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If you go to the popphoto.com newswire you’ll find a dispatch from Russian nature photographer Igor Spilenok, who recently beheld nature at her most furious. Igor, who has spent several years shooting the famed Valley of the Geysers in the Kamchatka Peninsula, was on hand when a landslide—probably caused by an earthquake—destroyed the valley. Specifically, the landslide created a dam that filled the valley with water, snuffing out its many natural geysers. Here you can see before-and-after images of the area.

When you read Igor’s dispatch, you’ll know how personally the devastation must have affected him. The valley is one of the few places on earth where geysers occur naturally, and it was breathtakingly beautiful. Imagine if Yellowstone were suddenly to disappear because of a giant volcanic eruption. (By the way, that could happen, in theory, from what I see on the Discovery Channel.)

When I saw the new photos of the valley, my first thought was, why don’t they just dynamite the dam created by the landslide? That would release the water from the valley, and the geysers could spurt forth again.

Officials in charge of the area agree with environmentalists that nothing of the sort should be done. The landslide was part of a natural process, they say—a unique transformation of the earth that researchers will be eager to study. Man-made interference would also disrupt the many species of animals that live in the region.

The only way now to remember the Valley of the Geysers is through photographs. You can see more of Spilenok’s work here.

—David Schonauer