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Kate Humble and geologist Iain Stewart are broadcasting live from the world’s most active volcano, Kilauea, in Hawaii. It’s a four-day, live event that will see the presenter explain everything you need to know about volcanoes and how they’re essential to the world’s atmosphere. Here, Kate tells TV Choice more…
Why was Kilauea in Hawaii chosen as the programme’s main location?
Because it is erupting as we speak. It’s been erupting since 1983, and so if you’re going to do a programme called Volcano Live you kind of want a volcano doing something live. And Kilauea — God bless it — will do that for us. Unless it suddenly switches off on July 8, which would be unfortunate.
Why is it important for the series to be live?
What we’re trying to say is, look at this planet of ours, look at what’s going on tonight. Obviously, we’ve also got pre-recorded stuff. Iain Stewart’s been to Italy and looked at the very real risk to humans. I’ve been to Iceland to meet the big, bad boy, and yes I can say it, Eyjafjallajökull. Every single day something is happening in Iceland to change its landscape.
Are there many volcanoes in Iceland?
Yes, and there’s a volcano next to Eyjafjallajökull. It’s called Katla and it makes Eyjafjallajökull look like a kind of zit. Katla’s enormous and if that goes, and you’ve got stable weather, we’ll certainly know about that. We might not be flying for months.
In 1783, another Icelandic volcano erupted, and the resulting toxic gas killed a fifth of Iceland’s population, around 75 per cent of Iceland’s livestock — just by poisoning, and destroying the landscape. And it caused a huge number of deaths in northern Europe. It didn’t stop flights — because Easyjet hadn’t started in 1783! — but it caused chaos.
Volcanoes are a great source of inspiration for disaster movies, but how likely is real catastrophe?
You can’t stop a volcano doing what it does, but you can prevent massive loss of human life. You can’t stop destruction. That came into focus again in Iceland — scientists don’t know everything, but there are a lot of things that they do know, and the more that they’re studied the more people can predict what they do.
How do you feel about pronouncing some of those difficult volcano names?
I’ve got very good at saying Eyjafjallajökull — I can do it in my sleep. Iain might be rubbish at it though, in which case I’ll take the pee out of him. I was struggling initially, but a lovely Icelandic scientist called Bjorn said it’s basically three words — it means island (Eyja) rock (fjalla) ice (joküll) and as soon as he said that, I thought, 'That’s easy.'
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