Into the Inferno (available on Netflix) is the title of Werner Herzog’s documentary about volcanic eruptions and the people who live under their threat.

It is fascinating because it looks at volcanology from a scientific and cultural perspective simultaneously, covering a number of different locations around the globe. Whilst Clive Oppenheimer, Herzog’s collaborator on the film, casts an analytical eye over the science of volcanism – volcanic gas sensing, petrology, volcano seismology and tephra studies, Herzog himself examines how the fear and awe of the volcanoes translate in to ritual and religion.

One of the problems that volcanoes present are their erratic nature. At this point in time there are active volcanoes underseas that cause giant tsunamis when they erupt, resulting in large numbers of potential casualties. The more research that is done, the more we may be able to predict, and prepare for these natural catastrophes.

Geography or Earth Sciences can lead to real-life implementation, Oppenheimer has written a wonderful book exploring the hard science behind studying Volcanoes – what we know, and where the gaps in our knowledge lie: Francis, P. and Oppenheimer, C., 2004. Volcanoes, Oxford University Press. Geography and Earth Sciences Applicants might further want to think about the importance of the study of magmatic and volcanic processes, and the methods through which volcanoes can be analysed. You may be interested to pursue the field by visiting this research group – http://www.volcano.group.cam.ac.uk/

Those interested in Anthropology and cultural studies should pay particular attention to the ways in which volcanoes have been integrated in to the symbolic and ritual life of certain communities, and consider the inter-relationship between the environment and culture. Those interested in this area may want to consider reading ‘Pigs for the Ancestors: Ritual in the Ecology of a New Guinea People Paperback’ (2000) by Roy Rappaport

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