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Traversing nature's danger zone: getting up close with Sumatra's volcanoes



The Indonesian island of Sumatra, located in one of the most active zones of the Pacific Ring of Fire, is characterized by a chain of subduction-zone volcanoes which extend the entire length of the island. As a group of volcanic geochemists, we embarked upon a five-week sampling expedition to these exotic, remote, and in part explosive volcanoes (SAGE 2010; Sumatran Arc Geochemical Expedition). We set out to collect rock and gas samples from 17 volcanic centres from the Sumatran segment of the Sunda arc system, with the aim of obtaining a regionally significant sample set that will allow quantification of the respective roles of mantle versus crustal sources to magma genesis along the strike of the arc. Here we document our geological journey through Sumatra's unpredictable terrain, including the many challenges faced when working on active volcanoes in pristine tropical climes.