Check out this interesting read and video short on the strange lava of Ol Doinyo Lengai, a volcano in Tanzania!
If you had to pick the most unique volcano on Earth, you’d be hard pressed to find a better candidate than Tanzania’s Ol Doinyo Lengai. Not only does it look like a volcano designed by HR Giger (below), but it is the only place on the planet that is currently erupting carbonatite lava, some of the strangest stuff you will ever see (see the excellent video above). These lavas are like no other lava, chock full of calcium, sodium and carbon dioxide, leading to some of the odd properties of these eruptions. However, the ultimate source of these carbonatite lavas is still hotly debated — and to make it more complicated, Ol Doinyo Lengai doesn’t even erupt the usual carbonatite (if you can call any carbonatite “usual”) lava. Not only that, but carbonatites might be a good source for mining rare earth elements, so understanding how they form is going to become increasingly important.