Near the top of Japan’s Mount Ontake, whose recent eruption is thought to have claimed 36 lives, rescue teams have been facing setbacks due to the dangerous terrain including flying rocks and poisonous fumes. Around the same time, the Japanese Geographical Survey Institute (GSI) has posted nearly 200 photos of the initial eruption online from 360 degrees around it.

By overlaying the photos on a precise topographical map they hope the data can be valuable to teams by helping them understand the behavior of the plume and conditions all over the area. These photos are available for anyone to see by going to the GSI website, but perhaps its some of the videos posted from the scene online that give a better sense of the disaster.

After opening the map in your browser you’ll see an image of Mount Ontake that was composed from 200 aerial photographs, surrounded by dozens of yellow icons. The icons themselves represent the position from which a photo was taken, with their blue arrows showing the angle the photo was taken from.

By clicking on one of those yellow icons, you can see an information bubble with the date of the photo and a link to the photo itself.

Here are only a few of the GSI’s 184 high-res photos.

Although they say that a picture is worth a thousand words, in this case these photos make the eruption look almost tranquil, and they don’t really seem capture the horror and violent danger that people on the mountain that day faced.

A few videos from survivors of Ontake have come out giving a slightly more in-depth sense of what it was like. This first one appeared on many news reports featuring a group of climbers fleeing the massive plume of ash and rocks before becoming engulfed in it.

On theYamareco page, the climber said they hid behind large rocks to escape the rain of stones that came before the moist darkness of the ash in the video. They were then evacuated to a cabin on the mountain and given helmets before making their way down.

Even with these videos, the true horror of the situation would probably have to be felt through your other senses from the heat of the ash and air to the noxious fumes that were also released. The full experience can’t be far off from some depictions of hell. Because of that we can only hope the best for those who survived and may still be out there. We can also give the respect and admiration due to those that went into that nightmare environment for no other reason than to help.

Geographical Survey Institute’s Ontake Photo Map

Climber’s photo album on Yamareco

Source: GSI, Gigazine, MSN Sankei News, Yamareco (Japanese)
Video: YouTube – ALEAKS, ri ne 1, 2

▼ A photo of one of Ontake’s crater lakes on the day of the eruption from Yamareco

▼ And the day after from the GSI