When we talk about volcanoes, two things come to mind: one, the conical-shaped mountain they often take on; and two, the incandescent lava. The latter is immediately associated with its intense red color, especially spectacular at night. However, there are sometimes exceptions to that hue, and in Indonesia, probably the rarest eruption of all occurs, which is blue.

There is a group of stratovolcanoes located in Banyuwangi Regency, east of Java, whose highest point is the Gunung Merapi volcano (7,818 feet).

To the west of that mountain, whose name means “Mountain of Fire”, lies another volcano called Ijen, with a crater one kilometer in diameter and beneath which a 20-kilometer caldera is estimated to exist.

Well, the main feature of Ijen is that it is made up of a series of smaller cones and craters that follow in an east-west direction. One of them is Kawah Ijen, and in its crater, it houses a lake of a unique turquoise color.

It measures 722 meters in length by 200 in depth, and its surface covers 0.41 square kilometers, with a volume of 36 cubic hectometers.

The color of these waters is due to their acidity, the highest in the world, as they are rich in sulfur. So much so that it is even extracted in a well-paid artisanal mining activity for those latitudes but subject to considerable risk.

Not only because the load has to be manually carried to the Paltuding valley (about 3 kilometers) twice a day (carrying between 75 and 90 kilos each trip) to receive the salary, but also because it is an active volcano that emits gaseous emanations.

In fact, its eruptions are a tourist attraction, and excursions are organized to see them, especially at night because that is the only time the phenomenon can be appreciated. A hike of a couple of hours to the base of the cone and another 45 minutes to climb to the edge of the crater to contemplate the beauty of the bluish fire produced by the combustion of sulfuric gases escaping through the cracks at 600 degrees Celsius.

The flames reach 5 meters in height, and in combination with the intense red of the lava, the result is a strange and magnetic polychromatic symphony. It’s not surprising that more and more people are signing up to see the show.


This article was first published on our Spanish Edition on December 23, 2018. Puedes leer la versión en español en Las espectaculares erupciones azules del volcán Kawah Ijen


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