Katia and Maurice Krafft

Katia and Maurice Krafft
BornApril 17, 1942 (Katia),
March 25, 1946 (Maurice)
DiedJune 3, 1991(1991-06-03) (aged 49) (Katia)
June 3, 1991(1991-06-03) (aged 45) (Maurice)
Mount Unzen, Japan32°45′09.5″N 130°20′14.1″E / 32.752639°N 130.337250°E / 32.752639; 130.337250
Cause of deathKilled by the 1991 eruption of Mt. Unzen

Catherine Joséphine "Katia" Krafft (née Conrad; 17 April 1942 – 3 June 1991) and her husband, Maurice Paul Krafft (25 March 1946 – 3 June 1991), were Alsatian 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.[1] Werner Herzog's documentary Into the Inferno highlights them.

Early life


Katia Joséphine Krafft (née Conrad) was born on April 17, 1942 in the commune of Guebwiller, France. Her parents were Charles and Madeleine Conrad. Katia graduated from the University of Strasbourg with degrees in physics and chemistry.


Maurice Krafft was born on March 26, 1946 in the city and commune of Mulhouse, located in the Alsace region of France. Krafft discovered his interest in volcanoes at seven years old while on a family trip to Naples and Stromboli, joining the Société géologique de France (Geological Society of France) at age 15. He studied geology at the University of Besançon then the University of Strasbourg.


The two met on a bench at the university and got married in 1970.[2]

With little money, they saved up for a trip to Stromboli and photographed its near-continuous eruption. Finding that people were interested in this documentation of eruptions, they soon made a career out of filming volcano eruptions, which afforded them the ability to travel the globe.


The Kraffts were often the first to be 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.

Katia started her career by taking gas samples of volcanoes and documenting eruptions by observing them in person. To fund her trips, Katia wrote many books about her findings, pioneering a new area of volcanic coverage. She also made a documentary, "The Volcano Watchers", for the PBS show "Nature". On January 23, 1973, Katia was called to Southern Iceland to study an extinct volcano that had suddenly erupted after thousands of years of inactivity. Since volcanoes are unpredictable and dangerous, many scientists were afraid to observe eruptions in person.

Katia, however, would go right to the edge of a volcano. Her fearlessness and up-close documentation led to her fame and success as a volcanologist. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Katia continued to document volcanoes through photography while her husband, Maurice, captured them on video. Katia's observations have led to a better understanding of volcanic eruptions. She took measurements, gas readings, and collected mineral samples just feet away from erupting volcanoes and documented how these eruptions affected the ecosystem. She witnessed and documented new volcanoes being formed and the effects of acid rain and dangerous ash clouds.

One of her last projects was Understanding Volcanic Hazards and Reducing Volcanic Risks. Katia continued to push the boundaries to get her observations, wearing a special helmet to protect herself from falling rock to and taking a raft into a lake of acid to get proper readings. Her photography allowed her to work with local governments on safety procedures and helping to develop volcano evacuation procedures. In 1969, Katia was awarded the prize of the Vocation Foundation for her first work of volcanology on active sites.

Mount Unzen eruption

In June 1991, while filming eruptions at Mount Unzen (Japan), they were caught in a pyroclastic flow, which unexpectedly swept out of the channel that previous smaller flows had been following and onto the ridge they were standing on. They were killed instantly along with 41 other people, including fellow volcanologist Harry Glicken, several firefighters and 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 said in that video that "I am never afraid because I have seen so many eruptions in 23 years that even if I die tomorrow, I don't care".


A volcanic crater, M. and K. Krafft Crater, of the volcano Piton de la Fournaise on the island of Reunion, is named after the couple. The crater is located at21°13′23″S 55°43′2″E / 21.22306°S 55.71722°E / -21.22306; 55.71722.[3] Lava erupted from this crater in March 1998.[4]

The Krafft Medal honors the Krafft memory and is awarded every 4 years by the IAVCEI Scientific Assembly to someone who has made significant contributions to volcanology through service to communities affected by volcanic activity.[5]

The Maurice and Katia Krafft Memorial Fund

The Centre for the Study of Active Volcanoes at the University of Hawaii at Hilo has established a fund in memory of the Krafft's (The Maurice and Katia Krafft Memorial Fund). The donations will be directed to educate people in countries of high volcanic risk about the hazards active volcanoes pose.


Maurice Krafft

  • Guide des volcans d’Europe : généralités, France, Islande, Italie, Grèce, Allemagne..., Neuchâtel: Delachaux et Niestlé, 1974, 412 pp.
  • Questions à un vulcanologue : Maurice Krafft répond, Paris: Hachette-Jeunesse, 1981, 231 pp.
  • Les Volcans et leurs secrets, Paris: Nathan, 1984, 63 pp.
  • Le Monde merveilleux des volcans, Paris: Hachette-Jeunesse, 1981, 58 pp.
  • Les Feux de la Terre : Histoire de volcans, collection « Découvertes Gallimard » (nº 113), série Sciences et techniques. Paris: Gallimard, 1991 (new edition in 2003[6]), 208 pp.
    • Volcanoes: Fire from the Earth, "Abrams Discoveries" series, New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1993.
    • Volcanoes: Fire from the Earth, 'New Horizons' series, London: Thames & Hudson, 1993.

Maurice and Katia Krafft

  • À l’assaut des volcans, Islande, Indonésie, Paris: Presses de la Cité, 1975, 112 pp.
  • Preface by Eugène Ionesco, Les Volcans, Paris: Draeger-Vilo, 1975, 174 pp.
  • La Fournaise, volcan actif de l’île de la Réunion, Saint-Denis: Éditions Roland Benard, 1977, 121 pp.
  • Volcans, le réveil de la Terre, Paris: Hachette-Réalités, 1979, 158 pp.
  • Dans l’antre du Diable : volcans d’Afrique, Canaries et Réunion, Paris: Presses de la Cité, 1981, 124 pp.
  • Volcans et tremblements de terre, Paris: Les Deux Coqs d’Or, 1982, 78 pp.
  • Volcans et dérives des continents, Paris: Hachette, 1984, 157 pp.
  • Les plus beaux volcans, d’Alaska en Antarctique et Hawaï, Paris: Solar, 1985, 88 pp.
  • Volcans et éruptions, Paris: Hachette-Jeunesse, 1985, 90 pp.
  • Les Volcans du monde, Vevey-Lausanne: Éditions Mondo, 1986, 152 pp.
  • Objectif volcans, Paris: Nathan Image, 1986, 154 pp.
  • Führer zu den Virunga Vulkanen, Stuttgart: F. Enke, 1990, 187 pp.

Maurice Krafft and Roland Benard

  • Au cœur de la Fournaise, Orléans: Éditions Nourault-Bénard, 1986, 220 pp.

Maurice Krafft, Katia Krafft and François-Dominique de Larouzière

  • Guide des volcans d'Europe et des Canaries, Neuchâtel: Delachaux et Niestlé, 1991, 455 pp.


  1. ^ Keller, Jorg (1992). "Memorial for Katja and Maurice Krafft". Bulletin of Volcanology. 54 (7): 613. doi:10.1007/BF00569946.
  2. ^ Rinard Hinga 2015, p. 164.
  3. ^ Bachelery, P., Lenat, J-F., Di Muro, A. and Michon, L. (editors) (2016). Active Volcanoes of the Southwest Indian Ocean: Piton de la Fournaise and Katharla. Berlin: Springer. p. 146. ISBN 978-3-642-31394-3.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  4. ^ "Activité historique du Piton de la Fournaise". Observatoire volcanologique du Piton de la Fournaise. Archived from the original on 6 October 2015. Retrieved 3 June 2016.
  5. ^ "Krafft Medal". www.iavceivolcano.org.
  6. ^ "Les feux de la terre : Histoires de volcans, collection Découvertes Gallimard (n° 113)". gallimard.fr (in French). Éditions Gallimard. 2003. Retrieved 10 June 2020.


  • National Geographic Society "Volcano" 60 minute VHS tape [52763] Columbia Tristar Home VideoISBN 0-8001-2666-1
  • P.B.S. Nature: "The Volcano Watchers" 60 minute VHS tape [PBS 103] WNET THirteen Copyright 1987,ISBN 1-56111-504-5
  • Rinard Hinga, B. D. (2015). "Krafft, Katja (Katia), and Krafft, Maurica". Ring of Fire: An Encyclopedia of the Pacific Rim's Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and Volcanoes: An Encyclopedia of the Pacific Rim's Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and Volcanoes. ABC-CLIO. pp. 164–166. ISBN 978-1610692960.

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Katia and Maurice Krafft