The Paricutin Volcano Surged Suddenly In The Cornfield Of A Farmer

Parícutin is a volcano located in the Mexican state of Michoacán, near the city of Uruapan and about 322 km west of Mexico City. The volcano surged suddenly from the cornfield of local farmer Dionisio Pulido in 1943, attracting both popular and scientific attention. This eruption presented the first occasion for modern science to document the full life cycle of an eruption of this type. During the 9-year life span of Parícutin, scientists sketched and mapped it, took samples as well as thousands of photographs of this volcano. By 1952, the volcano left a 424 meter high cone and significantly damaged a 233 km2 area with the ejection of stone, ash and lava. Three people were killed, two towns were completely evacuated and buried by lava and three others were heavily affected. Hundreds of people had to be permanently relocated, with two new towns created to accommodate the migration of people. Although the area still remains highly active volcanically, Parícutin itself is quiet and has become a tourist attraction, with people climbing the volcano itself and visiting the hardened-lava covered ruins of the San Juan Parangaricutiro Church.

The eruption began on February 20, 1943, at about 4pm. The center of the activity was a cornfield near the town of Parícutin, owned by Dionisio Pulido. During that day, he and his family had been working their land, clearing it to prepare for spring planting. Suddenly the ground nearby where they were working swelled upward and formed a fissure between 2 and 2.5 meters across. They report that they heard hissing sounds, and smoke which smelled like rotten eggs, indicating the presence of hydrogen sulfide. Within hours, the fissure would develop into a small crater.

Pulido reported: “At 4 p.m., I left my wife to set fire to a pile of branches when I noticed that a crack, which was situated on one of the knolls of my farm, had opened . . . and I saw that it was a kind of fissure that had a depth of only half a meter. I set about to ignite the branches again when I felt a thunder, the trees trembled, and I turned to speak to Paula; and it was then I saw how, in the hole, the ground swelled and raised itself 2 or 2.5 meters high, and a kind of smoke or fine dust — grey, like ashes — began to rise up in a portion of the crack that I had not previously seen . . . Immediately more smoke began to rise with a hiss or whistle, loud and continuous; and there was a smell of sulfur”.

He tried to find his family and oxen but they had disappeared so he rode his horse to town where he found his family and friends, happy to see him alive. The volcano grew fast and furious after this. Witness Celedonio Gutierrez, who witnessed the eruption on the first night reported: “When night began to fall, we heard noises like the surge of the sea, and red flames of fire rose into the darkened sky, some rising 800 meters or more into the air, that burst like golden marigolds, and a rain like artificial fire fell to the ground”.

The Paricutin volcano surged suddenly in the cornfield of a farmer

The Paricutin volcano surged suddenly in the cornfield of a farmer

The Paricutin volcano surged suddenly in the cornfield of a farmer

The Paricutin volcano surged suddenly in the cornfield of a farmer

The Paricutin volcano surged suddenly in the cornfield of a farmer

The Paricutin volcano surged suddenly in the cornfield of a farmer

The Paricutin volcano surged suddenly in the cornfield of a farmer

The Paricutin volcano surged suddenly in the cornfield of a farmer

The Paricutin volcano surged suddenly in the cornfield of a farmer

The Paricutin volcano surged suddenly in the cornfield of a farmer

The Paricutin volcano surged suddenly in the cornfield of a farmer

The Paricutin volcano surged suddenly in the cornfield of a farmer

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