Mud volcano. Image: wikipedia commons
Mud volcanoes are channels for releasing pressurized gas and mineral water from great depths of the earth (even 812km) and depositing them on the surface where they form cones that can reach up to 700m in height, although usually they are about 1m high. The width, on the other hand, can range from a few centimeters to a few kilometers. They are also close cousins to magmatic volcanoes. Both types of volcanoes can erupt powerfully and throw flames to great heights, both can spew out millions of cubic meters of clay from the bowels of the earth, and both can create islands if they erupt from the floor of the sea (Source: Azerbaijan International). However, unlike magmatic volcanoes, mud volcanoes are at ambient temperature and may even be cool. Another distinctive feature of mud volcanoes is that they are one of the visible signs of the presence of gas and oil deep beneath the surface of land or sea.
Mud volcanoes in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan and its Caspian coastline are home to nearly half of all mud volcanoes on earth – there are between 200 and 300 of them in the country, located mainly in the eastern part fo Azerbaijan. The two largest mud volcanoes in Azerbaijan are Kinezadagh (397m high) and Turaghay (400m high). When the first one erupted on the 10th of October 2001 it sent flames shooting out 300m into the air, the highest recorded flame height from a mud volcano eruption.
Locations of mud volcanoes in Azerbaijan. Source: Azerbaijan International
Are they dangerous?
Mud volcanoes in Azerbaijan occur in uninhabited areas thus they usually don’t have any disastrous impact on the population. However, there were episodes when they caused serious damage and loss of life. For instance, according to local residents, an eruption of a volcano, which took place northeast of Shamakhi, resulted in the deaths of six shepherds who were camping in its crater. About 2,000 sheep in their flock were killed as well. There is also a legend about destruction of an entire settlement known as ‘Old Gilady’ during an eruption that took place sometime in the 15th century. Fortunately, such events are extremely rare.
Explosion of Kinezadagh, 2001. Source: BBC News
Where to find them?
The best place to see mud volcanoes in Azerbaijan is probably the Gobustan National Park. Make sure you go with a driver who knows where to find them because there are no indications in the park. Also, keep in mind that some taxi drivers will want to take you only to the petroglyphs and will refuse to go further as the road is unpaved and rather difficult for a regular car. Ask us and we will be happy to advise.
Gobustan mud volcano. Image by notebooklovespen
Another good place to find them is the Shirvan National Park. There you will find some indications leading to the volcanoes although the park’s guide discourages from going there mainly due to the long road of a poor quality.
Mud volcano in Shirvan National Park. Image by Kuba Bak
Things to keep in mind
Mud volcanoes are a good fun but – especially when traveling with kids – remember to bring a few extra bottles of water to wash off the mud, and some clean clothes to change!