Réunion Island

Merry Christmas, Happy New Years, etc., etc., to everyone out there. Since it is cold, wet, and nasty outside my home today in North Carolina, I decided to head to warmer climes for this little essay – specifically, Réunion Island.

Réunion Islands (Wikimedia Commons)

Réunion Islands (Wikimedia Commons)

Satellite view of Réunion. Map and Photo source - Wikipedia

Satellite view of Réunion. Map and Photo source – Wikipedia

Réunion Island is a small island in the Indian Ocean that has been under the rule of various countries since its first discovery by Arab sailors in the 1100’s. It was first lightly inhabited in the 1500’s by the Portuguese, then truly colonized in the1600’s by the French. Like many other such islands, it was first used as a penal colony (due to its remoteness, I suspect), then further settled by a variety of peoples (Chinese, Muslim, Indian, etc.), creating a vibrant Creole community. It has a small population of about 840,000 that is concentrated mainly along the coastline. It is located in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar, about 200 kilometers (120 mi) southwest of Mauritius, the nearest island.

The island is a hot-spot island whose above sea level size is all of 63 kilometers by 45 kilometers (39 x 28 miles). As usual with these types of islands, it total size is much more substantial – it is a shield volcano that is 7 km high, and has a diameter of 220-240km, so that < 5% of its mass is above the water. It is heavily forested and has the standard tropical coral reef system surrounding it.
Réunion is home to one of the world’s most active volcanos, the Piton de la Fournaise (appropriately, Furnace Peak), which has erupted more than 170 times since the mid-17th century. Various lava flows have closed roads and damaged buildings.

Lava Flow from Piton de la Fournaise. Source Wikipedia.

Lava Flow from Piton de la Fournaise. Source Wikipedia.

The volcano rises more than 2,631 metres (8,632 ft) above sea level and is sometimes called a sister to Hawaiian volcanoes because of the similarity of climate and volcanic nature. It has erupted more than 100 times since 1640 and is under constant monitoring. It most recently erupted in January of 2010. Before that, the most noticeable was during April 2007, when the lava flow was estimated at 3,000,000 cubic metres (3,900,000 cu yd.) per day. The Piton de la Fournaise is created by a hotspot volcano, which also created the Piton des Neiges and the islands of Mauritius and Rodrigues.
It has two other volcanos – Alizes and the Piton des Neiges (the name means Snow Peak, which is a bit of a misnomer as snow is an extremely rare occurrence on the island). The Alizes volcano ceased erupting about 530,000 years ago, and has been overtaken by the Piton des Neiges, which has been dormant for about 12,000 years and is now marked by a trio of heavily eroded calderas in the summit area. The Piton des Neiges volcano, at 3070 meters (10,070 ft.), is the highest point on the island. The calderas – the Cirque de Salazie, the Cirque de Cilaos and the Cirque de Mafate, are open to the east, with the last being accessible only on foot or by helicopter.
reunion - labelled
The volcanic history actually starts with the hotspot that created the Deccan Traps – Réunion Island is the just the latest manifestation of that hotspot. This has been determined by the chemical signature of the basalt, tracing back through Mauritius Island to the Deccan Traps themselves.

One of the latest findings about the ocean floor here is that it appears that a micro-continent, Mauritia, is buried beneath the lavas extruded by the hot spot. This continent fragment broke off as the ocean opened between Madagascar and India, and then got buried under lava as time went by.

Now back to the island itself – the initial volcanos on the island were Alizes and Piton des Neiges. Alizes stopped erupting about 530,000 ya, and was overtaken by Piton des Neiges. Piton des Neiges’ last eruption was about 12,000 ya. At about the time that Alizes stopped, Piton de la Fournaise appeared as the hot spot moved west. Piton des Neiges stopped erupting about 12,000 ya, and all activity now occurs at Piton de la Fournaise.
The Piton des Neiges edifice shows multiple construction/dismantling phases, with the outcrop formations showing intensively weathered rocks and debris avalanche deposits, intruded by dikes. Piton de la Fournaise shows two main phases – 530,000 – 150,000 ya and 150,000 – 0 ya, with a large landslide separating the two. As a result of the slide, the center of the volcano has shifted eastward to its present location. There appears to have been at least two caldera collapses in this latest phase, which are still being debated. The resulting structures are the Plaine des Sables, the Enclos depression, and the Grand Brûlé. Since the formation of the Enclos depression 4500 ya, the volcanic activity is mainly restricted to the caldera. Only few eruptions occurred along the NE and SE rift zones, in the Plaine des Sables and in the Rivière des Remparts.
Piton de la Fournaise
If you have the chance to travel to Reunion (as I sign wistfully – someday, someday….) , one of the more notable features to visit is where some basaltic columns are showing along the Bras de la Plaine River, which runs through the basalt plateau between the two volcanoes.

Réunion Island basalt. Photo from: http://epod.usra.edu/blog/2011/08/reunion-island-basalt.html. Photo taken July 14, 2011.

Réunion Island basalt. Photo from: http://epod.usra.edu/blog/2011/08/reunion-island-basalt.html. Photo taken July 14, 2011.

And now for a bit of temptation – one of my favorite holiday treats:
Fire and Ice Candy (a version of Peppermint Bark)
A tasty treat that has the bite of spicy Cinnamon candy blended with the smooth creaminess of white chocolate.

1 pound white chocolate, broken up
4 ounces any hard strong spicy cinnamon candy, broken (smashed) into pieces (in the US, think Red Hots).

Requires a double boiler, parchment paper, and a cookie sheet.
Cover cookie sheet with parchment paper. If you cannot get the paper, lightly grease the cookie sheet.
Get the water boiling in the bottom ½ of the boiler, then remove from the heat.
Melt the chocolate in the top half of the boiler, stir in candy.
Pour the mix onto the cookie sheet and spread very thin.
Cool until it hardens, then break up into bite-sized pieces and enjoy.

Note – Finding the cinnamon candy can be difficult, I get mine at a store that specializes in candy and cake fixings and utensils.

This can actually be made with any type of strongly flavored hard candy – peppermint, lemon, butterscotch…..



80 thoughts on “Réunion Island

  1. Thank you for an interesting post, Chryphia and Fran. Somewhere warm would be good – Réunion Island looks inviting 🙂

    • Yes CHIE has had some problems for a few days. The shift dates back to the 13th.

      At Fran. Good article. The landslide picture is really striking. Makes me think of the valley of the Orotava on Tenerife. Good point also with the reference to the Deccan traps
      As for population you forgot people from african descent. La Réunion is since 1948 a department so it is really France overseas with all the services you can get on the mainland.

    • After peeling through the arguing – my impression is that the debate centers on what happened first and when it happened. Since the island wasn’t inhabited until the last few hundred years, there are no historical records or legends to help answer the questions.

    • Dunno. But I have seen a couple of papers wandering around the Internet that looked into various things about vulcanology that were revealed, or at least made more clear by the critters at Reunion. One of them clued me into a phenomena that was new to me. That is that the long axis of a scoria cone can point to the orientation of the feeder dike alignment. When you sit back and think about it, it makes perfect sense. When a dike breaks the surface and generates an eruption, the long axis will be less defined, spatially, than a tangent to the axis. I really wish I could find that paper, it listed the reference to the work that discussed it.

      Other Reunion papers point at the feeder systems of the volcanoes since collapse has left some of them viewable in cross section along the scarp face.

      But, failing that, here is a paper about reunion that may be of interest anyway.

      The April 2007 eruption and the Dolomieu crater collapse, two major events at Piton de la Fournaise (La Réunion Island, Indian Ocean)

  2. Thank you 🙂
    I hope you will get “white cristmas”, not grey or dull ones!
    *wonder why its so quiet all around?*

    • Where i live in NC, Christmas is almost always cool, not cold. Temps tend to range in the mid 50’s to low 60’s (Fahrenheit). Thus, I can only remember two Christmases where we got snow in the last 25 years. Which makes Saturday’s 35 and raining a nasty shock…..

      • All I ever did in NC was visit a cousin and get twisted trying to water ski while drinking Crown Royal. But I still had a blast. Did you know that the human body, tethered to the back of a boat, has the aerodynamic grace of a skipping stone?

        I was highly insulted at my lack of skill. I had much better luck in Crested Butte on a ski trip done by my Church Group years earlier. At least I didn’t nearly drown. well, I guess I did at the enclosed heated pool, but that didn’t involve trying to ski. I walked in, and the cold dry air instantly made the room into a fog bank and I walked off the side of the pool. Fortunately, swimming was second nature, though it was the first time I’d done it with pants on.

  3. Thank you Fran – very nice. Just as another winter gale sets in here it’s nice to be transported somewhere warm and exotic. Last time I was in Paris I sat at Orly with an over-priced coffee-and-croissant and watched a planeload embarking for Réunion – somehow my weather-delayed puddle-jump to Southampton just didn’t quite cut it in the ‘glamour of air travel’ stakes!

    Capped off a good day – taken on a new job today and had what might be loosely termed a “rugby evening” – way too much beer and Nepalese curry. I guess I will be suffering tomorrow 🙂

  4. I spent the day hoping that Michael Dell would go visit John McAfee down in central America for dinner. This happened after I whacked the back of my finger inside a Dell machine while trying to unplug a cable. Ya see, McAfee wanted in Belize for questioning in the shooting death of his neighbor, has been arrested {detained} in Guatemala for entering the country illegally (while seeking asylum).

    If you have ever seen the end scene of Silence of the Lambs, you know what I am talking about. Not that John McAfee is a cannibal, just that Michael Dell sort of deserves that sort of ending in exchange for the overall design of his products, or the design that the company he founded came up with.

    Note: The video is unrelated… sort of.

  5. Thanks Fran and Chryphia.
    I spent some hours in Charlotte’s airport last March and it was really cold, so I know what you mean.
    Rio, instead, when it should be warm by now is, against all odds, rainy and cool. Summer is taking its time this year, after two scalding hot days that are gone by now.
    So, I don’t think I’ll have much of a shock this year when I will spend Christmas with my friends in Salzburg, Austria.
    Thank you for the fine post. Always keeping an eye on La Fournaises’s cams.

      • 29 Cows September 1999, 8 Sheep October 2001.

        Dunno. Any more that you know of? And not to mention the percolating traffic circle at the airport and offshore. Maybe something is cooking off the biological material in the sediment accumulation from the time it was a harbor.

        • Possibly that makes years Anno 2015 to 2019 interesting, for exercising of Napoli Bay migitation plans, if they have such and can unclog the roads. Here (in Storm and Snowland) I more “worry” on Mrs. Hekla and friends and master Carl dissappeared off radars for 48 hrs. Do not know any food cooking that long, but bevarages might last that long. *rant*

      • I read ‘Colli Albani’ in Welsh… As ‘Forget Scotland’…. Alban is Scotland in Welsh.

        It is strange that this seeming volcano is erupting in the middle of the roundabout, yet we don’t have similar eruptions all over the place.

      • You want stupid? Wife wakes me up at 4:30, thinking she is having a stroke. I tell her to call 911. She does, the phone dies. (battery). I frantically look around the house for the other phone, she gets through about the time I open the front door and notice a deputy wandering around my front yard on a “911 hang-up” call. It’s a bit creepy, but I like the response time. The ER’s prognosis is that it was no stroke, or TIA, but the stroke specialist is going to run tests to see what could be the issue. Oh, and did I mention that they took her to a different hospital than they told me? Each one was on the diametrically opposite side of town from where I was at.

        • Well, I had to entertain the possiblilty that something bad was happening. I am not in anyway qualified to say otherwise. With something like that you can’t risk being wrong.

          I just can’t remember which one of the local hospitals killed off the niece’s husband. Dunno what ever came of it, but I always thought it was a bad idea to do surgery on someone that is stuffed full of blood thinners. The one she is at seemed to be quite competent when they took care of my stepson, so I guess she’s in good hands.

          • Having did a 60km merry-go-round of “find the doctor for your smashed hip”
            I can appreciate your situation. wife drove to Baker City (60km from here
            -La Grande.) to my doc (One of the few I trust) then back. They(Baker City) were talking life-fight to Boi$e, Id. as their Orthopedic guy left. I said “WE are going back to La Grande.!” Doc Knudsen (my doc) she backed me up. so we were back home and at the local Hospital(3 blocks from home is much better.) Got to see the Orthopedic guy at La Grande (Doc Olson) and operated the next day. Wednesday -Friday I was home,- that three weeks ago yesterday.
            When the Baker City folks talked life Flight I would’ve flown myself rather than pay for a Helo ride to Boise … I’m doing very well and may be cleared for work in a month…
            BTW In these Parts you are either Scot,Scots-Irish (Like Moi) or Scandinavian. Swedish, Norwegian, Dane, and a smattering of Finns.
            Three pages of a small Pop. 19000 county phone book are Mc. or Mac.
            the names ending in “son” or “sen “are legion.
            Hope you wife gets better, soon Lurk…
            Not fun..

            • I once found a person of scottish swedish origin. They had merged their names… Macson. Seemed a bit redundant really 😉

          • Me? Meh… I get to gp traipsing off down country looking for an ailing ID card printer. At least this time I will have had some sleep. She’s the one that needs the well wishes, all I need is to keep the greasy side down.

            • They may let her come home today. I spoke to her this morning and she related the tale of the MRI. Seems it was extraordinary noisy. I had warned her that it would be. From what I understand there were no blockages noted, which is a good thing. Had a running tit for tat via text msg with one of the daughters about stopping by to get the key to the house since I will likely not be around when they release her. (road thing). Dragging my feet getting on the road right now since there is reportedly a traffic accident at mm 40 near Holt on the westbound side. I’ll be going eastbound, but usually rubberneckers slow the other side down as well. What is with these jerks that get a vicarious thrill out of looking at other peoples misery?

            • I hope that all will be well and you two will have a nice Christmas together.

              I think that it is in the human psyche to see things that you have never seen before. Those who have seen bad things do not wish to see it again, and those who have not seen will want to oogle. Sad thing, humanity.

  6. Rather largish quake (2,5-3,0R) happened tonight at 20:22:27 “somewhere in Iceland” but location is yet uncertain. Can be around Vatnajökull (Kárasker or Sprengisandur/Hágöngur).
    But as IMO Quake charts are NOT UPDATING (as has happened reoccurring in last weeks) so can not be specific, but it appears to me a “wet” one – in Vatnajökull, around Kárasker possibly.

      • Chryphia and Fran, Thank you for the update on the post. Maybe in a million years or 10 million, that Island will be as big as Ireland. 🙂

        Islander, yes I noticed that too. Maybe the FED is weather related?
        Spring time around the corner for Hekla again, Happy days!!

        So much of Vatnajökull has been active (small signs) in the last 6 months or so. Could be along time off, Something other than a volcano might go soon under the ice or some where close.

        Grímsvötn eurption 2011 changed Vatnajökull pluming and started somthing… 😛

      • It seems its Esjufjoll rather than Oraefajokull, since Karasker is near Esjufjoll. Fagurhólsmýri near Oraefajokull doesn’t show so much of it. But, and big but, in recent weeks, we have seen quakes in both volcanoes.

        Seems that entire Vatnajokull is restless. All volcanoes of the ice cap, are now restless and showing signs of dike intrusions and magmatic movements. Big quake in Kverfjoll, and a phreatic explosion there a few months ago; increasing quakes in Oraefajokull and Esjufjoll, very deep quakes around and north of Kistufell, also deep quakes in Tungnafellsjokull, a lot of activity in Hamarinn (but it was at peak in 2011), and harmonic tremor and increasing quakes to the SW of Grimsvotn, at Thordarhyrna. And of course, increasing small quakes in the dead zone region.

        A few of these areas will erupt in the next years and decades, which one is first we probably don’t know, but I guess Kverfjoll, Hamarinn or somewhere SW of Grimsvotn/ Thordarhyrna.

        And of course, Askja is another candidate, but she’s outside of the ice cap. I think a dead zone event might still be many years ahead, geologically soon yes, but its difficult to say. Same goes for Tungnafellsjokull, Kistufell and around, and Esjufjoll.

    • 19.12.2013 20:22:23 64,250 -16,449 5,1 km 2,9 99,0 28,3 km V of Jöklaseli
      19.12.2013 20:10:23 64,251 -16,443 5,0 km 2,1 99,0 27,9 km V af Jöklaseli
      this is north-north-east of Öræfajökull and north of KSK SIL in Vatnajökull

      • It’s definitively Esjufjoll volcano. The Karasker SIL shows better than Fagurhólsmýri.

        Although in past weeks we have seen quakes in both Esjufjoll and Oraefajokull volcanoes. Anyways they are near each other.

      • It is a pity it is too small for all of us, otherwise we could organize a nice expedition to one or more of those remote islands with this boat! 🙂

      • “There is also a huge helicopter landing pad for those quick trips to shore”

        It ain’t “huge” unless you can drop a CH-53 on the deck…. just sayin’.

        I once saw our Executive Officer flailing his arms about because a CH-46 placed one wheel on deck for stability as they offloaded mail. Our little Frigate was not rated for it’s full weight. (and we didn’t have the room anyway, just enough space for a single tire. The ship was designed to handle Sea Sprites.

        • The Sea Sprite was a good call in filling in for the the failed DASH helo program.

          Anecdotal information, warning, could be total bullshit. → From what I understand, one of the final mishaps involved a DASH helo, (drone anti submarine helo) trying to land upside down. Remember, these were some of the predecessors to modern drone and UAV programs. The biggest drawback, all communications with the drone were analog.

          I’d like to go on an brag about the SH-60 Sea Hawk system, but I don’t even remember what can be talked about. In a nutshell, it is one bad-ass system.

          One thing that it has, that I imagine that some pilots are not fond of, is a system for landing in heavy seas. (RAST) Essentially, the helo is winched down to the deck from a hover.

          “Shipboard landing for some helicopters is assisted though use of a haul-down device that involves attachment of a cable to a probe on the bottom of the aircraft prior to landing. Tension is maintained on the cable as the helicopter descends, assisting the pilot with accurate positioning of the aircraft on the deck; once on deck locking beams close on the probe, locking the aircraft to the flight deck. This device was pioneered by the Royal Canadian Navy and was called “Beartrap”. The U.S. Navy implementation of this device, based on Beartrap, is called the “RAST” system (for Recovery Assist, Secure and Traverse) and is an integral part of the LAMPS Mk III (SH-60B) weapons system.”

          I emphasized the Canadian aspect of that in order to make up for the Canadian Police Car Chase video that I linked earlier. Maybe one day they will release the recipe for Moose Milk. (a closely guarded secret among some of their organizations)

            • From that link:

              “According to a Gunner’s Mate (GM1) on the USS George K. Mac Kenzie (DD-836) they set a record when they fired 151 rounds in five minutes from their 5″/38 caliber guns but then had to cool the barrels off with the fire hose. This was in preparation for a Marine landing on a small peninsula not far from Da Nang. The Marine spotter in his small Piper aircraft called the landing off. He said there was not a tree left standing and nothing left to hide the enemy! ”

              151 rounds in five minutes? Jeebous. That’s just under 2 seconds per round. And the 5″/38 is a manually loaded weapon. (with a power ram)

    • Couple guys that I used to work with were maintenance people down at NADEP before they closed (consolidated) it and moved operations to another site. They always took interest in some of the mishaps that occurred afterwards. Since the new site was the responsible maintenance facility, it was that facilitates arse for producing the maintenance work documents. (and material tracking, I had to get QCI qualified for a yard period and am familiar with the headache) They were always quite happy when the source of the problem tracked to the other site and not the one that they had worked at. I don’t even think they know where the maintenance documents were maintained at. All I know is they were always worried that it had been an airframe that they had worked on at one time or another.

    • I wound up tethered off of one when they transfered me to the CV for subsequent transport to North Island. The time on the tether probably would have been a fantastic view, but I was more concerned about the aircrewman dragging me into the helo. Several years later on my last command, they put me up in an CH-46 so that I could shoot some digital photos of the ship for the command. The lighting was horrible and I didn’t have a polarized filter for my camera. (my current camera does have one that I can put on, but the event was a couple of years before this model came out) The part that I liked about it was that they stuck me in a standard crew harness and attached my tether to the floor. I had enough freedom of movement to get a nice selection of crappy shots.

      For anyone who has never ridden on a military helo, it’s pretty simple, the crewman will tell you where to sit, where to stand what to do. Listen to him. Period. And that advice about not going anywhere until directed to do so, or the blades stop is pretty important. Youtube is full of videos of helos going down. Those blades, when they are not holding you up, are your worst enemy. Oh, and if you ditch in water. When it’s time to leave, watch the bubbles. They will tell you where up it at, spatially. Swimming down (and thinking it is up) is not a good idea. Helos will almost always flip over when they start to sink. (The engines are usually mounted high on the airframe)

      Shortly before I reported for duty on my last ship, one of the helos from the detachment had lost power while shuttling cargo around the ships in formation. It got to the point where the ass end of the helo dropped into the water. The rear doors are designed to pop open when that happens, which they did. The pilots and aircrewman got awards for what they did in that event. The aircrewman managed to get the door closed so that the bird would slow taking on water, and the pilot was able to get the good engine spun up enough to get lift out of the blades. The co-pilot spent the time calling off engine RPMs to the pilot. That’s what I can remember from the citations that they read off at the awards ceremony. The end result of it all was that they were able to pull the bird up out of the water and land it safely on the destination ship. I’ve never been in that sort of situation, but I imagine that the “pucker factor” was quite high.

  7. Here winter is officially cancelled, just a lot of ice on every road, but not a speck of snow left. Seems like we will have a green christmas this year around.

    I am so far north now that if I peed to the southwest I would hit northernmost Canada. It is basically the Swedish equivalent of redneck country. As I was having coffee I looked out the kitchen window and saw a man out walking with his arms filled with hunting rifles and two dogs. A catastrophy waiting to happen, and soon enough one of the dogs tripped him and he went to down in a cascade of flying rifles. In any other city with 80 000 people the site of this would have made people calling the cops in an instant, here people just went out to check on him, and that the barrels still was straight. It is quite normal to walk around with guns around here since pretty much everyone hunts.

    • How far north are you Carl? Above 66º north?

      In Iceland there is little to hunt, land-wise, except for a few birds and possibly reindeer.

      • I am officially above 66 degrees north today 🙂

        Here there is actually quite a lot to hunt. Right now it is bird season.

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