In the vast emptiness of the Pacific Ocean, tectonic movements construct or swallow islands. In the Tongan archipelago, two little-known animals have learned to cope with these ephemeral lands risen from the ocean depths: the sooty tern, a seabird that never dares wet its wings for fear of drowning, and the Alvin shrimp, a blind crustacean that manages to find its way around the abyss.
On the volcanic island of New-Britain off the coast of Papua New Guinea, a handful of animals have learned to live with the Earth’s moods. When ash from a volcanic eruption invades their habitat, the choice is simple: leave or stay and adapt. In truth, it’s not that easy, since volcanoes and their actions are unpredictable and each creature responds in its own way.
Around the Masaya Volcano in Nicaragua, life has struggled for thousands of years to re-emerge from the ashes. Underground, vampire and other bat species have colonized the miles of tunnels created by hot flowing magma. In the crater, parakeets and vultures have made nests on cliffs exposed to toxic gases. On the flanks of this still active mountain, the vegetation has been burnt away by lava.
In Alaska, the fresh water that feeds the rivers is snowmelt from North America’s highest mountains and most active volcanoes. Time and again, they erupt and poison the rivers. Scientists have only just begun to piece together what might have happened nearly 2,000 years ago, when one race of salmon faced the death of their natal river and were forced back to the open ocean.
Whether the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Colombia, Chile, Italy or Iceland, each of these countries is home to active volcanoes that are a threat to the populations settled at their feet. Every day, lava, ash, gas, bombs and avalanches are likely to slide down the gaping mouths of the rock giants. To avoid disasters, volcanologists are asked to anticipate and warn.
The 2010 eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano provoked economic chaos, paralyzing air traffic for days. This eruption, however, was mild. Much more powerful volcanoes in Iceland are ready to wake up. Through spectacular aerial footage of this country, which is an accumulation of lava and ash, a maze of craters and faults, the episode tries to discern which volcano will awaken next.