Incredible lives of “volcano hunters” who dipped FEET in lava and eerily predicted their tragic death in an unusual explosion

IN June 1991, a volcano that had been dormant for over 300 years erupted violently, devastating everything in its path.

The deadly explosion of Japan’s Mount Unzen claimed the lives of 43 people, including volcanologists Maurice and Katia Krafft, who had devoted their lives to studying the dangerous fractures.

Katia and Maurice got as close to the volcanoes as possible

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Katia and Maurice got as close to the volcanoes as possibleRecognition: .
The 1991 eruption of Mount Unzen in Japan that killed the couple, their colleague and 40 others

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The 1991 eruption of Mount Unzen in Japan that killed the couple, their colleague and 40 othersPhoto credit: Rex

Stunning images of the explosion show the huge ball of toxic gas being ejected into the atmosphere.

Maurice, 45, and Katia, 49, were caught in the unpredictable pyroclastic flow — a chaotic mixture of rock fragments, hot gas and ash that can travel at amazing speeds — that unexpectedly engulfed a ridge on which they had been taking shelter.

Examinations of the Earth in the episode revealed that the pair died side by side – right where they had been since they met.

Knowing how far they were willing to go to satisfy their insatiable curiosity about volcanoes, the two had eerily prophesied that such a devastating fate would one day befall them.

The couple predicted his own death in numerous recordings

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The couple predicted his own death in numerous recordingsPhoto credit: National Geographic
They were known for their unwavering love of volcanoes—and each other

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They were known for their unwavering love of volcanoes—and each otherSource: Wikipedia
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A new documentary from National Geographic titled Fire of Love gives a fascinating insight into the lives of the daredevil couple.

It contains footage taken during their missions in pursuit of dangerous wonders of the world.

In one, Maurice says coldly: “I want to get closer, right into the belly of the volcano. It will kill me one day, but that doesn’t bother me at all.”

Katia shared the same sentiment: “It’s not that I’m flirting with death, but at that moment I don’t care at all. A fascination with danger? Maybe.”

fiery passion

During their time together, they undertook dangerous expeditions

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During their time together, they undertook dangerous expeditionsPhoto credit: National Geographic Films
Maurice dips his foot in lava and sets his shoe on fire

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Maurice dips his foot in lava and sets his shoe on firePhoto credit: National Geographic

Although there are three different accounts of how the Alsatian-French duo met, the most detailed suggests they met during a speed dating event in the 1960s.

They bonded over their shared love of Mount Etna in Italy, one of the world’s most active volcanoes.

They married in a small ceremony and set off on their honeymoon in Santorini, a volcanic Greek island in the southern Aegean.

In order to devote their time and effort to their expeditions, they decided never to have children.

In the years that followed, they embarked on risky trips with the desire to get as close as possible to the fiery red growing lava on every trip.

I want to get closer, right into the belly of the volcano. It will kill me one day, but that doesn’t bother me at all

Moritz Kraft

“Once you see an eruption, you can’t live without it because it’s so grandiose and so powerful,” Katia said.

“That feeling of being nothing. Being in those untamed elements.”

Maurice and Katia were in their element and happiest when exploring volcanoes.

After an eruption, the pair were often the first on the scene thanks to an extensive network of local friends and fellow volcanologists – making them the envy of others in their field.

In one scene in the film, they dance happily at the edge of a hot lava flow that could pass for a green-screen scene in a big-budget Hollywood film.

Another stunning moment is Maurice’s foot bursting into flames after being dunked in cool lava.

Her passion for danger was famous – in one recording, Katia admitted that some of her colleagues thought she was “crazy”.

“Approaching the Beast”

Her life and career are explored in the National Geographic documentary Fire of Love

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Her life and career are explored in the National Geographic documentary Fire of LovePhoto credit: National Geographic

During one of their trips in 1979, the volcano they were visiting was so violent that they had to keep an eye out at night for “volcanic bombs” — bullets of molten rock that can cause serious injury and death.

Apparently unfazed, Maurice explained, “It’s a pleasure to approach the beast without knowing it’s going to get you.”

The pair knew they had to work together as a strong unit, as one wrong move by either could spell disaster.

Maurice said: “You have to have strong nerves and not panic so easily.

“Let’s say my wife gets hurt. I can not do anything. I am with her while she dies and there is nothing I can do. It’s terrible.”

Katia was the more hands-on of the two, while Maurice was often out on the hunt for more thrills.

He dreamed of sailing 15 km in a canoe on scorching lava – an idea born of another perilous adventure in Indonesia in 1971.

During this voyage, Maurice was sailing in a small boat on an acidic lake and had a near-death experience when, to the horror of Katia, he was unable to get to the shore of the lake for three hours.

Terrible catastrophe

The couple decided to learn more about the more deadly gray volcanoes after their friend's death

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The couple decided to learn more about the more deadly gray volcanoes after their friend’s deathCredit: AP
Katia was hit hard by the tragedy in Armero, which shook her faith in humanity

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Katia was hit hard by the tragedy in Armero, which shook her faith in humanityPhoto credit: National Geographic

As they became better known in their field, they began categorizing volcanoes into two types – red and gray – with the former being “friendlier,” according to Maurice.

Red explosions eject lava that often follows a specific path and flows slowly, making it avoidable and less likely to do damage.

However, the Grays produce gas explosions and are far more destructive, unpredictable, and vicious.

When hot gas is shot high into the sky, it creates a deadly pyroclastic flow as it rains down on Earth.

They can move at incredible speeds and destroy everything in their path, including buildings.

After Maurice and Katia’s friend and colleague David Johnston died in the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens – which they categorized as gray – they decided to devote the rest of their lives to studying this type of volcano.

If we show a government pictures of the casualties, the damage, the dangers, they might believe us, we might convince them

Katja Kraft

Her desperation to learn more about gray volcanoes was compounded by the 1985 eruption of Colombia’s Nevado del Ruiz volcano, which killed 23,000 and injured 5,000 and left limbs from corpses scattered throughout the village.

The seriousness of the tragedy weighed heavily on Katia, who explained: “The worst thing is when problems like this happen – villages destroyed, people devastated by disasters. Then we are embarrassed to call ourselves volcanologists.”

She questioned why, despite multiple warnings about the risks of volcanoes, incidents like this happened.

After the disaster, their goal was to bring the world to a point where “volcanoes don’t kill anymore.”

“If we show a government pictures of the casualties, the damage, the dangers, they might believe us, we could convince them,” Katya told a TV show.

Last expedition

The pair have made it their mission to show governments the dangers of gray volcanoes

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The pair have made it their mission to show governments the dangers of gray volcanoesPhoto credit: National Geographic
The charred remains of a dog after Mount Unzen erupted

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The charred remains of a dog after Mount Unzen eruptedPhoto credit: Rex

Her mission to find the world’s deadliest volcanoes took her to Japan on June 3, 1991 – her very last expedition.

The eruption of Mount Unzen turned the sky black, according to witnesses, and dark clouds shrouded houses.

A farmer told Reuters: “Fire was raining down from the sky – burning ash and stone – and I was afraid the car might explode. The air smelled burned. It was difficult to breathe.”

The pyroclastic flow had separated from the main flow and traveled to where the pair stood to watch, killing her, her colleague Harry Glicken, and 40 others instantly.

It’s not that I’m flirting with death, but in that moment I don’t care at all. Fascinated by danger? Maybe

Katja Kraft

The volcanology world was stunned to learn of the popular couple’s deaths.

A week after her death, a massive explosion occurred on Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines.

This time, 58,000 people have been evacuated – largely thanks to the tireless work of Katia and Maurice, who have made it their mission to promote a better understanding of volcanoes.

After their death, a volcanic crater near Réunion in France was named Crater M. and K. Krafft in their honor.

Krafft Medals, an awards program of the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior, was created to recognize those who have made outstanding contributions to the field.

Rescue teams after the deadly eruption of Mount Unzen

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Rescue teams after the deadly eruption of Mount UnzenPhoto credit: Getty

And the Maurice and Katia Krafft Memorial Fund, organized by the University of Hawaii at Hilo, uses donations to educate people in volcanic-risk countries about the dangers of active volcanoes.

While the couple died pursuing their dreams, their legacy lives on.

The eruption of Mount Pinatubo a week after Maurice and Katia's deaths

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The eruption of Mount Pinatubo a week after Maurice and Katia’s deathsPhoto credit: AFP

Fire of Love is available in select theaters nationwide.

Some of the couple's colleagues called them

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Some of the couple’s colleagues called them “crazy”.Photo credit: National Geographic
The couple met at a speed dating event

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The couple met at a speed dating eventPhoto credit: National Geographic
Maurice and Katia have been honored by many organizations

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Maurice and Katia have been honored by many organizationsPhoto credit: National Geographic
Their work is still being studied by volcanologists around the world

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Their work is still being studied by volcanologists around the worldPhoto credit: AFP

https://www.the-sun.com/news/5947290/volcano-chasers-fire-of-love-katia-maurice-krafft/ Incredible lives of “volcano hunters” who dipped FEET in lava and eerily predicted their tragic death in an unusual explosion

DevanCole

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