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A Geologic Tour of the Pacific Ring of Fire

7-Session Evening Series on Zoom

Monday, April 12 to May 24, 2021 - 7:00 p.m. ET
Quick Tix Code: 1NVROF
 $150 Package Member
 $160 Package Non-Member
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Most earthquakes and volcanic eruptions do not strike randomly but occur in specific areas such as those along tectonic-plate boundaries. Several of these define the Pacific Ring of Fire, where tectonic collisions drive the majority of our planet’s earthquakes and volcanoes, and over time created spectacular mountains such as the Andes and the Rockies. With its intriguing geology, the Ring of Fire has been a hotspot not only seismically and volcanically, but as a destination of interest for world travelers.

Join volcanologist and popular study tour leader Kirt Kempter as he leads a journey across seven regions of the Ring of Fire, exploring their distinctive geologic settings, and using maps, dramatic photos, and Google Earth flyovers to bring these destinations to life.

Please Note: Individual sessions are available for individual purchase.

APR 12  Costa Rica

The first stop on the itinerary offers a classic example of geologic processes observed across the Ring of Fire. Here Kempter explores the tectonic collision between the Cocos and Caribbean plates, resulting in frequent earthquakes and a chain of active volcanoes that reach from Costa Rica to southern Mexico. 

APR 19  Peru

Delve into the origin of the Andes Mountains, extending from Colombia to the tip of Patagonia, before looking more specifically at the geologic profile of Peru, including Machu Picchu and the famed granite rock used to construct this spectacular city in the central Andes. 

APR 26  Easter Island

Continue on to a place where a rising plume of magma from the earth’s mantle created an isolated island over the course of three million years, where volcanic vents and lava flows dominate the surface landscape. Examine the geology of the famous Moai statues, carved by the indigenous Rapa Nui. 

MAY 3  New Zealand

From glacially carved fjords to massive super-volcanoes, few countries on the planet have a more diverse and active geology than this stop on the Ring of Fire tour, as recent large earthquakes and volcanic eruptions testify.

MAY 10 Australia

Although it is slightly beyond the Ring of Fire’s boundaries, Kempter finds much of interest in this four billion-year-old continent’s distinctive geologic history, including sedimentary rocks formed as iron precipitated out of ancient oceans, some of the oldest fossilized remains on the planet, and iconic formations such as Uluru and the Bungle Bungle Range.

MAY 17  Japan

The geology of Japan is complex, in part due to the ongoing collision of three major tectonic plates. Large-scale earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis are relatively common, though Mt. Fuji, the iconic stratovolcano, is currently peaceful. Few countries have exploited geothermal energy to the degree of the Japanese.

MAY 24  Alaska

The globetrotting concludes in a state with a dynamic geology, marked by large-scale earthquakes and stunning volcanoes. To the west are the rumbling yet straightforward volcanoes of the Aleutian Islands, while southeastern Alaska, formed by millions of years of tectonic amalgamations of continental and oceanic crustal fragments, reflects a more complicated geologic profile.

7 sessions

Photo caption: Clockwise: Poás volcano crater, central Coasta Rica, Augustine Volcano, Alaska, and Mount Egmont, Stratford, Taranaki, New Zealand

NOTE: If you would like an overview of this subject, learn more in The Pacific Ring of Fire: A Geologic Overview streaming program on March 22, 2021.


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Inside Science

This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.