On July 4, news started circulating about a huge explosion in the Caspian Sea in Azerbaijan captured on video. The first information was relayed by the state oil company, SOCAR, to the Russian news agency saying the explosion was real and probably caused by a “mud volcano”.
To some people, that seemed a bit suspicious. Mud volcanoes erupt mud, not a giant tower of flame. And, after the Gulf of Mexico “eye of fire” caused by a gas leak just two days earlier, perhaps this oil company was covering up another accident.
In short order, however, we did have confirmation that this was an eruption of Dashly island, located about 30 km from the coast in Azerbaijan.
The rock under the sea here is loaded with hydrocarbons. Oil and gas are mined but the gas is released naturally and sometimes explosively. It is unclear what caused the gas to ignite but that can also happen naturally. The best source of accurate info on these strange and scary mud volcanoes is petroleum geologist Mark Tingay. His Twitter feed provided solid info on what could be happening until local officials could confirm what had happened.
I admit, the mud volcano explanation seemed wrong to me too when I saw it but one of the best things about the Internet is the ability to access ACTUAL EXPERTS who provide a credible information feed. I am most grateful to Dr. Tingay who was so on the ball with this story.
It is also not the first time a fireball exploded. I found this documentation from an eruption in 1958 in a nearby location. This explosion was potentially supersonic. Wow.
Most mud volcanoes look like this on land, hence the confusion.