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Obituary Notices

Obituary notices for volcanologists are sometimes written when scientists are killed during an eruption or have had a special relationship with the Global Volcanism Program.



Bulletin Reports - Index

Reports are organized chronologically and indexed below by Month/Year (Publication Volume:Number), and include a one-line summary. Click on the index link or scroll down to read the reports.

03/1979 (SEAN 04:03) Deaths of two volcanologists (Robin Cooke and Elias Ravian) at Karkar

05/1980 (SEAN 05:05) Death of David Johnston at St. Helens

05/1991 (BGVN 16:05) Deaths of three volcanologists (Maurice and Katia Krafft, Harry Glicken) at Unzen

12/1992 (BGVN 17:12) Deaths of six volcanologists (Zapata, Brown, Cuenca, García, Menyailov, and Trujillo) at Galeras

02/1993 (BGVN 18:02) Deaths of two volcanologists (Victor Pérez and Alvaro Sánchez) at Guagua Pichincha

11/1997 (BGVN 22:11) Death of Werner F. Giggenbach at Rabaul

09/1998 (BGVN 23:09) Death of Oleg Volynets in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky

07/2000 (BGVN 25:07) Deaths of two volcanologists (Asep Mukti and Wildan) at Semeru

01/2001 (BGVN 26:01) Death of volcano seismologist Diego Viracucha at Guagua Pichincha

03/2005 (BGVN 30:03) Deaths of four PHIVOLCS staff (Daligdig, Tungol, Javier, Abengoza) and former director Ray Punongbayan in a helicopter crash in the Philippines

01/2007 (BGVN 32:01) Death of Jim Luhr, Director of the Global Volcanism Program

04/2009 (BGVN 34:04) Death of Tom Simkin, founder and Director of the Global Volcanism Program until 1995

07/2012 (BGVN 37:07) Death of volcanologist Herman Patia Principal Volcanologist at the Rabaul Volcano Observatory



March 1979 (SEAN 04:03) Citation IconCite this Report

Deaths of two volcanologists (Robin Cooke and Elias Ravian) at Karkar

We are saddened to report that R.J.S. Cooke, 40, and Elias Ravian, 34, were killed on 8 March 1979 by a directed blast of debris from Karkar volcano. Robin Cooke came to Rabaul Volcanological Observatory in 1971 and was named Senior Volcanologist 2 years later. His contributions to volcanology were many, particularly in seismic monitoring and in generously sharing his reports of local volcanism with scientists of the world. Elias Ravian had been a highly respected worker at the Observatory for 9 years. Both men devoted much of themselves to better understaning of the volcanism that took their lives.


May 1980 (SEAN 05:05) Citation IconCite this Report

Death of David Johnston at St. Helens

Very few volcanologists throughout history have lost their lives by eruption, but last year Robin Cooke and Elias Ravian were killed at Karkar and now we must report the death of David Johnston at Mt. St. Helens. At the time of the 18 May eruption, Dave was monitoring the volcano from a position just 8 km NNW of the summit. No one knew better than Dave the risk involved in his St. Helens work, and no one contributed more to the understanding of this volcano's eruptive mechanisms. Although only 30 years old, his PhD work on Augustine, and subsequent work with the USGS had already established his position among the leading young volcanologists in the world. His enthusiasm and warmth will be missed at least as much as his scientific strength.


May 1991 (BGVN 16:05) Citation IconCite this Report

Deaths of three volcanologists (Maurice and Katia Krafft, Harry Glicken) at Unzen

Volcanology has lost three of its most valuable professionals and our network has lost three of our most faithful contributors. Maurice and Katia Krafft, 45 and 44, were natives of Alsace who blended art and science in unique ways. They were famous not only for their superb photography and books, but for the enthusiasm and humor that made friends for them throughout the world. Always a close team, they were scholarly, selective collectors of volcanological literature and art. They had recently compiled guidebooks to the Comores and Zaire, a history of volcanology, a beautiful book of still photographs, and an informative IAVCEI video on volcanic hazards.

Harry Glicken, 33, was a Californian working as a post-doctoral fellow at Tokyo Metropolitan University. His study of the 1980 debris avalanche at Mt. St. Helens was a landmark. His brief but geographically diverse research career took him to Indonesia, Alaska, the Caribbean, and Japan, where he worked on the 1888 Bandai eruption, and most recently on pyroclastic surge deposits from Oshima volcano. All three of these fine people had much yet to give to volcanology, and we mourn their loss.


December 1992 (BGVN 17:12) Citation IconCite this Report

Deaths of six volcanologists (Zapata, Brown, Cuenca, García, Menyailov, and Trujillo) at Galeras

We are saddened to report the deaths of six volcanologists in the 14 January 1993 eruption of Galeras.

José Arlés Zapata (INGEOMINAS, Pasto, Colombia) was a gas geochemist who had helped monitor Ruiz as a student. He was one of the initial employees of the Galeras Observatory at Pasto.

Geoff Brown (Open University, Milton Keynes, U.K.) had wide-ranging interests that included petrologic studies, the use of gravity data to monitor subvolcanic magma movements, and the dynamics of hydrothermal systems.

Fernando Cuenca (INGEOMINAS, Bogotá, Colombia) was a geophysicist who had recently conducted a magnetic survey of Galeras.

Néstor García (Universidad Nacional, Manizales, Colombia), an industrial chemist, helped monitor Ruiz before the 1985 tragedy, and had since worked closely with the staff of the Ruiz Observatory.

Igor Menyailov (Institute of Volcanology, Petropavlovsk, Russia) had worked extensively on volcanic gases in Kamchatka, the Kuril Islands, and Nicaragua for a quarter century.

Carlos Trujillo (CESMAG, Pasto, Colombia) had used the volcano and its observatory as a classroom for his community college students, and was an enthusiastic participant in monitoring efforts.

Menyailov, García, and Brown had all given valuable reports to SEAN/GVN in the past, covering activity in Nicaragua, Colombia, and Costa Rica. The loss of four Colombian scientists was a particularly severe blow to the nation's volcanology program, which has developed rapidly since the 1985 Ruiz eruption. All six were strong scientists with much yet to give to volcanology. Our science was strengthened by their contributions and is weakened by their loss.


February 1993 (BGVN 18:02) Citation IconCite this Report

Deaths of two volcanologists (Victor Pérez and Alvaro Sánchez) at Guagua Pichincha

We are saddened to report the deaths of two volcanologists from the Instituto Geofísico, Escuela Politécnica Nacional, Ecuador, during the 12 March 1993 eruption of Guagua Pichincha.

Ing. Victor H. Pérez, age 31, graduated from the Escuela Pécnica Nacional in 1986, and had done his thesis on the volcanic geology of the area between Cotopaxi and Antisana volcanoes. He joined the Instituto in early 1992, and had worked in volcano monitoring, volcano mapping, and neotectonics.

Egdo. Alvaro Sánchez, age 25, was an outstanding geology student and mountaineer who was responsible for the daily processing of seismic data at the Institute.


November 1997 (BGVN 22:11) Citation IconCite this Report

Death of Werner F. Giggenbach at Rabaul

We are saddened to report that Dr. Werner F. Giggenbach died on 7 November 1997 while conducting field research at Rabaul volcano. He was a Senior Scientist with the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences, Lower Hutt, New Zealand, and was nearing his 60th birthday. Werner was a leading geochemist in the study of volcanic and geothermal systems, and developed many of the techniques used to sample volcanic gases and geothermal fluids in the field and to analyze them in the laboratory. The international standard bottle for collecting volcanic gases is called the Giggenbach bottle. Moreover, he was known and respected for his integrated physical and geochemical models of how volcanic and geothermal systems work. He assisted New Zealand and more than a dozen other countries in developing their geothermal energy potential. During his career Werner contributed reports to the GVN Bulletin concerning White Island, Rumble III, Raoul Island, Ngauruhoe, Erebus, and Lonquimay. He left the world a legacy of exceptionally innovative and practical contributions to the volcanological and geothermal sciences, and will be deeply missed.


September 1998 (BGVN 23:09) Citation IconCite this Report

Death of Oleg Volynets in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky

On 24 October, in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, the volcano community lost a distinguished scientist and an exceptionally kind, warm human being. Oleg Volynets worked for over 39 years on the volcanoes of the NW Pacific rim, and died at the peak of an unusually productive career. His colleague Vera Ponomareva wrote that he "combined the qualities of a unique expert in Kamchatka rocks with broad knowledge in modern geochemistry. More important, he was our conscience, a true 'chevalier sans peur et sans reproche.' His death is a deep personal grief for many people." He found time to share his extensive knowledge of Russian volcanoes with us here at the Smithsonian, and we are among those "many people."


July 2000 (BGVN 25:07) Citation IconCite this Report

Deaths of two volcanologists (Asep Mukti and Wildan) at Semeru

An explosion at Semeru on 27 July 2000 took the lives of two dedicated Volcanological Survey of Indonesia (VSI) staff members, Wildan and Mukti. Asep Wildan was born in Bandung and a graduate of the physics department at the Institute of Technology Bandung. He worked with VSI since 1993, most recently as a geophysicist in VSI's Eastern Java section where he investigated volcano seismology at Semeru and other volcanoes in East Java and Bali. He is survived by his wife and young daughter.

Mukti was born in the city of Banyuwangi on the eastern tip of Java. A high-school graduate, he served with VSI since 1990 in the capacity of volcano observer and was posted at Semeru. He is survived by his mother. Efforts are underway to work with VSI to provide economic assistance for the families of Wildan and Mukti.

Asep Wildan and Mukti made important contributions to VSI's volcano research and monitoring programs, and both had, in the past, generously provided vital assistance to international researchers working at Semeru. They will be greatly missed by their many Indonesian and international friends and colleagues.


January 2001 (BGVN 26:01) Citation IconCite this Report

Death of volcano seismologist Diego Viracucha at Guagua Pichincha

Diego Viracucha, an accomplished 37-year-old mountaineer and for 9 years a volcano seismologist at the Instituto Geofisico, looked into the crater on the morning of 14 January 2001 and reported his impressions via radio. He informed his two assistants that he was going to go ahead alone for several hundred meters W of the seismic station "Pino" in order to take photos. He planned to return in 20 minutes and remain in contact via radio, but later attempts to contact him failed. Apparently he slipped and fell over the caldera rim, a 200- to 300-m-high cliff in that region; his body was found hours later. Given the length of the fall and the impact, he probably died immediately from head wounds and internal injuries.

Recovery of the body was accomplished using mountaineering techniques rather than a helicopter due to fog. The day-long effort involved many, including six IG volcanologists, the Civil Defense, the Guards of the Refuge, the Red Cross, an elite police group, mountaineer groups, and family members. The site of the accident was 2.5 hours from GGP Refuge and it took all day to recover the body. A second accident occurred during this effort when Galo Viracucha, a cousin of Diego, fell and rolled 150 m downslope and later died from his injuries.

Diego had studied the seismic patterns of Cotopaxi, Guagua Pichincha, Cayambe and Tungurahua. He was an accomplished mountaineer and had scaled almost all of the important peaks of Ecuador's volcanoes. One of his greatest passions since September 1999 was keeping a close visual-photographic record of the changes in the domes of Guagua Pichincha. His excellent companionship, his unflagging enthusiasm, his well-stilled knowledge of the seismicity of the active volcanoes--leaves a tremendous void in the Instituto's monitoring efforts.


March 2005 (BGVN 30:03) Citation IconCite this Report

Deaths of four PHIVOLCS staff (Daligdig, Tungol, Javier, Abengoza) and former director Ray Punongbayan in a helicopter crash in the Philippines

Our friends at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), and indeed all in volcanology, have suffered a grievous loss in the 28 April 2005 helicopter crash that took the lives of four Air Force crew members, four PHIVOLCS scientists, and its former director Ray Punongbayan. They were inspecting landslide-prone areas about 110 km ENE of Pinatubo, looking for areas to resettle communities affected by the 2004 typhoons.

PHIVOLCS staff were Jessie Daligdig, Norman Tungol, Dindo Javier, and Orlando Abengoza, all in their 40s. Ray Punongbayan, 67, joined PHIVOLCS at its start in 1982, and served as its director from 1983 through 2002. This was a time of great growth for PHIVOLCS, and Ray placed major emphasis on hazard mitigation—through maps, education, monitoring, a quick response team, and linkages with volcanologists around the world. Their success at Pinatubo set a standard for all of us, and this loss saddens the full international community.


January 2007 (BGVN 32:01) Citation IconCite this Report

Death of Jim Luhr, Director of the Global Volcanism Program

Jim Luhr, director of our volcano program since 1995, passed away unexpectedly in his sleep on 1 January 2007. He was 53 years of age, and died of complications from influenza. He leaves behind his wife Karen Prestegaard, a professor at the University of Maryland, and their two school-aged daughters.

One of Jim's legacies is the greatly expanded public access to Smithsonian volcano data resulting from his promotion of the growth of our widely used website. In the mid-1990s, he helped create a new exhibit hall exposing millions of visitors each year to displays with significant emphasis on geophysics, plate tectonics, and volcanology (giving visitors electronic access to geologic and geophysical information).

Jim acted as chief editor of the graphically stunning book Earth. He also co-edited the book "Paricutín: The Volcano Born in a Mexican Cornfield," an outgrowth of his many detailed field and laboratory studies of Mexican volcanoes. Jim was well known for his work on the petrology of young volcanic rocks and the atmospheric impact of eruptions.

[Notice from BGVN 31:11] With deep regret we announce that Jim Luhr passed away unexpectedly and peacefully in his sleep on 1 January 2007 at the age of 53. He directed the Smithsonian's Global Volcanism Program during 1995 through 2006, and in that role helped elevate both this Bulletin and its younger sister publication, the Smithsonian / USGS Weekly Volcanic Activity Report. Jim was well-known for well-crafted, multifaceted analytical studies of his beloved Mexican volcanoes.


April 2009 (BGVN 34:04) Citation IconCite this Report

Death of Tom Simkin, founder and Director of the Global Volcanism Program until 1995

Tom Simkin, who founded and for 28 years served as director of the Global Volcanism Program, died on 10 June at the age of 75 from complications after surgery for esophageal cancer, an ailment diagnosed ~6 months earlier. Tom saw our reporting on Earth's volcanism evolve from brief reports transmitted by postcard to its current formats in print and in various forms on the web. He began by incorporating previous databases, and enlisting volcano watchers to share their observations with the Smithsonian. This led to the most comprehensive database available on global volcanism during the past 10,000 years (the Holocene). This allowed Tom to write authoritative, pioneering papers describing the pace and character of active global volcanism. He authored two editions of the sought-after reference book, Volcanoes of the World, and had been collaborating in retirement on the third edition, an effort that will continue in his absence.

He received a bachelors degree from Swarthmore College and a Ph.D. from Princeton University and was known for his field studies on both North Skye in the U.K. and Fernandina and other Galápagos Islands volcanoes. He edited books commemorating the Krakatau 1883 eruption and the Parícutin 1943-52 eruption. He led efforts to create the popular wall map This Dynamic Planet, which plots earthquakes, volcanoes, meteorite impacts, and tectonic plate parameters; the map's latest (2006) edition features a companion website enabling users to prepare customized images. In recognition of his contributions to volcanology, Tom received the Krafft Medal (IAVCEI) in 2004 and was recently awarded the Jefferson Medal from the Virginia Museum of Natural History for 2010.


July 2012 (BGVN 37:07) Citation IconCite this Report

Death of volcanologist Herman Patia Principal Volcanologist at the Rabaul Volcano Observatory

One of the first homegrown volcanologists in Papua New Guinea (PNG), Herman Patia (figure 1), grew up the youngest of nine children in Gunanba, a village at the Eastern end of New Britain Island and S of Rabaul caldera. He died on 18 June 2012, two days short of his 50th birthday, in Rabaul Town after a month of unstated illness (Itikarai, 2012, which this obituary summarizes). Patia completed all his early schooling through his BS degree in PNG. He completed an MS degree at the Australian National University with a thesis on Rabaul’s petrology and geochemistry (Patia, 2004). He continued to write papers, including co-authorship on the workshop report cited below (Johnson and others, 2010).

Herman Patia Figure 1. Herman Patia standing before a poster on Papua New Guinea volcanism. Courtesy of Keith-Reid (2007).

Patia began work at Rabaul Volcano Observatory (RVO) in 1986 and rose to the position of Principal Volcanologist. RVO monitors the country’s 57 known Holocene volcanoes, some of which are quite active and close to settlements. Like many scientists working at volcano observatories, Patia’s contributions were multifaceted, spanning from research and publishing to volcano monitoring, and from mapping and hazards assessment to raising community awareness. PNG volcanoes draw international interest, and visitors recall benefitting from Herman’s advice and assistance. He was widely known as someone with both technical competence as well as an amiable, good-natured disposition.

More than once, duty dictated an immediate response to a sudden crisis, putting Patia in situations that could entail considerable risk. For example, in responding to a crisis at Langila in the early 1990’s, he and his then RVO colleague Patrice de Saint Ours survived a close call while monitoring behavior at the summit. A sudden explosion discharged incandescent lava fragments at close range. They escaped by running down the volcano’s ash- and scoria-covered flank, hot lava fragments burning holes in Patia’s backpack.

References. Itikarai, I., 2012, Patia parts with his volcanoes, Papua New Guinea Weekend Online Courier, June 2012.

Johnson, R.W., Itikarai, I., Patia, H., and McKee, C., 2010, Rabaul Volcano Workshop Report; Volcanic systems of the Northeastern Gazelle Peninsula, Papua New Guinea: synopsis, evaluation, and a model for Rabaul volcano, Rabaul Observatory Twinning Program, Dept. Of Mineral Policy and Geohazards Management (DMPGM), Government. of Papua New Guinea and Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), Australian Government, 84 p., ISBN 978-1-921672-89-7.

Keith-Reid, R., 2007, Profile: Detecting Volcanoes-Meet volcanologist Herman Patia, Islands Business International.

Patia, H., 2004, Petrology and geochemistry of the recent eruption history at Rabaul Caldera, Papua New Guinea: implications for magmatic processes and recurring volcanic activity. Unpubl. Masters of Philosophy thesis, Australian National University, Canberra, 111 pp. (Available at https://digitalcollections.anu.edu.au/handle/1885/7345).