Mayon Volcano

The Mayon Volcano is an active stratovolcano in the province of Albay, in the Bicol Region, on the island of Luzon, in the Philippines. The current cone was formed through pyroclastic and lava flows from past eruptions. Due to its symmetrical cone, the Mayon volcano is considered to be the world's most perfectly formed volcano. Mount Mayon is the most active volcano in the Philippines and has erupted over 49 times in the past 400 years. The first recorded major eruption was in 1616. Its 48th eruption was a quiet effusion of lava on July 14, 2008, which was provoked when a lahar, or mudslide, was caused by Typhoon Durian in November of 2006. Another slight summit eruption occurred on August 10, 2008. Currently the volcano is faintly erupting and may be escalating to a larger dangerous eruption.


As shown in the picture to the left, the Mayon, with a summit of 2,462m (8,077ft) this volcano rises high above the Albay Gulf. The steep, upper slopes of the volcano average from 35 to 40 degrees and are capped by a small summit crater. The sides of the volcano are layers of lava and other volcanic material. At a latitude of 13°15'24"N and longitude of 123°41'6"E the Mayon is located in the province of Albay, in the Bicol Region, on the island of Luzon [1]. The Mayon Volcano is the main landmark of Albay Province, Philippines. This volcano is an active stratovolcano producing basaltic-andesitic rock. Stratovolcanoes are symmetrical, conical volcanoes and tend to be the most common volcanoes with infrequent, explosive eruptions. These volcanoes are built up of alternating layers of pyroclastic debris and moderate viscosity solidified lava flows creating a very solid volcano. These volcanoes mainly produce andesitic rock and are characterized by a steep profile. The lava that flows from the Mayon volcano and other stratovolcanoes tends to be viscous, cooling and hardening before spreading far.
Photo: [6] "The Mayon Volcano"

Since the Mayon volcano’s first eruption in 1616, close to 50 eruptions have occurred. Eruptions occur predominately from the central conduit and have also produced lava flows that travel far down the flanks [2]. Pyroclastic flows and mudflows have frequently swept down many of the approximately 40 ravines that radiate from the summit and have devastated many populated towns. Mayon's most violent eruption, in 1814, killed more than 1200 people and devastated several towns [3]. Shown in the bottom left picture, ash clouds rise above a pyroclastic flow on September 12, 1984 [7]. The advancing pyroclastic flow is seen at the bottom right of the photo. These pyroclastic flows traveled down to 100 meters elevation at rates of about 20 meters per sec.This illustrates how explosive these eruptions can be.009056.jpg
Photo: [7] "Mayon Volcano Ash Cloud"

The Mayon is currently in the state of an on-going eruption. In the month of July 2009 the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) raised the status of alertness of the Mayon volcano to Alert II which is characterized by “moderate unrest” [4]. By December 2009 it was raised to Alert IV due to an increasing amount of lava flow in the southern section of the volcano and an increased amount of sulfur dioxide emission. As shown in the picture to the upper right, a lava flow hazard map depicts the dangers in regards to the increasing amount of lava flow[5]. Consequently, almost 460 earthquakes in the volcano were monitored daily and in the areas surrounding the volcano, thunder-like sounds were heard. During the month of December of 2009, about 44,394 people, totaling over 9,000 families, were evacuated by the Philippine government. The government prohibited any civilian to be within the 8 km of the recorded danger zone. This danger zone was strictly patrolled by the Philippine military.
The latest change in alertness from the PHIVOLCS occurred on January 13, 2010, where they reduced the alert level from III to II. Photo: [5] "Lava Flow Chart"

The Mayon volcano is associated with a cultural legend attempting to unravel the mystery of the origin of this beautifully, symmagayonlegend.jpgmetrical mountain. Photo: [8] "The Legend of Magayon" The Legend of Magayon begins with Daragang Magayon the only daughter of the tribal chief Makusog. Daragang Magayon, meaning “Beautiful Lady” grew up to be a gorgeous, sweet woman who won the hearts of many young men in neighboring villages [9]. One man, Pagtuga fell deeply in love with Magayon and got angered when he heard the news that Magayon was to be married to Panginorin. Pagtuga and Panginorin fought for the love of Magayon. Pagtuga sent news to Magayon that unless she marries him, her father will die and a war will erupt. Panginorin defeated and killed the enemy Pagtuga but when Magayon went to embrace her hero she was hit by an arrow and died. Panginorin was then killed by Pagtuga’s henchmen. The beautiful Magayon was buried next to her lover in a grave dug up by her father [8]. As the days passed, villagers noticed how the grave seemed to grow and grow until earthquakes and fire seemed to explode from it. People of the Philippines believe that when this happens Pagtuga angers the volcano to get back his love. But when clouds cover the volcano and rain falls down the slope of the mountain, people say that it is Panginorin kissing Magayon, crying that they could never marry. Over the years, the perfect cone-shaped volcano of Magayon was shortened to Mayon and resembles the perfect beauty of Magayon [10].

Is an eruption imminent?

In the Philippines, the Mayon Volcano has displaced tens of thousands of people because of a likely eruption. Lava, ash falls, and earthquakes warned scientists that an eruption was on the way. On December 14, 2009, the local volcano observatory raised the alert level to III, which means that “magma is close to the crater and hazardous explosive eruption is imminent.” Level IV means an eruption is considered imminent and the highest level of Level V means an eruption is taking place. The Philippines is situated in the so-called Ring of Fire, an arc of fault lines circling the Pacific Basin that is prone to frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Mayon's most violent eruption, in 1814, killed more than 1,200 people and ruined several towns. Its last major eruption was in 1993. Since then, it has remained restless, emitting ash and spewing lava.

Due to the explosive activity that occurred in December of 2009 many believe that an eruption is imminent. Countless research and evidence supported the belief that an eruption would take place but with the passing months since the initial explosive activity, the latest observations are saying otherwise.

On January 2, 2010 the Alert status was lowered from IV to III and on January 13, 2010 the Alert status was lowered from III to II. On March 2, 2010 there was a notice to lower the Mayon Volcano’s status from Alert Level II “evidence of magmatic intrusion that could eventually lead to an eruption” to Alert Level II “no hazardous eruption imminent”. Since then the volcano’s amount of volcanic earthquakes has shrunk to a normal number of 0-4 per day, the volcanic tremors associated with magma movement within the volcano conduit were limited or nonexistent, ground deformation measurements showed a deflated volcano edifice indicating the absence of fresh supply of magma, the sulfur dioxide (SO2) emission rate has normalized, and the steam emission was weak and passively rising from the summit crater [11]. All of these observations indicate that the Mayon Volcano’s condition is improving and will most likely be returning to normal. PHIVOLCS is now lowering its alert status from Alert Level II to Alert Level I; therefore an eruption is not imminent.

The Mayon Volcano is a fascinating and beautiful wonder of the world. Since its first eruption in 1616 many eruptions have taken place and will continue to take place. As the most active volcano in the Philippines, the Mayon gets a lot of attention especially with the recent explosive activity at the end of 2009. With a major eruption being questioned, onlookers are awaiting until this astounding land mass erupts again.


[4] "Mayon Volcano Bulletin 31". Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology. 2010-01-13. Retrieved 2010-01-13.
[5]Lava Flow Image:
[6] Mayon volcano Image:
[7] Mayon Ash Cloud Image:
[8] Mayon Legend Image: