"BOB (MR. INCREDIBLE): I was just wondering, of all the places to settle down, why live…MIRAGE: With a volcano? He's attracted to power. So am I. It's a weakness we share.BOB (MR. INCREDIBLE): Seems a bit unstable.MIRAGE: I prefer to think of it as misunderstood." The Incredibles (2004). Directed by Brad Bird [Film]. USA: Walt Disney Pictures & Pixar Animation Studios
Like any self-respecting geologist, let alone volcanologist, clearly I’m going to need my own evil volcano lair. That’s not to say I hold any great desire for world domination or even plan on any more than just your basic day-to-day evil doing, but the necessity of an evil lair is ever-present! Putting potential plots to one side (at least for now), just what is it am I expecting my lair to be like? I’ve come to realise that I’ve only superficially considered those requirements and these seem a little too obvious, things like having a remote setting, probably an island, cavernous spaces etc.? In the coming series of blogs I plan to drill down into the issues to try and find a more robust set of criteria for the perfect lair. Then the search can truly begin… [muwha ha ha ha hah]. I’m certainly not the first to write on the subject. While peer-reviewed literature on setting up evil establishments is pretty thin on the ground, the blogosphere doesn’t let us down. There was a bit of a blogfest on the subject back in 2011, started by Paul Johnson at the Geological Society who suggested an isolated island setting is best to avoid interference from police and military forces, and notes a traditional preference for a stratovolcano and ideally dormant although the justification for this is not explained. He offered five contenders and although not all really conformed to his criteria (some were active, others not so remote) it was a good start to the discourse. Planet Science took his criteria and offered the community a helpful “Who wants to be an Evil Geologist?” quiz. Eric Klemetti responded with a great piece on Wired suggesting that while away from civilisation is good, you will also need access to a supply of minions, which to me presents an interesting trade off. Perhaps more distinctly he suggested it should be fear inspiring with a lava lake i.e. going for active volcanism. His bid was for the awe-inspiring Mt. Erebus on Antarctica with its army of marauding penguins. Then Jessica Ball’s abandoned Pagan Island, also had isolation and minions (feral cows) but added further factors into the mix including shark-infested waters, pre-existing infrastructure, mineral resources and pleasant climate. Mount Shasta was favoured by Gary Hayes who appreciated the challenge of keeping a base supplied. His solution has well-resourced occupants, the descendants of Atlantis, and as it is visited regularly by UFOs it shouldn’t be too hard to get hold of those hard to find essentials when away from home. Although the community went quiet for a while, earlier this year Dana Hunter pointed out that with little true isolation left on Earth, we have to think bigger and go for Mt. Olympus on Mars with vast lava tube based caverns for ambience and more than enough calderas for her death rays. The focus of these writers was to convince the world of their preferred location, but I feel it would be helpful to take a step back first. Clearly each writer has criteria but do they all agree and what are the priorities and trade-offs that selecting any site is bound to involve? Isolation seems reasonable to avoid unwanted attention, but when the light bulb goes in the laser control room or you simply run out of milk, having a few thousand mile round trip could really get in the way of your villainy. Human resources are also difficult to come by – can you recruit locally or do you have to look worldwide? Do they bring their family and what will they do? Schools? Shops? Entertainment? Prisons? Ok, maybe the shark infested waters deal with that last one but still, before long you are running a whole community. What type and state of a volcano is viable for an evil base? A bit of activity may set the mood nicely but clearly it brings risks. How suitable is the land for drilling and construction? Islands might be self-contained but they are also vulnerable with probably just one of any piece of key infrastructure, so what do you do when you lose your port or your power system fails? What other natural hazards do you face like meteorological or tsunami? Can you get insurance? Running a lair is more than just evil, it has all the socio-politico-economic challenges of governing any small state in a geohazard prone setting which is hard enough on its own without also having the world’s superheroes and spies out to get you. The challenges really start mounting up so over the next few blogs I will try to get to the bottom of some of these key issues and see what lessons can be learnt from the real world as well as the fictional.