Hi! My name is Ms. Graham. I am a teacher at the Marymount School of New York. Join me as I investigate the effects of Masaya, an active volcano in Nicaragua!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Gravity, GPS, and Bats... Oh My!

Today I saw my first volcano... and it was amazing. As you can see, the Masaya volcano, or more accurately, the Santiago crater, or caldera, in the Masaya volcano (because there are many craters in the volcano, but Santiago is the only active one) constantly emits gas. The cloud in the picture is actually a mix of water vapor, carbon dioxide, and most significantly, sulphur dioxide. Though we did not do so today, in the next few days, we will take air quality measurements to quantify the sulphur dioxide. We will also follow the plume of gas as it travels west toward the Pacific coast. Any idea why this might be important?

The measurements we did take today include gravity readings and GPS readings. GPS readings are important so that we know where we are around the volcano and support the more important gravity measurements. Gravity measurements are taken around the volcano to surmise what might be happening under the ground in terms of magma activity. (I will explain more about this tomorrow and bonus points to the person who can accurately report back with the equation for calculating gravity!!) I think one of my favorite parts of today was listening to the magma; you can't see it, but you can clearly hear something that resembles the sounds of waves crashing on the beach.

My last adventure today was exploring a lava tube in the caldera, which is basically a cave that was created by lava flow from a prior eruption (the last eruption was in 1772!). This area is now a bat cave, so I braved the darkness and uneven terrain to steal a glimpse of a few hundred bats (they were small and cute!) both flying and hanging around in their natural habitat. To my relief, they didn't mind me, or my flashlight, at all. Thank goodness.............


video

41 Comments:

At March 1, 2010 at 8:57 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe you got to listen to the magma! Too cool. I have yet to see an active volcano in my life- definitely on my bucket list.
Did the sulphur dioxide stink? Good luck tracking your plume!
Nice work at the Bat Cave today Ms. Graham. I'll be checking on you tomorrow- same Bat time, same Bat channel!
Ms. Seshadri

 
At March 2, 2010 at 8:10 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since you are no longer on the "precipice"of learning and are now up close and personal with the volcano- Mia was wondering what kind of rocks this particular volcano has produced. Do they have large crystals or small ones? Her mommy told her it has something to do with how long it takes the magma/lava to cool.
Keep us posted Ms. Graham.
Best-
Mia Seshadri

 
At March 2, 2010 at 10:55 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello from VB - Here we are testing our blogging to you! Sincerely, we miss you,
Ms Z

 
At March 2, 2010 at 10:57 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ms. Graham!
I hope you are having lots of fun. Are any other teachers from other schools on the expedition with you? Also, can this plume of gas be seen? Good luck!
Cheers,
Marella Class VIIB

 
At March 2, 2010 at 11:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

if there are any crystals, have you seen any? also can you take any? because that would be SO cool!!! Also does the gas smell like magma? and have you seen the volcano erupt?? Because THAT would be cool too, although you can't sell magma... so... have fun!!!
-Dani VII-B

 
At March 2, 2010 at 11:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi!I hope you are enjoying you are enjoying expedition.I have one question: what was your favorite of part of seeing your first volcano,Masaya volcano?
Good Luck,
Tylor J. VIIB

 
At March 2, 2010 at 11:03 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like you're having a great time! Was it scary going into the lava tube? When was the last time the Masaya Volcano/ Santiago Crater erupted? It's so cool that you can hear the magma! :D
~Isabelle L.

 
At March 2, 2010 at 11:03 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello ms. Graham,
Glad to see how its going in Nicaragua. It's so cool to get to see the volcano smoking. Does it smell bad? How hot is it up there?
Have Fun!
Lauren M. & Nitya C. class 7

 
At March 2, 2010 at 11:03 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ms. Graham!
How is Nicaragua? Is it warm? The video was really cool, it looks really smokey, is it? It also looked like you were really high up, on top the volcano, is it really deep?
Have Fun!
Sarah Class 7

 
At March 2, 2010 at 11:03 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ms. Graham! I hope that you are having a lot of fun. What you are doing sounds amazing. I have a question, what do you have to wear when you go to see the volcano? Any protective gear?

-Leigh W.
VII-B

 
At March 2, 2010 at 11:05 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Ms. Graham,
Greetings! We find it so cool that you got to listen to magma from an active volcano. So far, your trip sounds like lots of fun and that you're learning a lot. We can't wait to read more of your interesting blogs.

-Catherine B and Angela

 
At March 2, 2010 at 11:05 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope your having a lot of fun on your trip! I was wondering if you knew what kind of bats were in the cave? Can't wait to hear more about Nicaragua! We miss you!

-Eugenia

 
At March 2, 2010 at 11:08 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's so cool that you could listen to the magma! I hope you enjoy the rest of your trip in Nicaragua!

 
At March 2, 2010 at 11:08 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amelia R. class V-B
Hi Ms. Graham!
You must have been brave to go into a bat cave! I would be so scared! How are the weather conditions so far on the volcano? The movie that you took was so cool! You could see the gas coming out of the volcano! I hope you have a nice and safe trip!

 
At March 2, 2010 at 11:08 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Samantha C. VB
Hi Ms. Graham,
You must have been scared in that bat cave. I know I would be. So how are the weather conditions? It look like in the video that it was pretty foggy. Was it really hot near the volcano? I hope your having fun, I really miss you.

 
At March 2, 2010 at 11:11 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow that's so cool I would be so scared to be right next to a volcano!
To answer your question about the gas I think it would be important because maybe the gas will make the Pacific Coast warmer. I am so happy that the last eruption was in 1772 so you will be safe! Miss you!
Love Isabelle R. VB

 
At March 2, 2010 at 11:12 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Claire.C VB
Hi Ms. Graham,
How are you? It is so cool that you got to see a real volcano! Are you going to be looking at more than just one volcano or will you be looking at a couple different ones?
Have fun!

 
At March 2, 2010 at 11:12 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ms. Graham! It sounds like you are having a wonderful time in Nicaragua! I was wondering what types of tools you had to use to do your research?

-Claire C.
VII-B

 
At March 2, 2010 at 11:12 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

PAZ SM:
That is so awesome! Was it scary going into the cave? I hope you are having lots of fun! You are so lucky you got to see an active volcano, they look so cool!!! I can't wait 'till the skype meeting. We all miss you so much.
Sincerely,
Paz-VB

 
At March 2, 2010 at 11:14 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sheila M. Class V-B
Hi Ms.Graham! Your adventure into the bat cave sounds really cool! I would be scared if I were you! How is the weather in Nicaragua? We miss you!
-Sheila

 
At March 2, 2010 at 11:14 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sophie R Class V-B
Dear Ms Graham,
It must have been really cool to see a volcano up close! Do you know about how tall the volcano was? Was it scary to hear magma so close to you? I can't wait to talk with you on Friday!

 
At March 2, 2010 at 11:14 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isabelle C. Class V-B
Hi Ms. Graham!
Wow! That volcano looks so big and interesting, I can't believe you will actually get the chance to go inside. That was so cool that you got to actually listen to the magma inside the volcano. We miss you so much!

 
At March 2, 2010 at 11:14 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Claudine d Class VB
Were you scared to go in the lava tube? I bet it was pretty cool. Was it really hot by the volcano? I think seeing a volcano up close would be really fun. You are really lucky Ms. Graham! I miss you Please keep us updated!

 
At March 2, 2010 at 11:14 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ms. Graham, I hope that you are enjoying your time in Nicaragua and are learning many new things. I was wondering what organization supported your trip there? Thanks!

-Chrysoula P.
VII-B

 
At March 2, 2010 at 11:14 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kate C V-B
Hi Miss Graham, Wow! You got to see bats?! Thats so neat! Thank goodness they did not attack you! What has been the most interesting thing you have seen so far? What were the type of bats you saw? Was the lava tube in the volcano? Do you know how long the lava takes to dry up? I have a lot of questions! I miss you!

 
At March 2, 2010 at 11:15 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Natasha L. VB
Hi Ms.Graham! I have a lot of questions but I will only ask you a few. How long are you out studying volcanos everyday? Is it really hot to be near one? I really hope you are having a great time! What are you doing right now? Is it really cool to be studying volcanos everyday? It is very cold here. I miss you!
from
Natasha L.
P.S. was the bat cave really scary?

 
At March 2, 2010 at 11:18 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lillian N V-B
Hi, Ms Graham was the lava tube, just the coolest thing ever, I bet it would be. How hot is the weather by the volcano? Was the bat cave a little bit scary? I think it would be. How long are you out studying the volcano?

 
At March 2, 2010 at 11:18 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ms.Graham,
How is your trip so far? What is your favorite animal you have seen so far? (If you've seen any yet) What types of clothing do you wear when you go visit the volcano? Miss you and hope to see you soon!
Emma VB

 
At March 2, 2010 at 11:20 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Claire L. Class V-B
I wondered what magma would sound like, but I never thought it would sound like waves. I thought it would sound like bubbling. Did you see any other animals besides the bats at the volcano? What did it smell like up there? How fast does that plume of smoke travel? We all miss you!
-Claire

 
At March 2, 2010 at 11:20 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maggie V-B
Hello! I was wondering if the Masaya Volcano is above sea level or below see level? If it is, how many feet is it above or below sea level?
I miss you so much!
Bye!

 
At March 2, 2010 at 11:20 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is so cool that you get to see an active volcano! To answer your question about the gas, I think that when the gas gets to the pacific ocean it will affect sea life by killing some animals and maybe make global warming worse. I can't wait for you to come back to school!
Sincerely,
Isabella F. V-B

 
At March 2, 2010 at 11:20 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lily M. VB
I can't believe that you are on an active volcano! That is just to cool. Also you walked through an old lava tube! If I were you I would be way too scared! Were you scared? Also how high is the volcano? Were you scared of the bats? I hope you have a awesome time, and i can't wait to read your next blog!
Sincerely,
Lily

 
At March 2, 2010 at 12:10 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was wonderful seeing you on Skype today and hearing about your experiences. I am especially impressed with your excursion to a bat cave!
Ms Johnson

 
At March 2, 2010 at 12:27 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

That all sounds really cool, Ms.Graham. I think that it is important to follow the gas because, since it's a volcano, gas is what forces magma upward (or what forces it to erupt), so you can predict when the volcano will next erupt. Either that or maybe you need to follow the plume of gas to learn even more about what is in the gas, possibly effecting how it travels.

Have an excellent time in Nicaragua!

Best wishes,
Zoe IV-B

 
At March 2, 2010 at 12:32 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's me again!
Have you seen any igneous rocks? Do you have any pictures of the bats? What have you learned about volcanos so far? Are you enjoying your stay in Nicaragua? What is your favorite thing about the Masaya volcano?

Kind Regards,
Zoe IV-B

 
At March 3, 2010 at 9:33 AM , Blogger Tracy Graham said...

Good morning! For some reason, only five of these comments are showing up, so I'll respond to these now and the rest when they finally appear. Sulphur dioxide, the gas emitted from the volcano, doesn't smell like you might expect (I was counting on the rotten eggs smell personally). It has a faint smell, that tends to tickle your throat and cause some minor coughing, and possibly eye irritation. For that reason, our whole group carries gas masks, though we have not had to use them out of necessity. (I say necessity because it's kind of fun to put them on and take pictures!). I haven't been west yet to see if I can see the plume of gas with my own eyes further away, but you can certainly see it at the volcano site, and it's extremely obvious on satellite maps.

The rocks you can find around the Masaya volcano are all basalt rocks; no granite or pumice here! The basalt comes in different forms, such as scorea or ash, but it's all basalt. Because of this, there are no crystals, which yes, are formed when igneous rocks cool slowly underground, such as in the case of granite.

Many of you have been curious about the bat cave! Yes, it was a little scary, being pitch black and uneven grounding, but totally worth it!

 
At March 3, 2010 at 2:47 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alex IV-B

Dear Ms. Graham I miss you so much. I cannot wait to see you on Skype. I have so many questions to ask you. See you then.

From,
Alex IV-B

 
At March 3, 2010 at 5:58 PM , Blogger Tracy Graham said...

I'm back for part II to answer your wonderful questions. The weather here, as predicted, has been VERY hot... actually hotter than I expected. One of our primary investigators told me today that while she was out on another trail this afternoon, she recorded a temperature of 40 degrees celsius. I didn't realize until a few minutes ago that it's the equivalent of 104 degrees fahrenheit! It has been particularly hot yesterday and and today, and this weather is expected to continue for the rest of the week. I hear it snowed today in New York, right? The temperature at the top of the volcano is actually not any hotter than the rest of the crater. It's typically a little bit cooler because it's higher up and has a stronger breeze, which significantly cools you. Today and yesterday I was in a trail mid crater, and there was little to no wind or shade.

So far, I have been wearing a t-shirt, shorts, sunglasses, hiking boots, and a hat on and off. I carry a gas mask with me daily as well. In terms of tools, on the first day we used gravity meters and GPS units, Tuesday I used a magnetometer, and today we mostly used our own eyes as survey tools. I actually did not go up to the volcano today, but was still in the crater and could see it, but generally someone checks on it daily, and each day the lead scientists are in contact with the park guards who are always knowledgeable about activity. I have only been studying the Masaya volcano, which as we know, is comprised of multiple craters, though only one is active (the Santiago crater, which is about 200 meters deep). The lead scientists are actually studying several volcanos, including one in Costa Rica.

 
At March 3, 2010 at 6:41 PM , Blogger Tracy Graham said...

Kudos to Isabella F and Isabelle R in Class V, and Zoe in Class IV for taking a stab at why sulphur dioxide might be cause for concern in the environment! Good guesses girls! Most of the volunteers here guessed the same... that sulphur dioxide might be a greenhouse gas, but in fact, it is an atmospheric coolant! But don't get too excited... it doesn't counteract global warming because it's in the wrong part of the atmosphere. Sulphur dioxide is an environmental concern because of the contaminating effects it has on plants, animals, humans, and structures. When mixed with water, sulphur dioxide becomes sulphuric acid, or acid rain. Acid rain contaminates plants, which are eaten by both livestock and people, and people may also eventually eat the livestock, which presents a real health concern. Additionally, sulphuric acid corrodes surfaces and had led to such deterioration that roofs have collapsed.

No one has yet volunteered the equation for gravity yet!!!

 
At March 3, 2010 at 10:03 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding Gravity:
I won't give the formula- but it has something to do with what goes up must come down, and the bigger you are the harder you fall--trust me I should know!
Ms. S

 
At March 4, 2010 at 12:47 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Miss Graham,
If someone fell into the volcano would you die from hitting the ground, pressure, or from the smells and gasses?

Bye Bye,
Samantha IV

 

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