The Indonesian Volcano that Oozes Eerie Blue Lava

Close your eyes. Think of a volcano. Now think of a volcano exploding. What do you see? Probably some smoke? Ashes? Maybe some orange or red hot lava oozing out of it? But do you think of blue lava?

Outside of a blue lava lamp, most people have never considered blue lava coming out of a volcano. But as it turns out, there is an active volcano hanging out in Indonesia oozing blue-colored lava. Well the lot itself may not actually be blue colored, but it sure looks that way. The volcano’s name is Kawah Ijen and it is sitting 8660 feet tall in East Java.

If the lava isn’t actually blue, what is it that’s making it look that way? When you look at the above photo, it certainly looks like its electric blue oozing between the rocks. Definitely something that you would not want to touch with your hands.

A Sulfur Volcano

The Indonesian volcano is actually a lake full of sulfuric acid. You wouldn’t want to go swimming there. And the people living around it have used the sulfuric acid to make a living. Pretty much the miners go up there, load up as much as they possibly can of the solid silver and then sell it.

Of course, it’s not easy work, as working with some intense acid next to some lava from a volcano can be a health hazard. But the miners are persistent and will go up and down the volcano at least two or three times a day to take home their share.

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Gas and Lava

So while the miners are making their money off of the solid sulfur, we can take a look at what is going on with the lava. If you think of the majority of volcanoes, the lava is either red or orange. And obviously this volcano is a little bit different with lava that looks blue.

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However, the lava isn’t actually blue itself; it’s just that it is getting exposed to the sulfuric gases and pretty much blowing. The blue we see is actually chemical reactions as a lot of us both out and hits the toxic air. So the volcano’s lava is the same color as volcanoes everywhere, it just looks different because we are seeing tiny explosions.

A Nighttime View

Going up to Kawah Ijen at night is really the best way to see the electric blue glow. Some of the workers will keep mining even at night time using the blue flame as their lantern.

The pay for the miners is not what the first world would consider as great. Most miners only take home about five dollars a day, and there are quite a few child workers also trying to help out their families.

Enter Grunewald

After French photographer Olivier Grunewald saw a picture of Kawah Ijen taken by someone else, he knew he had to get up there and take more pictures. Wearing a gas mask and making the scary trek, Grunewald successfully took pictures of the eerie blue glow.

Grunewald took several days’ worth of pictures sitting on top of the volcano. He had to wear a gas mask in order to not die from the harsh fumes that come out of the rocks up there.

Related: fun facts about the color blue

Exposing the Truth

While it may have been the crazy blue light that brought Grunewald up there, he found a new purpose once there. He decided to use his pictures to show people how hard the miners were working to make very little pay. As you can imagine, working among toxic fumes and lava is not a conducive working environment.

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Really few people have made it up there to even see how the miners work. Since the air is acidic, it’s not exactly somewhere you can go on vacation. Grunewald even said that one of his cameras corroded from the acidic air.

Toxic Air

Grunewald had the advantage of going up there with a gas mask. He was prepared to be around the acidic air and not come out marred. But he found that the miners did not have the same tools. The miners ran up that volcano without any of the shields that Grunewald had.

Having a long-term exposure to sulfur dioxide can cause you a whole lot of trouble. You can get lung disease, respiratory problems, and a shorter life. All of the miners in these working conditions cannot be doing well health wise.

Surreal Acid

Well, the miners’ conditions are terrible. What is surrounding them is toxic and killing them slowly. They need masks and protective gear to be able to safely continue working the way that they are.

But Kawah Ijen is amazing. The eerie electric glow coming off of lava is unlike any other volcano in the world. The result from the 1,112 degree Fahrenheit temperature is nothing short of shocking. And the flames mount 16 feet into the air, making standing by them unreal.

Some Interesting Tidbits about Other Volcanoes

Volcanoes are not just an Earth-bound thing. There are volcanoes all over the solar system. Io, one of Jupiter’s moons, has eruptions that go up over 300 miles into the air. Eruptions here on Earth are not as crazy. Some volcanoes don’t erupt at all. Though, as the learned from Mt. St. Helens, even the sleeping volcanoes burst sometimes. Some volcanoes shoot ash, some ooze lava. There are even volcanoes in the ocean that pop up as new islands.

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The eruption in the movie “Pompeii” was pretty big. And, was not totally untrue. Sure Hollywood made it a little more exciting. The fireballs were not true, volcanoes don’t really shoot those. But the electrical storm that the movie showed as well as the wave of ash truly can happen when a volcano erupts.

The Weird Active Volcano with Blue Lava – Kawah Ijen in Indonesia

Within Indonesia is one of the world’s weirdest volcanoes. This volcano erupts bright blue lava that flows downhill creating a series of flames, marking it as a truly unique active volcano. The volcano in question is called Kawah Ijen, which erupts sulfur enriched lava.

This video covers the recent eruptions from this volcano, and states the general hazard which it poses in the future.