Mt. Paeku, the DPRK's mysterious volcano, studied for first time

In North Korea, it is called Mount Paektu. In China, it's known as Changbai. Measuring about 9,000ft in height, the volcano has laid dormant for many, many years after having once exploded so violently it sent debris as far away as Japan. To gain a better understanding of the volcano and when another eruption could occur, an international team of researchers have been granted access into North Korea to study it, possibly learning more about its history and what humans can expect from its future.

Because of the volcano's location — on the Chinese-DPRK border — very little research into it has been performed, and as such little is known about the mountain, save that it was once responsible for one of the largest eruptions in history. In what has been described as an "unprecedented" project, researchers trekked to the mountain with sensors and more to learn about the volcano's structure, magmatic evolution, and geochronology.

This marks the first time any sort of first estimate has been made for the crustal structure of the volcano, at least the part that sits on North Korea's side of the border. The researchers found that the crust residing 60km from the volcano is 35km thick, and that "a large region of the crust has been modified by magmatism associated with volcanism," according to the study.

While everything is preliminary at this point, the study states that there's likely partial melt beanth Mount Paektu's crust, and that the volcano could have been been responsible for "volcanic unrest" that happened in the region from 2002 through 2005.

The volcano is particularly notable because of its location — in the middle, more or less, of a tectonic plate where one wouldn't expect to find an active volcano. That lends it part of its mystery, but researchers have, until recently, been unable to study it because of its sacred status in North Korea and the nation's generally restrictive nature.

The mountain is home to Heaven Lake, a beautiful pool of water that resides within its crater at the top. As well, the mountain has hot springs and vents, and is covered with blueberries during certain parts of the year. While the Chinese side of the volcano is home to a national park and ample tourists, the North Korean side is mostly empty with some small villages peppering it.

The research project had ultimately resulted from the aforementioned seismic activity that happened last decade, as it startled the North Korean government and spurred it, as a matter of necessity, toward seeking more info on it.

SOURCE: National Geographic