Nestle in Indonesia is the wondrous and unique Kawah Ijen Volcano. One can find this volcano in eastern Java. Ijen has a caldera an astonishing 20 kilometres wide with turquoise water filled within it. The last eruptions were in 1999 and 2002 and vegetation is slowly filling in the scarred areas. However don’t be fooled by the appearance because Ijen is a cruel mistress. That beautiful turquoise water is saturated with sulphuric acid. It is known as the largest highly acidic crater lake in the world.
(Photo: Taken from Oliver Grunewald of Kawah Ijen at night).
Local people live off the volcano by mining sulphur from its depths. Miners make roughly USD $5.50 – $8.00 per day for mining. However the work doesn’t stop there for the locals once they have their loads they have to carry their finds three kilometres to the Pultuding Valley. The excavation site is located within a volcanic vent. This is where gases typically escape. The miners have channelled the gases through a series of pipes.
The particular sulphur found is elemental sulphur, in its natural form it is red, when it starts to cool it turns bright yellow. The miners strike the rocks from the volcano when it is yellow and carry 170 – 200lbs of the rock in one trip. The miners extract 20 tonnes per day from the volcano.
(Photo: Natural Sulphur).
However there is a beautiful natural phenomenon that occurs here. The volcano seeps blue lava. At night sulphur turns blue and as the lava burns it also creates blue flames.
During the evenings when the Java men have retired from carrying sulphur rocks from the mine they return to extract the blue lava and take photos.
Two French photographers have made a new documentary about the beauty of the Blue Lava titled, Kawah Ijen: The Mystery of the Blue Flames.