Balochistan’s Mud Volcanoes are a Geological Wonder:
The Balochistan province of Pakistan has a diversified landscape. The occurrence of 18 mud volcanoes is one of the many geological wonders here. It is home to the world’s largest and highest known mud volcano. The highest mud volcano here is 300 feet high. Balochistan’s mud volcanoes are not only found on land, but they also appear as little temporary islands in the Arabian Sea from time to time.
A Journey to the Mud Volcanoes:
To access the most well-known set of these mud volcanoes, take the Makran Coastal Highway (N10) west of Karachi. One must travel to Aghor, which is located near the Hungol River’s delta. A few kilometers north-east of Aghor are seven mud volcanoes. Further west, between Kutch and Gwadar, there are 11 mud volcanoes.
A Sacred Bond Between a Hindu Temple and Volcanoes:
There are two recognized mud volcano groupings here. ‘Chandargup’ is one, while ‘Jabl-ul-Ghurab’ is another. An old Hindu temple called ‘Hinglaj Temple’ or ‘Nani Temple’ is very close to Chandargup. Due to near proximity of the mud volcano to a Hindu temple, it is quite likely that the word Chandargup is actually derived from the word ‘Chandargupt’. Another term for this collection of volcanoes is ‘Chandra coop,’ which translates to “Moon Volcanoes.
Mud Volcanoes’ Function as Safety Valves:
Mud volcanoes are supposed to have roots that extend several kilometers underground and act as safety valves for high subsurface pressure.
Mud Volcanoes Discovered in Balochistan:
The presence of mud volcanoes in Balochistan was first reported around 1840. The Governer of Bombay hired Major (later Sir) Frederick John Goldsmid for special missions in 1862. A excursion into Makran from December 12, 1861 to January 18, 1862 was one such mission. Goldsmid and his entourage began their voyage overland from Karachi, keeping a diary of their journey up to Gwadar. This travelogue describes the mud volcanoes in detail, providing the first thorough record of their existence. He writes in his journal about travelling past boiling springs near Ras Koocheri and taking detours to view Hinglaj’s ancient Hindu temples and the mud volcanoes near Ormara. The Hindus regard these mud volcanoes as the home of the deity Babhaknath.
The Earthquake of 1935: A Fiery Eruption:
It is believed that during the historic 8.1 magnitude earthquake of Balochistan on May 31, 1935, a mud volcano erupted northwest of Quetta, near the village of Surab, and continued to spew mud for 9 hours.
On November 28, 1945.
An earthquake of 7.8 magnitude occurred in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Makran. The earthquake triggered a tsunami, with waves reaching as high as 13 meters in some locations. This tsunami killed 4000 people in Sindh and Baluchistan off the coast of the Arabian Sea. Destruction was widespread in the cities of Pasni and Ormara.
The devastation caused by the 1945 earthquake and tsunami:
The earthquake completely destroyed the village of Khaddi, leaving no survivors. Waves surged through Clifton and Gizri in Karachi, causing a significant rise in water levels. Sea water infiltrated the oil storage facilities at Kimari harbour in Karachi. The earthquake severed the underwater cable link that connected Karachi and Muscat in 1945. The lighthouse at Cape Monze, located 72 km from Karachi, sustained damage. The tremors strongly impacted Manora Island near Karachi Harbour. The 94-foot-high lighthouse atop Manora suffered damage, and a few pounds of mercury spilled.
Exploration Expedition: Exploring the Eruptions:
This earthquake rattled and vented the Hungol mud volcanoes so much that the gases emitted by the volcano ignited and flames rose several hundred feet into the air.
V.P. Sondhi’s Account:
The story of raging volcanoes erupting in Balochistan (1945) quickly circulated throughout India. There were additional reports of volcanic outbursts in Lasbela State, Balochistan, from RAF planes flying in from the west. So, on the 2nd of December, 1945, one Peter MartinKaye, stationed at the Korangi Creek Royal Air Force Flying Boat base, and his friend Peter Woolf, also stationed at the Korangi Creek base.
They took two weeks leave from the base commander and set off on an expedition along the Makran Coast on camels provided by the Wazir of Lasbela State to investigate what had happened when the earthquake and tsunami struck. When they arrived at the vicinity of three active mud volcanoes (named Chandragup, Ranagup, and Rajagup), they decided that the quake had released a large amount of gas, which ignited in a blazing explosion, giving rise to the accounts of volcanic eruptions.
Sondhi reported that a self-igniting plume of gas has erupted:
V.P. Sondhi also observed the formation of three mud volcano islands in the Arabian Sea near Makran. These off-shore mud volcanoes did not last long, as the Arabian Sea’s tremendous wave action dissolved the muddy islands within months. These mud volcanoes had vanished by the end of 1946.
Arabian Sea Mud Volcanoes:
According to geological study, the mud volcanoes that emerge from the Arabian Sea are composed of highly viscous mud with a high gas concentration. towering buoyancy forces propel the mud up, and over time, a towering mud ridge or mountain emerges out of the sea.
Mud Volcano Geology:
In 2002, scientist G. Delisle documented the development of a new mud volcano island in March 1999 near the same location. This time, it appeared to have formed without an earthquake, but unfortunately, wave action destroyed it a few months later.
Mud Volcanoes of Balochistan and Tourism: A Potential Attraction
Gas eruptions of such volcanoes are more frequent and intense in other nations, such as Azerbaijan, which has the highest number of mud volcanoes in the world, and they are really a tourist attraction.
Natural Wonders Preservation: Balancing Tourism and Conservation
Tourism should be permitted, but only within a safe distance from these sandy monuments. I also recommend visiting these volcanoes, not to mention the pleasure of travelling down the magnificent Coastal Highway, which merits its own post.
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