The Blue Lava Volcano, Kawah Ijen

Blue Lava

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Blue Lava

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The vast variety of volcanoes won’t outstand this volcano in Indonesia. Blue lava erupts from this volcano, practically invisible in daylight, but an astounding sight in the night. Kawah Ijen is truly a great beauty that has come from nature.

Science shows that blue is the hottest color. Blue colored flames seen from the core of the flame of candles and campfires and the hottest stars in space all represent the color blue. However, Kawah Ijen is just like any other volcano when it comes to the temperature of the lava.

French photographer and scientist Olivier Grunewald says, “This blue glow, unusual for a volcano, isn’t the lava itself, as unfortunately can be read on many websites. It is due to the combustion of sulfuric gases in contact with air at temperatures above 360°C.” Since the sulfur burns with the heat of the lava, it emits blue flames. This is why the volcano is mainly photographed during the night because of how the blue flames aren’t thoroughly visible in the daylight. Grunewald states, “There’s so much sulfur, that at times it flows down the rock face as it burns, making it seem as though blue lava is spilling down the mountainside.”

Because of the sulfur, hundreds of sulfur miners climb the two-mile trek along the volcano to mine the sulfur from its crater. These miners face toxic fumes, everlasting heat, and the harsh toil of mining the sulfur, but only make five dollars a trip. These miners can only make around ten to eleven dollars a day with two trips to the crater.

Photographer Luca Catalano Gonzaga, who covers the world’s many disorders through stories and images, states how these unfortunate miners will only live up to 50 years on average with the harsh conditions of the environment. Catalano Gonzaga states, “There’s no doubt that it was a very hard job from a physical point of view. At times I thought I couldn’t make it. I couldn’t breathe and the heat was really unbearable.” The arduous efforts and excruciating heat these miners experience make give them little money, as well as damaged backs, disfigured spines, and other injuries. The miners call this journey as the journey for “devil’s gold,” because of the hard attempts to mine and bring back the sulfur.

The environment can be so destructive, Grunewald states, “At times, we were stuck in gas plumes for over an hour without being able to see our hands… During my first trip, I lost a camera and two lenses that had been corroded by acid. After we got back home, it took up to three weeks for our skin to lose the smell of sulfur.”

Kawah Ijen is an astounding volcano with its blue beauty. However, the harsh environments make it a less noticeable attraction.

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