(PART 2) A team of experts and explorers venture into the Danakil desert in Northern Ethiopia to investigate the incredible geology of the area, and to find out how the people and their animals survive in the hottest place on earth. Kate Humble investigates how tough life is for an Afar woman; Steve Leonard wants to learn about the relationship between the Afar and their animals, and to help with animal medicine where he can; Dr Mukul Agarwal looks at the health issues faced in this most hostile of environments; earth scientist Dougal Jerram looks at the extraordinary volcanic activity of the region and the part it plays in the bigger geological picture of the Rift Valley; and biologist Richard Wiese searches for extreme life forms in the boiling soil of a massive volcanic fissure.
NOVA follows a team of volcano sleuths as they embark on a worldwide hunt for an elusive volcanic mega-eruption that plunged the medieval earth into a deep freeze. The mystery begins when archaeologists find a hastily dug mass grave of 4,000 men, women, and children in London. At first they assume it's a plague pit from the Black Death, but when they date the bones, they're a century too early. So what killed off these families? The chronicles of that time describe a run of wild weather that devastated crops and spread famine across Europe. NOVA's expert team looks for the signature of a volcanic eruption big enough to have blasted a huge cloud of ash and sulfuric acid into the atmosphere, which chilled the entire planet. From Greenland to Antarctica, the team finds telltale "fingerprints" in ice and soil layers until, finally, they narrow down the culprit to a smoldering crater on a remote Indonesian island. Nearly 750 years ago, this volcano's colossal explosion shot a million tons of rock and ash into the atmosphere. Across the globe, it turned summer into winter. What would happen if another such cataclysm struck again today?
As winter approaches, field teams are finishing up their science for the season. It's the last chance to obtain information for their research on the frozen continent. As most people are preparing to leave, a container ship is on its way in to supply food and materials to the skeleton crew that remains during the cold, dark winter months.
The Mt. Erebus team has trouble landing at one of their sites and when they do their gear glitches from the cold. Meanwhile, the USS Coast Guard gets stranded from engine failure. Another team struggles to protect their 80,000 drone from a crash landing due to extreme wind. The Ross Ice Shelf Team digs themselves out after enduring a major storm and heads toward their target research spot.