“A rescue op. Save the dinosaurs from an island that’s about to explode. What could go wrong?”
These are the words of Owen Grady, Chris Pratt’s character in the trailer for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, and as you’d expect, things do go gloriously, spectacularly wrong. What we weren’t expecting was that, at one point, Grady would have to outrun a pyroclastic density current from an erupting stratovolcano, one that eventually catches up to him – and a bunch of dinosaurs – before presumably knocking him off a cliff and into the sea.
We’re assuming he survives, because otherwise, that’s a hell of a plot spoiler to drop into the trailer. That, of course, made us wonder: what the hell is going on? Can Chris Pratt almost outrun a pyroclastic density current? Can any dinosaur? We weren’t entirely sure, so we asked a volcanologist and a palaeontologist to shed some much-needed light on all this.
Full disclosure: there’s a good chance we’ll thoroughly enjoy this movie. No, we don’t care that there’s no friction in space – Star Wars space battles are awesome. Similarly, we won’t care that Chris Pratt survives a volcanic eruption like this. As long as the movie isn’t 2012, Geostorm, or Volcano, we’re cool.
First things first. What kind of pyroclastic density current (PDC) is it? There are several, and some may make it less likely that Grady meets a grisly end. Take it away Jess Phoenix, a volcanologist who also happens to be running for Congress.
“You cannot outrun a pyroclastic flow. You cannot survive in one. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here,” she enthuses.
“Many good scientists have been killed by pyroclastic flows, most famously Maurice and Katia Krafft on Unzen in 1991. They were experienced volcanologists, something which Pratt's character is definitely not.”
Owch. Burn to Grady there, in more ways than one.
“Incidentally, why on earth would anyone locate a major tourist attraction on an island that is literally nothing but a giant volcanic hazard zone? That's just madness,” Phoenix ponders. Apparently, it’s for the boundless geothermal energy available to them – but still, whoops.