Every visitor to Aşıklı knows the image dominating the southern horizon, it is the sublime Hasandağ (Mountain Hasan) changing colors in every hour of the day with its twin peaks constantly playing around with clouds.
Hasandağı has been the theme of many türkü (traditional folk songs of Anatolia). The past, present and future of this region, namely Ihlara-Cappadocia owes much for its culture and economy to this mountain. Fertile agricultural fields, fairy chimneys, churches carved in rocks are all consequences of volcanic activities of the elder sibling Mount Erciyes and younger sibling Güllüdağ along with Hasandağ. One of the most important elements of Aşıklı civilization the obsidian, volcanic glass, is a product of volcanic eruptions.
A lesser known aspect of Hasandağ, an inseparable part our Aşıklı story, is that it is amongst the ten volcanoes of Turkey classified as still active. According to Prof. Mehmet Keskin, “ it is among the ten volcanoes in Turkey with a potential to erupt, waiting insidiously for a rigorous explosion” in an article on Gazete Oksijen, a Turkish newspaper.
Many of us may think that we have almost witnessed all disasters “but not yet” states Prof. Mehmet Keskin from Istanbul Technical University’s Department of Geological Engineering. And warns us that “any volcano that was active in the last 10,000 years has a potential to erupt any time, affecting an area of 100 kilometers, causing disaster and that we should be ready for consequences”.
WHERE ARE THE ACTIVE VOLCANOES SITUATED IN TURKEY?
Eastern Anatolia is standing on top of a 150 km deep,1350 degrees Celsius hot and resin like magma containing material. This structure causes earthquakes and there are mountains ready to erupt. They are sleeping giants of Turkey.
HOW DO WE DETERMINE THAT THESE VOLCANOES ARE ACTIVE?
An active volcano is defined as a volcano which was active in the last 10,000 years. This period allows ample time for the magma under the volcano to remain without solidifying and to erupt again. Turkey’s volcanic structure can be understood by evaluating Eastern Anatolian plateau where two thirds of its area, about 43,000 square kilometers are covered with volcanic rocks. Anatolia was like hell in the past and it continues to be so in an underground fashion.
DID THE ANATOLIAN VOLCANOES ERUPT IN THE RECENT PAST?
According to records kept by Armenian clergy, we know that the big Mount Ağrı (Mount Ararat) erupted in 1840s. Mount Tendürek had erupted in 1855 and Mount Erciyes in 6680 BC.
Mount Nemrut’s last eruptions were in 1441 and 1443, nothing side of the mountain with
plantless fresh lava formations can still be observed.
WHAT WERE THE EFFECTS OF VOLCANO ERUPTIONS?
Mount Nemrut had its most furious eruption 90,000 years ago. Hot ashes covered a huge area of thousands of square kilometers with several. Meters high, from Bitlis in south to Muş, Bulanık in north, about 50 km radius.
WAS IT ONLY MOUNT NEMRUT WHICH AFFECTED LIFE IN ANATOLIA?
No. When Hasandağ erupted 9,000 years ago with lava and ash there were people living in the vicinity. The community of Çatalhöyük witnessed this eruption and recorded this event as the first eruption painting in the history of human kind on their walls.
CAN WE ESTIMATE THE TIME OF AN ERUPTION? For example the big earthquake of Istanbul is estimated to be within 30 years.
We cannot estimate a time of eruption for volcanoes, they could be activated as soon as tomorrow or in the next thousand years.
WHICH ARE THE POTENTIAL THREATS?
Four million people live in 30 km and 15 million in 100 km vicinity and when a volcano erupts it can be dangerous for an area of 100 km radius.
COULD LAVA REACH 100 KM FAR?
Due to slow movement of lava, human casualties are less and people can escape. But when volcanoes like Ararat, Erciyes and Hasan erupt they produce high volumes of hot gas and ash with temperatures between 600-700 degrees Celsius. This combination of hot gas and ash may elevate up to kilometers and as they sweep across the plains with velocities reaching up to 600 kilometers and traveling somewhere between 50-70 kilometers in distance, makes escape impossible.
COULD ERUPTION BE PREVENTED?
Not possible and the magnitude is even more dangerous than an atomic bomb explosion. For example, the amount of energy released after the explosion of Mount St/Helen, Washington in 1980 was 6,000 times more of an atomic explosion.