Photograph by Nathalie Stravers
Although it was only a moonlit night, a long exposure revealed the serene beauty of Ijen Volcanic Crater, its sulphur dioxide smoke and its very strong acidic green lake, the most toxic natural lake on Earth; no fish nor living thing can stand this hellish environment.
The group of stratovolcanoes known as the Ijen volcano complex is located in East Java, Indonesia near Kalianyar village in the Sempol District. The highly acidic volcanic lake, the largest in the world, is home to a mining operation made famous by many news reports. An active vent along the lake’s edge is a source of sulfur, collected by channeling and condensing volcanic gasses though a network of ceramic pipes. The molten sulfur pours from the pipes pooling on the ground and turning from deep red to bright yellow as it cools. Once cool, miners break the sulfur into chunks, and carry loads of up to 200 pounds in baskets to the crater rim. They make the 980 foot journey up the volcano’s 45-60 degree grade before trudging a further 3 km down the mountain where their sulfur loads are weighed and destined for use in a nearby sugar refinery. The majority of the miners make this arduous trip twice each day, earning approximately $13 USD for their efforts.
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