Katia and Maurice Krafft
Katia Krafft (Mulhouse, 17 April 1942 – 3 June 1991) and her husband, Maurice Krafft (Guebwiller, 25 March 1946 – 3 June 1991) were French volcanologists who died in a pyroclastic flow on Mount Unzen, in Japan, on June 3, 1991. The Kraffts were known for being pioneers in filming, photographing and recording volcanoes, often getting within feet of lava flows. Their obituary appeared in the Bulletin of Volcanology, (vol. 54, pp 613–614).
Katia and Maurice met at the University of Strasbourg, and their career as volcano observers began soon after. With little money, they saved up for a trip to Stromboli and photographed the eruption. Finding that people were interested in this documentation of eruptions, they soon made a career out of this, which afforded them the ability to travel the globe.
As professional volcanologists
The Kraffts were often the first to arrive at an active volcano, and were respected and envied by many volcanologists. Their footage of the effects of volcanic eruptions was a considerable factor in gaining the cooperation of local authorities faced with volcanic threats. One notable example of this was after the onset of activity at Mount Pinatubo in 1991, where their video of the effects of the eruption of Nevado del Ruiz in Colombia was shown to large numbers of people, including Philippine President Cory Aquino, and convinced many skeptics that evacuation of the area would be necessary.
The Mount Unzen eruption
In June 1991, while filming eruptions at Mount Unzen, they were caught in a pyroclastic flow which unexpectedly swept out of a channel others had been flowing down and onto the ridge they were standing on. They were killed instantly, along with 41 journalists also covering the eruptions.
The work of the Kraffts was highlighted in a video issue of National Geographic, which contained a large amount of their film footage and photographs as well as interviews with both. Maurice is famous for saying in the video that "I am never afraid because I have seen so much eruptions in 23 years that even if I die tomorrow, I don't care", coincidentally on the day before his and his wife's death at Mt. Unzen. Volcano: Nature's Inferno. [videorecording]. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society. 2003.
(c) 2010 Maya Chilam Foundation