Nik Wallenda Live!: What Poisonous Gases Are in the Masaya Volcano?

Nik Wallenda

Getty Lava oozing down a volcano during an eruption.

Tonight, daredevil Nik Wallenda will wirewalk over the Masaya volcano in what is his most daring stunt to date.

As he walks over boiling lava 2,000 feet in the air, viewers may notice that he is wearing a gas mask and goggles to protect himself from the poisonous gases.

Wallenda recently told The Main Edge of the challenges he faces, “There’s a long list… and it seems to be growing by the day. Active lava spews a lot of volcanic gases, and in those gases are very harmful chemicals that will actually burn your eyes, so I have to wear goggles. They can also be so thick you can’t see, so part of my training involves keeping my eyes closed. Because the oxygen levels are so thin in those gases, I have to wear a gas mask and an oxygen tank to supplement my oxygen intake. That’s a challenge in itself because I’ll be carrying more bulk. Because we’ll be dealing with winds, I need to stay as streamlined as possible.”

Read on to learn more about the Masaya Volcano, and the gases it contains.


The Gases Will Pose the Biggest Danger to His Walk

In his interview with EW, Wallenda was asked what he believes will pose the biggest danger on his walk. He explained, “They are deadly gases that literally absorb the oxygen out of the air, so they would definitely be my biggest concern.”

Due to weather shifts over the past few days, Wallenda will also wear goggles, which pose somewhat of a disadvantage. He says, “[The goggles and the mask] are in my peripheral vision, so therefore it gets in the way as I’m walking. It’s just an added distraction — certainly something that I don’t plan on doing anytime after this. Although I don’t see myself walking over any more volcanoes anytime soon.”

On top of that, acids from the volcano have eaten through his walking wires. That is why, Wallenda has explained, he can’t set up the wires too far in advance. Otherwise, the cables could crumble and break during his walk.


The Gases in the Volcano Are ‘Literally Deadly’

The CDC reports that when it comes to volcanoes and volcanic eruptions, the most common volcanic gas is water vapor, followed by carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide. It is the latter that causes breathing issues. Other volcanic gases include hydrogen chloride, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen fluoride. At high levels, the gases cause swelling and throat spasms, and suffocation.

According to The Independent, the volcano Wallenda is walking over has been described as a “ticking time bomb” and “so fierce local crusaders once tried to exercise the devil out of its heart.”

The outlet goes adds, “The large double vent continually emits large amounts of sulfur dioxide gas, which mixes with the moisture in the air to form highly corrosive sulphuric acid.”

ABC reports, “Part of the famed Pacific Ring of Fire, Masaya encompasses multiple craters and is one of very few volcanoes to possess a lava lake. The extreme environment at Masaya will add an extra set of risks to Nik’s already daring walk.”

Wallenda is a seventh-generation tightrope walker and hails from a family of aerial troupe circus artists. He holds 11 Guinness World Records. In June, he and his sister Lijana became the first pair to cross Times Square on a tightrope a whopping 25 stories above the ground.

Tonight’s walk will span 1,800 feet and will be broadcast on ABC at 8pm ET/PT. It is the highest and longest highwire walk attempted.

READ NEXT: Nik Wallenda’s Nicaragua Volcano Harness for His High Wire Walk


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