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Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Kawah Ijen: The Capricious Crater - Page 2

Written by Mark Peterson
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For brimstone, an archaism for sulphur, is precisely what brings the hoards of heroic miners here and these miners, in unison with their surroundings, are what have brought me here. This place has the unnerving and sinister ability to transmogrify from sheer wonder to immobilizing dystopia without warning. Less than eight months have passed since authorities closed access to Kawah Ijen due to signs of increased seismic activity. The dangers are clear and present.

Bubbling puddles of sulphuric acid and brilliant blue roaring jets of combusting sulphur provide the soundtrack to this capricious world. Fire grumbles somewhere below.


As the darkness of night dissipates and daytime emerges, the igniting blue flames vanish and the jagged lunaresque landscape reveals itself. The path that we descended down also unveils itself and I realize just what a treacherous and perilous place this is, how tragically unforgiving it can be. Lives have been lost here.

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It’s an anxious spectacle watching the miners haul 70kg slabs of solidified sulphur up the crumbling 60 degree slopes of a volcano’s crater. Their progress is painfully slow. Nominations for tougher jobs on a postcard please. Then there’s the 3km trudge down to the weighing station where the miners reap their modest rewards for their endeavors, twice a day. This is also where our expedition began at 2am. 

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Over the next six hours I was resoundingly humbled by nature’s pure, unadulterated hostility in an environment the very antithesis to human existence. 

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If you’re looking for extremes, Kawah Ijen will take some beating. 


©Mark Peterson

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Last modified on Wednesday, 30 April 2014

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