Hidden from sight – Inside the Mirage volcano


MYSTERY WIRE — Since its first eruption in 1989, the volcano in front of the Mirage resort has thrilled millions of visitors. Operating a volcano requires a team effort and special technology. But in the end, it comes down to one guy – the volcano man.

Few people ever get to see the volcano from the inside, see how it works, what it takes to coordinate all of the effects, the needed equipment, booming sounds, and who’s in charge.

When it’s operating, the volcano normally erupts three times each night assuming the wind is calm. That requires some one-of-a-kind equipment and a one-of-a-kind license that as far as we know, only one man has. “We’re the only ones who have a license to operate a volcano,” according to the self-described volcano man Kurt Arend. He says his license has him named as a ‘volcano effects operator.’

Volcano man, Kurt Arend looks over an eruption of the Mirage volcano.

Before the coronavirus shutdown of all casinos, the volcano has erupted nightly for over 30 years. The Mirage opened in 1989. The Mirage was the strip’s first mega resort.  For months before the opening passerbys watched as workers built something unique out front. A faux Kilauea rising from the caliche, a Vegas Krakatoa. The volcano was a hit from the first eruption. Dennis Mefferd, the Mirage’s facilities operations manager said, “it’s our out-front feature, our main feature on the property and it’s been here since we opened in 1989.”

Being in charge of a volcano is no easy task. arend showed us there are a lot of buttons to push, sensors to check, and monitors to watch. The volcano is an engineering marvel, but for the illusion to work, many elements have to perform in seamless unison. For instance, click a button and more than 100 alien submarines rise from the water of the mirage lagoon. Those are the fire shooters.  To service the gear, Kurt and his team often work in wet suits and are certified divers.

The view from inside the volcano is something not many people have ever or will ever see in person. The structure is just under 40 feet high, colored lights shoot red rays out of little slits that from the outside look like cracks in the rock ready to spew lava.

During the eruption, millions of gallons of water flow through the volcano and lagoon via a complex system of pumps and filters. Inside the volcano there are tanks and lines for various gases that are essential to the creation of oohs and aahs heard nightly from the crowds.

There are security measures in place to not only keep workers safe, but also tourists. If a tourist tries to climb the volcano , a ring of infrared sensors immediatly stops the show. 

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