Oldoinyo Lengai expedition II

from 6.27.04 - 7.7.04,



part 1


Organisation by Fred Belton, report of Th. Boeckel, Martin Rietze


  in deutsch


Cinema    Cinema

The 1st  day  Arusha – Lake Natron – Lengai



a dusty affair. As a pre taste for the Oldoinyo Lengai camp we could feel the pure fine dust which was creeping through every little chink.



Protective wall: Each settlement is surrounded with a solid wood barricade which should keep away wild quadruped, tourist etc..... Like Martin needs to say: The human beeing in this region of the world does not belong to the end of the food chain. In this landscape it is amazing under which hard conditions the Masai people can survive.




 The  Lengai with the typical wild life and morning impressions on the 'Mountain of god'


   2nd  day:



The Lake Natron with its magnificent bird world


3rd  day: The ascent



To evade the hot temperatures the ascent of the expedition was started around 1 o'clock at night. Beside our luggage, 35 porters transported in stages 250 litres water, meals for twelve persons for eight days up to the 2835 m level of the north crater. The summit height of this volcano is about 2955 m. While concentrating to balance the cameras and the other optics over the steep and rocky slopes the Masais were ascending like gazelles. Additionally an extreme cold and strong storm was treating us badly. Inside the crater plateau pieces of loosen lava were taken up from the storm and facial collisions has been very painful. Together with the cement-like dust in the crater camp it was nearly impossible to film or taking photos. Nice to imagine if that weather disaster would have continued the next eight days. Nothing as dust before the camera... plus small scratches on the films.The pictures shows the Masai- porter after our arrival at the summit. The dark atmosphere resulted from the strong sandstorm. Here we met also the Chris Weber group which observed the volcanic activities already five days before.



The always changing landscape of the northern crater plateau. The lava flows expanded during one week over the south and north east part.


The map is based on the GPS measurements of Chris Weber. The link to the site (V.E.I.) is at the end of this page


The T58 Cones from the afternoon into the night


Lengai and astronomy




The southern Milky Way and the Zodiacal light * (Wide angle, 20 mm )




Night photos of the cones. This fantastic scenery acquires the digital exposure technology. In case of the long exposure times, the red incandescence walls of the main cone did become effective on the chip. For the human eye the reflection at the white cone walls of the weak shining lava lake was hard to discover.


* Zodiacal light. Illuminated space dust which is concentrated in the ecliptic layer of our solar system. Every body or planet belonging to our system leaves a little track of material (dirt) while orbiting around the sun. In equatorial areas this light pyramid is standing nearly vertical. Straight on waking up from my midday nap the first activity already announced itself. The T58 C cone broke laterally and up to 10 meter high ejections were catapulted out from the hole. For the first time I saw this strange lava mass silvery shining in the sun.



This highly liquid lava which changes immediately into the AA lava consists mainly of Natriumcarbonate (Soda).During the observation I saw one detail that this lava at the south cone had pearl-like components and already with the exit a minimum roll effect was resulting from this partial viscosity. This strange behaviour of currency which differs also acoustically from the silicate lava was moving very rapidly, and you must react very fast to evade larger lava quantities during an eruption.

The temperature measurement of the Chris Weber group some days before was about 560 C°


4th day; Collapse of the bridge

The activities were still going on through the night. At the same time a loud lava lake made itself attentive in the main cone T56 B, which was observed from us standing on a lava bridge. There was only one big problem. Assuming by us falsely, this bridge should have be of a good static condition.



On the photo you can see us standing on the bridge. Right: The first setting cracks of the weakened nature building already start s to get bigger.

To create the general tendency more precarious in our group - take the lava bridge inside the cone T56 B and step on it around 19:30, to recognise afterwards that this plateau was broken down half an hour later – completely!!!

To our surprise no base pillar exists under this bridge and after the breakdown the wild raving lava lake with a supposed diameter of 15 meters was offered to us. If someone would have been on this natural cantilevered construction we would have had a dead- surely barbecue at this time. Now it is also understandable why Fred Belton was running after this discovery extremely nervously to the camp to count every one. Nearly coming in trouble, I have to mention Olivier and Fabian: They did experience this happening more promptly. They stood 15 minutes before the collapse on this dammed bridge.




5th day; free view into the lake


However, the collapse of the bridge had the big advantage that we had finally a free view on the lava lake. More respectfully we placed ourselves again at this place and recognised also that the cone wall partly broke down too. The picture from Martin shows the abruptly ending footprints at the edge. Nevertheless a marvellous sight. Standing inside cone the gurgling noise was amplified so strengthened that we did almost had problems understanding our own words. Nice to mention that from the distance (camp) the sound reminded me of a mild sea surf. Together with the full moon a great romantic atmosphere!



The photos from Martin shows the open lava lake after the collapse

Read Fred Belton’s web site. Here you will get the latest information

Fred Beltons homepage

Exploration of Lengai Dipl.-Geol. Frank Möckel (German)

More Infos of Oldoinyo Lengai on Chris Webers V.E.I Site

Excellent photographies of the tour in Jeff Browns

Patrick Kosters Web site, PaKos Photography


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©  Photos by Martin Rietze (mr), Photo & text by Thorsten Boeckel (tb) ,  last modification 19.08.2004