The Mystery of Blue Lava and the Kawah Ijen Volcano

October 19, 2016

The Kawah Ijen Volcano, the largest sulfuric acid crater lake in the world, spews blue lava.

These pictures are not Photoshopped. The Ijen Volcano of Java Island brightens the night with its electric blue flames and lava, which are surrounded by a one-kilometer-wide turquoise lake that identified as the “largest highly acidic crater lake in the world.” It has a pH balance of 0.5 due to sulfuric acid.

kawah-ijen-east-java-feel-planet[Image source: Olivier Grunewald]

The Ijen Volcano sits in the Bondowoso Region of East Java in Indonesia. The sulfur reacts with the air when the lava breaches the surface, combusting into blue lava rivers.

Escaped at gaseous state from the Kawah Ijen crater on Java Island in Indonesia sulfur combusts on contact with air, liquefies and run in impressive rivers of blue flames. Indon sie[Image source: Olivier Grunewald]

Locals call the caldera surrounding Ijen “Gunung Merapi” which means Mountain of Fire. The burning continues twenty-four hours a day, but it’s most visible in darnkess.

Kawah Ijen volcano solfatara Sulfuric gases escaping from cracks ignite in contact with air on the solfatara inside the Kawah Ijen crater on the island of Java in Indonesia Blue flames Sulfuric gaz Sulfur Solfatara Sulfur exploitation Volcano Kawah Ijen Java Island Indonesia Oceania Night Volcanic landscape Volcanology Geology Natural disaster Earth forces Earth creation Living planet Hydrothermal field Underground water Underground heat Gas Minerals Geothermal activities Hydrothermalism Paravolcanism IN01_VO30_KAW_0015[Image source: Olivier Grunewald]

The flames rise up to five meters high. Some of the gas condenses to liquid and still burns. Locals dubbed those instances “Blue Fire.”

kawah-ijen-east-java-feel-planet3[Image source: Olivier Grunewald]

Stratovolcanoes are conical volcanoes built up by many layers of tephra, hardened lava, volcanic ash, and pumice. They can be identified by steep profiles, and effusive and periodic explosive eruptions.  Some stratovolcanoes have collapsed craters called calderas.

kawah_ijen[Image source: Wikipedia]

The volcano emits hydrogen chloride gas, which reacts with water to form Kawah Ijen lake. The water’s pH balance is almost 0 and highly concentrated with hydrochloric acid.

kawah-ijen-miners

The lake seems to have plumes of toxic gas on its 722 m diameter. It also runs into the Banyupahit River.

kawah-ijen-volcano

“Those gas are emerging from cracks in the volcano at high pressure and temperature, up to 1,112°F (600°C). When they come in contact with the air, they ignite, sending flames up to 16 feet (5 meters) high.
Some of the gas condense into liquid sulfur, which continues to burn as it flows down the slopes, and giving the feeling of lava flowing.”

Says Paris-based photographer Olivier Grunewald, who has been documenting the Kawah Ijen Volcano for several years.

kawah-ijen-east-java-feel-planet2[Image source: Olivier Grunewald]

Sulfur Mine

The caldera is also a source for a sulfur mining company. Workers use a ventilated channel system to escape sulfur gas and condensation of deep red molten sulfur, which becomes bright yellow. The miners breaking up the cooled sulfur into big pieces for sale.

kawah-ijen-miners2

John Pallister, a USGS geologist who has studied the volcano says;
“I have also seen the miners spraying water from a small pump onto the pipes to promote cooling and condensation. Sulfur stalactites sometimes form from the liquid sulfur dripping from the pipes. These are collected and sold to tourists.”

kawah-ijen-east-java-feel-planet8[Image source: Olivier Grunewald]

The miners must take extra precautions, as extended exposure to sulfur gas is extremely harmful to humans. However, most miners work with a few pieces of wet cloth covering their faces.

kawah-ijen-east-java-feel-planet6[Image source: Olivier Grunewald]

Grunewald and filmmaker Regis Etienne produced a documentary about the volcano called Kawah Ijen, the Mystery of the Blue Flames. You can watch the trailer below.

Via: Wikipedia, National Geographic 

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