Large lava effusions can have impressive explosive antecedents. Although our picture of flood basalt is overwhelmingly effusive, phreatomagmatic eruptions have preceded quiet effusion of some flood basalts and reflect the same influence of vent architecture and hydrology on eruptive style as seen for small-volume eruptions. The scale of phreatomagmatic deposits associated with flood basalts can be huge. At Coombs Hills a vast, but otherwise typical, phreatomagmatic vent complex is exposed over more than 25 km2, and its features are interpreted to reflect processes of tephra-jet eruptions with diatreme development. Similar vent complexes are probably the source of laharic deposits reported elsewhere in the Transantarctic Mountains and in the Karoo province of South Africa.