India’s only active volcano, located 150 kms off the coast of Port Blair has started spewing ash and could explode anytime. Called the ‘Barren Island’ volcano, scientists from the National Institute of Oceanography observed the eruption from the site for about four hours in the month of January.

The Volcano’s first recorded eruption dates back to 1787, and there have been 10 more eruptions since that time, including the one this year. A statement released by NIO, based in Goa states, “On the afternoon of Jan. 23, 2017, the scientific team on board CSIR-NIO’s research ship R V Sindhu Sankalp were busy collecting sea floor samples in the Andaman Basin near the Barren volcano when it suddenly started spewing ash. The team moved about one mile from the volcano and began closely observing it. It was erupting in small episodes lasting about five to ten minutes.” It further states, “During the daytime only ash clouds were observed. However after sundown, the team observed red lava fountains spewing from the crater into the atmosphere and hot lava flows streaming down the slopes of the volcano.

This is the only historically active volcano along a volcanic arc connecting Sumatra and Myanmar (Burma). The small 3-km-wide island contains a 1.6-km-wide crater partially filled by a cinder cone that has been the source of eruptions since the first was recorded in 1787. Lava flows reached the coast during several recent eruptions, the most recent being the one recorded in the beginning of April 1991.

The island has no human residents and as the name suggests, is barren. However, citizens of India can charter boats to visit the island after obtaining permission of the Forest Department in Port Blair. The NIO team which witnessed the activity has collected samples of sediments and water in the vicinity, which will help in deciphering the nature of the present and past volcanic activity in the region. However, they did not land on the island because it was considered too dangerous.