Volcanoes and Earthquakes

Our Volcanoes and Earthquakes gallery, previously known as The Power Within, reveals the epic forces that shape our planet. 

With dramatic film footage, impressive specimens and objects, interactive games, a new plate tectonics room and our famous earthquake simulator, it is a must-see gallery for visitors.

Free permanent gallery. Floor 2, near the Exhibition Road entrance, Red Zone.

There is an audio descriptive guide for blind and visually impaired visitors, highlighting the gallery exhibits.
Download the audio desciptive guide

Volcanoes and Earthquake gallery entrance

With a design inspired by rock strata layers, the gallery has three zones: volcanoes, plate tectonics and earthquakes

As you explore the gallery, discover the latest science behind these destructive forces and examine their global impact.

Giant's Causeway lava pillars

These columns, from the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, were once part of a thick lava flow that cooled and shrank to form hexagonal shapes - similar to the way cracks form in drying mud.

Pompeii casts

When Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79, a hot river of gas and rock, known as pyroclastic flow, enveloped Pompeii and buried its inhabitants. 

These Pompeii casts in the earthquakes zone show the final positions people and animals took as they tried to protect themselves.

Heat suit in Volcanoes and Earthquakes

You need special gear to work near volcanoes. 

Scientists sometimes need heat suits to protect them from the searing temperatures of the lava. This suit can withstand temperatures up to 1,000˚C.

Pele's hair

Pele’s hair is the name given to golden strands that form when tiny pieces of magma are thrown in the air and spun by the wind into volcanic glass. 

The name derives from the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes.

Oldest rock and newest rock

At 3.8 billion years old, this is one of the oldest rocks ever found. It contains iron and silica. 

Next to it is one of the youngest rocks in the Museum’s collection, formed in 2005 during the eruption of Mount Merapi in the Philippines.


Test your knowledge of natural phenomena on the gallery's interactive screens

Look out for the touch objects, including a lava bomb, the vivid CGI film demonstrating plate tectonics and a live data feed of earthquake hotspots. Also uncover the latest scientific research on recent natural catastrophes as you explore the earthquakes zone.

Giant catfish

Japanese folklore describes a giant catfish, or Namazu, that lived in the mud underneath Japan, lurking in its wetlands and rivers.

The catfish was restrained by Kashima, the god who protected the Japanese people from earthquakes. When Kashima relaxed his guard, the catfish thrashed about, causing the ground to shake and crack. 

In Hindu mythology, elephants were blamed for earthquakes.

Tsunami touch screen

Towards the end of the gallery, learn about the causes and impact of tsunamis.

Japan's devastating 2011 Tōhoku tsunami was the result of a 9 magnitude earthquake and one of the largest ever recorded.

It was so powerful, the tilt of Earth’s axis shifted.

Earthquake simulator

End your journey with a jolt. Step inside the Kobe Supermarket earthquake machine and feel the power as the ground shakes beneath you. 

Witness the destruction of the 8.9 magnitude earthquake in 1996, captured live on supermarket security cameras.

Volcanoes and Earthquakes talks

Meet a volcano explorer and uncover the science behind these dramatic natural forces at our drop-in daytime talks. Free.

Volcanoes and earthquakes talks in the Attenborough Studio