A bit of history about the « Piton de la Fournaise »

Reunion island  has two volcanoes : the « Piton des Neiges » or Snow Peak stands 3071 meters tall and the « Piton de la Fournaise » or the Peak of the Furnace is 2632 meters tall.

The Peak of the Furnace is the only one which remains active.

It corresponds to the top and oriental side of the massif of the Piton de la Fournaise, a shield volcano which constitute 40% of the island in its south-east part.

It’s one of the most active volcanoes of the planet.

With the frequency of its eruptions (on average once every nine months), it probably holds the worldwide rank of first

The average volume of its lava emission is estimated to 0,32 m3/s , and it’s ten times less productive than Kilauea located in Hawaii, but it’s similar to the Etna in Italy

Since the installation of the Volcanological Observatory in 1979, the Piton de la Fournaise is one of the most observed volcanoes in the world. The volcanoe’s acces is quite easy by utilizing the « Route du Volcan » (Volcano Road) or the « Route des Laves » (Lavas Road). Using these roads sometimes allows people to  watch the show of lava projections and flows.

Like the volcanoes in Hawaii the Piton de la Fournaise is a hotspot volcano.

It is fueled by a mantle plume, which has been active for more than 65 million years. In the course of the drift of the tectonic plates, this plume first created the Trapps of Deccan (India), then the Laquedives (India), the Maldives, the Chagos Islands and finally the Mascarenes.piton de la fournaise- landscape on the reunion island-Mission to Mars

The Piton de la Fournaise offers some unique and unforgettable landscapes

« La Fournaise » (The Furnace) and its surroundings  of « La Plaine des Sables » or « Le Grand Brûlé » offer some unique landscapes would lead you  to believe they came straight from another planet, especially the lunar and mineral landscapes where life is sometimes non-existent

I’ve had lived numerous magical moments on this volcano. Not only, during the eruptions, of course..

 « The mere fact of being at the top of the volcano, alone in the world to contemplate the lights of a sunrise or a sunset are all unique moments that remain forever engraved in the memory of those who have the chance to live it. »

For more information visit the official website here: fournaise.info 

picture of the volcano piton de la fournaise in reunion island-rainbow at la Plaine des Sables


The eruptions of the Piton de la Fournaise in pictures

Eruption from September 11 -18, 2016

On an unforgetable Sunday morning, the day of the eruption, I was on my way to flight over Reunion Island with my friends from Corail Hélicoptère.

During the flight, I learned that the Piton de la Fournaise had erupted less than an hour before.

A sign from the Fate ?? Maybe …

Less than two hours after the beginning of the eruption, we were flying over the zone.photo volcana piton de la fournaise in reunion island -Fontains and rivers of lava

photo volcana piton de la fournaise in reunion island -Fontains and rivers of lava

My impressions (of what I witnessed) are extraordinaryes

The break is huge : several hundredth meters long. The break is located parallel to the eruption which is very close to the one that occurred in August 2016.

Several eruptive cones were already forming and the lava fountains climbed more than 50 meters high in the air. The lava flows were already very long.

Back to the Pierrefonds airport, I didn’t want to lose any time and went back home to prepare my stuff for the nocturnal hike, which awaited me.

It was 18 :00 when I arrived to the « Plaine des Sables ». It was the ” blue hour

sunset picture on the piton de la fournaise in reunion island - Magma and blue hour

The sky was beautiful and I was impatient to discover the eruption from the Pas de Bellecombe point of view.

I walked – wait, what am I saying?  I ran from the Foc Foc parking lot with my well loaded backpack containing all the essentials: camera, lenses, tripod, gas mask, warm clothes, tent, food… in all I carried 28 kgs on my back.

I prepared myself mentally and physically to spend a large part of the night as close as possible to the eruption.

sunset picture on the piton de la fournaise in reunion island - Magma and blue hour

The best moment

That’s it ! I finally saw it … and I arrived at the best moment, just before nightfall. I already smelled sulfur in the atmosphere which reminded me some good memories.

As soon as dusk ended, I began the descent in the Enclos Fouqué to arrive in the caldeira where the clouds had settled in.

Henceforward I was on the trail leading to the Kapor crater formed during the 1998 eruption.

The walking was short -about 45 minutes of false dish descending.

The morning flight in helicopter I took served as reconnaissance, so, I knew that this trail would lead me as close as possible to the most active eruptive mouths. Such a thing is essential to make a lonely approach during night time.

That’s it ! The white marks of the trail disapeared under the still warm morning lava flows. The wind was against me, I took a breath of warm air loaded with sulfur.

Upon taking the breath, the sulfer came in contact with the mucous membranes and was transformed into sulfuric acid which resulted in my throat and my nose burning. The gas mask was now necessary.

The aa lava ahead of me was about 2 meters high. I could have climbed on it to go even closer but I decided to be careful and I went back up walking along the flow on its right side.

To capture a few pictures, I stopped a few minutes where I saw some little glowing breaks.

sunset picture on the piton de la fournaise in eruption - reunion island - Magma and blue hour

It was an excellent first plan which will provide some depth to the picture. In the background, the line of break and the lava fountains were well visible.

Because the sulfuric acid and the warmth of the lava flows dried out my throat, I drank a lot of water. I wasn’t sure if the 4 liters of water that I packed would be enough.

It was already 22:00. It was now 3 hours that I have been on the front rows of this magnificent eruption of the Piton de la Fournaise.

It wasn’t my first eruption, but this incredible shows still fascinates me today.

With the rumbling of the volcano, its warmth and the smell of sulfur for atmosphere, one can only be impressed in front such a power, in front of the majesty of this apocalyptic landscape (that nature provides)…

I decided to climb up even higher along the very young flow. I was careful because the break line went high upstream and a new flow could arrive at any moment.

picture of the piton de la fournaise in eruption - reunion island

Eruption from August to October 2015

Wow, decidedly, the volcano was really capricious during 2015. This was the 4th eruption to occur!!! Also it will have been the longest eruption, with just over two months of activity.

Like the first two of the year, it was located on the southern flank of the volcano. But, since the break was just behind the Rivals crater, it was more easily observable than the previous ones.

To get there, you just had to follow the Rivals crater path. The cone was located just behind it. After a few days, like in all eruptions, only an eruptive cone persisted on the break.

At the beginning, the cone was only 10 to 15 meters high. At the end of the eruption, it had doubled in size… The size of the eruptive cone changes the range of the projections. It is therefore necessary to be careful not to be within reach of a shot.

In total, I got closer to the eruption four times. And each time, its topography and physiognomy were different, as were those of the eruptive cone.

Each time I moved closer, I had a different vision because, although being only mineral, the landscape changed, everything moved as if it was alive!!!!

Somewhere, during a volcanic eruption, it’s the beating heart of the planet that we feel, the pulse of our Earth that we take.

You will find all the picturess of this eruption via this link: Eruption du 24 Aout 2015

Picture of the eruption of the piton de la fournaise volcano in reunion island-Be Photographer!!!

Picture of the eruption of the piton de la fournaise volcano in reunion island

piton de la fournaise in the early morning

magma river in the piton de la fournaise reunion island

Picture of the eruption of the piton de la fournaise volcano in reunion island

Eruption of july 31, 2015

Third eruption of the year !

The Piton de la Fournaise offered us a big show in2015. At the announcement of the eruption, around 9am, I immediately went home to prepare my photo-bag and at 12:30 I arrived  at the parking lot of the Pas de Bellecombe.

The eruption was located on the eastern flank of the volcano, close to the Kapor crater formed during the 1998 eruption. It was therefore necessary to take the path leading to Piton Partage to take advantage of the best point of view of the break which was about 800 m long.

I decided to continue walking about 500 m further past the view of the piton.

I arrived at destination around 13 :30, the view was blocked by clouds.

Only the sound of the fountains of lava would suggest to me the power of this eruption.

Fortunately, the thinnings in the clouds arrived without delay and it was with amazement that I discovered this new and really impressive break.

The eruption began only 5 hours earlier and the eruptive cone was already well formed.

I remained in that location until nightfall. All around me, people flocked to enjoy the show at dusk

Two days later, after the prefectoral authorizations were received, I decided to return to the closest location of the eruption site with my friend Stéphane.

We passed the gate of the Pas de Bellecombe around 20 :00.

The approach was a nightly one. It was a full moon that night and as we approached, the lights of the lava fountains showed us the way in the distance.

But to get there, nothing could be easier: We just had to follow the path leading to the Kapor crater.

We arrived about 50 meters from the eruptive mouth and our fears were confirmed: The eruption, very powerful the day before had greatly weakened by the time we reached the location.

The break which measured several hundred meters had closed and only two craters were still projecting some magma.

We cautiously get closer to the craters. In front of us, a few yards away, some wips of smoke loaded with sulfur escaped from the breaks.

After a few nice shots, we decided to pass on the other side, bypassing the eruption upstream.

The progression was difficult and risky and, unfortunately, our efforts didn’t pay off. The view from the other side was not up to our expectations.

In addition, rain began to fall and came from the direction of the Grand Brûlé

As the eruption became weaker, we decided to retrace our steps and return. We arrived at the cars around 4:30 am, soaked by the rain.

The tremor disappeared behind us, just after we left, thus putting an end to this 3rd eruption of the year.

To find more information on this eruption visit this link : eruption 31 juillet 2015

eruption of a volcano in piton de la fournaise -Magma river

eruption of a volcano in piton de la fournaise -Magma river

picture by night of the eruption of a volcano in piton de la fournaise -Magma river

Éruption from may 17 -31, 2015 : my very first

As a child I’ve already witnessed an eruption of the Piton de la Fournaise. It was the 1998 one which gave birth to the Piton Kapor

Since the time, as an adult, I waited an eruption of the Piton de la Fournaise, it finally happened !!!

As soon as the eruption was announced, I climbed to the volcano and walked to the Piton de Bert to arrive before dusk. I arrived at the destination, to witness the wonderful spectacle that was offered to us.

Even several kilometers away from the eruption the roaring and rumbling of the volcano could be heard. The plume of smoke was impressive.

It’s at nightfall, when the glow of the magma illuminates the plume of smoke that one becomes aware of the astonishing quantity of gas that is expelled by the volcano.

picture by night of the eruption of a volcano in piton de la fournaise -Magma-gabriel barathieu

aerian view of a volcano in reunion island - piton de la fournaise-gabriel BARATHIEU

The Piton de Bert seen from the sky

Thanks to my friend Christophe, I was able to fly over this eruption by helicopter. Some other unforgettable moments and a dream that was realized ..

From the sky, we have a completely different view of the eruption and lava flows.

Even in a stationary flight, about a hundred meters above the volcano, the heat of the flows was impressive.

Pilots were extremely vigilant because of the gas emissions (like sulfur) and other fine particles which can cause the engine to shut down.


The piton seen from the earth

After seeing the eruption of the Piton de Bert from the air thanks to the helicopter flight, it was time to travel closer, but on foot this time. We started the hike around 21:00.

By the light of our headlamps, we walked in the moonlight on the Rivals crater path. Because of the previous eruption (the one which happened in February) the trail was cut to about 800 m wide, it was therefore on gratons and without markings that we had to cross this flow.

Once we passed the Chateau-Fort crater, we arrived at the place where the eruption was located.

That is when the clouds arrived. The atmosphere changed suddenly and the fog took an orange tint.

Once again, we could have thought that we were on another planet.

My friend Christophe who has a great experience with eruptions, took us as close as possible to the torrent of lava, only 5 meters away … to go closer is impossible without thermal protection.

Even at 5 meters, you can only stay a few seconds because the heat is very intense. Beneath our feet the rock had solidified, but only a few centimeters deep we could see that it was still glowing, in fusion.

The emanations of sulfur burned our throats and our eyes. Gas masks became imperative.

Despite our best efforts with equipment against the cold and rain, we soon found ourselves soaked to the bones due to the the persistent rain and the dense fog.

We sought to get closer to the just solidified lava flows to warm us up and make coffee!! Singular & atypical moments were guaranteed!!

My friends fell asleep for a while, tired by the approach walk and the cold.

I stayed awake, amazed by the eruption, by the apocalyptic atmosphere that reigned before me.

I tried to take some pictures in the rain while watching the surroundings because it was important to remember the hostile environment we were in, a new lava flow could emerge at any time.

Being cold in the rain with very little visibility and a volcano spitting gas and magma in fusion nearby just a few meters from us: I love this !

You can find more information on this eruption via this link : Eruption 17 mai 2015

aerian picture of the volcano piton de la fournaise in eruption - gabriel barathieu

picture of the volcano piton de la fournaise - gabriel barathieu - sunset on la caldera

aerian picture of the volcano piton de la fournaise in eruption - gabriel barathieu

night picture of the volcano piton de la fournaise in eruption - gabriel barathieu - river of lava

aerian picture of the volcano piton de la fournaise in eruption - gabriel barathieu-River of lava