Indonesia's Kawah Ijen Volcano is Stunning, but Beauty Comes at a Dangerous Price

| by Lina Batarags

Nighttime’s dark skies emphasize the unbelievably blue flames and rivers of molten lava emitted by Indonesia’s Kawah Ijen Volcano. Images of the volcano have captivated people around the world, but the volcano is as dangerous as it is beautiful.

The caldera at the top of this volcano, roughly a mile wide, boasts the world’s most acidic lake.

The pure, burning sulfur emitted by the volcano gives its otherworldly blue shades. It is also responsible for its scorching temperatures of at least 240 degrees Fahrenheit.

The sulfurous flames can extend up to 16 feet high, but that hasn’t kept people away.

French Photographer Olivier Grunewald, for example, set up cameras on the slopes of the volcanoes to capture its stunning shapes and shades. Grunewald, along with Régis Etienne, the president of Geneva’s Society of Volcanology, used this footage to create a documentary, which was released earlier this month.

Sulfur miners have spent hours hauling massive sulfur chunks weighing between 176 and 220 pounds away from the site, which they can then sell for about 2.5 cents per pound. By completing about two such loads every 24 hours, they have doubled their salaries.

The miners produce about 14 tons of sulfur today, which is widely used in everyday products like makeup, fertilizer, and wine.

The work, though, is grueling, dangerous, and unrelenting: the air is filled with poisonous gases, and much of the work is done with nothing but their bare hands and a wicker basket. Most of them wear no protective gear.

The fumes they are inhaling on a daily basis are so corrosive that, over time, they will even eat through teeth; it comes as little surprise, then, that rates of respiratory diseases amongst these workers are extremely high. In fact, the miner’s average life expectancy is an astonishingly low 40 years.

Scientists warn that millions of residents in the area may be in danger of sulfur poisoning from the caldera’s acidic waters. Evidence of acidic contamination has been found in local rivers and wells.

Sources: Huffington Post, Environmentalgrafitti.com, Daily Mail

Photo Source: Huffington Post