Breakthrough Of The Week: 'The Mouth Of Hell' Going Online For A Lifesaving Reason

Hell hath no fury like this volcano.

Around the world, scientists are constantly working to discover things about the world around them and have a greater understanding of the Universe and our place in it. Every Friday, we'll celebrate that feature a new discovery as our Breakthrough Of The Week. Unlocking the secrets of the Universe, one week at a time.


The Masaya Volcano in Nicaragua is ominously known as the "Mouth of Hell." For nearly 250 years, the volcano has been active, with sulfur gas streaming into the atmosphere, and a pool of lava bubbling and brewing inside. 

If there is a large eruption, more than a million people in the nearby capital city of Managua would be in danger. The only problem is there's no good way to tell when that might be. If a volcano has a data sensor on it at all, there is typically only one, measuring temperature and pressure. This gives a woefully incomplete picture of what is actually happening.

Thanks to a partnership between GE and famed volcano explorer Sam Cossman and his team at Qwake, that is about to change.

Cossman and GE have been at Masaya since the beginning of August in order to add an unprecedented 80+ sensors to the volcano. The challenge of making sensors capable of withstanding the heat was taken on by the engineers at GE, who are no strangers to working with materials that can be superheated.

In addition to pressure and temperature, they will also be able to measure carbon dioxide, humidity, gravitational forces, and more. After the first three months of continuous data collection, the feedback will be compiled into a "digital volcano." 

It is hoped that volcanologists can look for patterns within the information and hopefully find a way to more accurately predict when an eruption would be likely so that the surrounding areas can be evacuated in time, saving lives.


Getting the sensors to the spot in the volcano where they will gather the most information requires Cossman descending 1,200 feet down into Masaya's mouth. 

That's no problem for Cossman, who ziplined more than 1,300 feet inside the volcano during this trip.

The highlights of the expedition will be featured on Snapchat today, August 12, and will be viewable for 24 hours. There will also be coverage on Instagram and Twitter, so be sure to keep up with this incredible mission!

Check every Friday to see our featured Breakthrough Of The Week!

Cover image: @tmophotos, Qwake


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