There is a group of volcanoes in Indonesia that spew lava that burns with brilliant blue flames. Located in East Java, the Ijen volcano complex is a group of stratovolcanoes that are highly composed of sulfur, which when ignited produces a distinct blue-colored flame. At night when one of the active volcanoes of Ijen erupts, red lava flows run down the sulfuric slopes clothed in bright blue flames, resulting to an eerie, otherworldly spectacle.
A part of the complex, Kawah Ijen is an active crater which consists of an immense turquoise acidic lake that has been converted into a mining site. When photographer Olivier Grunewald and Régis Etienne, president of Geneva’s Society for Volcanology , visited the site to document the mining activity, they were able to capture stunning images of the electric blue lava. While shooting the sulfuric eruptions, Grunewald wore a gas mask and lost two lenses and a camera as he ventured for the perfect shots.
The two also uncovered the dismal plight of the workers who had to work at night to double their meager income, wearing no protective gear against the toxic fumes inside the mines to gather pure sulfur rock. In spite of all their hard work, the sulfur sells for only about 680 rupiahs per kilogram (5 US cents).
Visiting the volcano and mine site is a difficult trek which involves crossing craggy terrain riddled with dense sulfuric fumes. Tours are currently unavailable, so hikers climb at their own risk.
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