Starting the journey off Karachi just shy of Friday sunrise after settling ourselves in a 4×4 SUV we zoomed, by means of Lyari Expressway and then the Hub River Road, towards Makran Coastal Highway and after a total 200-kilometer drive, were already in the midst of Pakistan’s largest state-protected space Hingol National Park (HNP)– home to our prime trip destination Chandragup mud volcano and to find there are hundreds taller, bigger than it waiting to be found, mapped and benefitted from.
The SUV, also referred to as a mud surfer and rightly so for it was the most suitable ride for driving us into a terrain, below which lies the meeting point of two tectonic plates, is often shrouded in mud dunes and was wheeled by Mehdi Hussain, the host of the visit. Mehdi identifies as the founder and head of Karachi Astronomers’ Society (KAS) and has a penchant for all things science, as he puts it.
It was his enthusiasm shared by few like-minded people that together helped discover mud-volcanoes, some with higher elevation and active volcanic activity, than the erstwhile-highest Chandragup standing just 328-feet tall above sea level. A seashore, a smaller volcano mountain but with a wider crater, and a dormant volcano are in sight when one summits the 328-feet peak.
There are two ways to reach the top and witness volcanic eruption at play
1) Meander around to the top and discover the details of a volcanic mountain and a cave network underneath the surface ridden with big and small burrow-like holes that can potentially devour anyone not cautious enough, and thus they keep you dancing on your toes.
2) Or to take straight but lengthy stairs to the top. One thing is common whatever way you should choose to see how mud bubbles erupt at the crust laying atop and it’s that you’ll be gasping before you get there.
However, Hussain assuredly says this peak is the only one that has mustered popularity and acknowledgment. It is in part because it was discovered well before the inception of Pakistan and largely also because it is one of the sacred places for Hindu pilgrimage “so due to the footfall and popularity it not only got recognized but was declared the tallest mud-volcano with a board claiming it erected at the footing”.
He said just off the coast of Makran a few miles ahead of this Hindu holy site, there laid a hitherto undiscovered yet active volcanic mountain that stands five times taller than Chandragup. “Even this 1,500-feet tall active mud-volcano is not the tallest of the region but our officials have yet to heed.”
Concerned, Hussain said he did not know whom to reach out to intimate of the discovery his group KAS materialized, for in this group already “there are quite a few people on the policy level and they, too, are unaware of these protocols”.
KAS goes sightseeing to explore the astronomical territory in the Pakistani skies but since the avidity with which Hussain pursues science, nature and exploration, he said he has found his niche. “I started out with literally Google Earth feature and since I was a geology aficionado from the get-go, I researched a lot sitting at home.”
He eventually found people who shared his passion. Now they have together found some 130 mud-volcanoes with claims there are no more left and there are no more anywhere else in Pakistan.
“But these sites have not even geo-mapped by google as volcanic sites, nor even our government acknowledges it.”
If taken seriously, these sites can do so much in terms of learning what is beneath us, he excited, said.
“These should help our geologists, mineralogists and archeologists, too, to compile data and extract information and you know how important these data-sets and knowledge are.”
While Hussain, working in this domain of geographical discovery for the past 16 years and focused significantly in Balochistan, has fueled his interests with creating social media groups and putting together a cohort, he has still to see things changing and registering on the policy level.
I have mapped them and discovered them and I have taken people to pay them visits in my personal capacity and I wish more people and concerned officials knew about them, Hussain said.
He adds, “But before all that we need to first record them and declare them as such sites.”