara

      Within the oversized pages of Volcano: A Portrait of a World on Fire by Donna OíMeara lies the romance of these geological phenomena, detailed in beautiful photographs from all over the globe - and some from extraterrestrial settings. This lovely coffee table book presents a breathtaking glimpse of some of the 1500 volcanoes on Earth and more in space. Some of the volcanoes, craters, and calderas are famous, such as Mt. Vesuvius, Mt. Etna, Mt. Fuji, and Mt. St. Helens. Others are more obscure, located in places like Iceland, Indonesia, and Antarctica.

The book is divided into six chapters. Each one deals with a specific aspect of the life of volcanoes, from fiery mountains to crater lakes to giant ancient calderas. Some chapters handle magnificent magma flows, spectacular lava fountains, and unusual land forms created by molten rock. There is a chapter on the interface of volcanoes and the sea, as well as a chapter on volcanoes on other planets in our solar system.

Each page is dominated by a single photo, with several double-page images. Accompanying each chapter is a short introduction about the topic, and each photo is carefully annotated with some historical information about the volcano represented or an explanation of a particular type of lava, type of volcano, or type of pyroclastic flow. These photo annotations are short but packed with information. Some of the photographs in the book, especially those of lava activity in Hawaii, were shot by Donna O'Meara and her husband Stephen. The majority of them, however, come from other photographers and also include historical images, NASA photos, and high-definition satellite pictures. Many are rare and have never been published.

Donna and Stephen O'Meara, both noted volcanologists and photographers, make their home on the side of the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii. They founded Vocano Watch International. Donna's expertise adds telling details to what would otherwise just be lovely travel pictures of volcanoes. Instead, the oversized hardcover book is not only a joy to view, but also has solid scientific information and historic data to add depth to the reader's interest in volcanoes.

This edition, published by Cassell Illustrated in the UK, does include all of the idiosyncrasies of British spelling and usage. That doesn't detract from the work, but can be surprising for American readers. A paperback version called Volcano: A Visual Guide is available through the American publisher, Firefly Books. It, of course, has standard American usage and spelling.

The Book

Cassell Illustrated
October 2007
1844035522 / 978-1844035526
Non-fiction / Nature
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The Reviewer

Janie Franz
Reviewed 2008
NOTE: Reviewer Janie Franz is the author of Freelance Writing: Itís a Business, Stupid!and co-author of The Ultimate Wedding Reception Book and The Ultimate Wedding Ceremony Book. Coming Soon: The Ultimate Wedding Workbook.
© 2008