Unusual Tourism

The Most Unique Places on the Planet

Kawah Ijen- The Blue Fire Volcano

Regular volcanos are already pretty cool, but head to Indonesia and you will find the most unique one on the planet.

Kawah Ijen is a stunning volcano located on the island of Java, Indonesia that shoots out fire, lava, and electric blue gasses.

Why is it Blue?

Alright, everyone that has seen Avatar: The Last Airbender is thinking the same thing, “Azula is behind this”. While I’m personally not ruling it out, science tells us something different.

Mount Ijen – the blue fire of Mt. Ijen- taken during a photo trip to Indonesia in 2018 – by Thomas Fuhrmann – see more pictures on www.snowmanstudios.de CC BY-SA 4.0

The electrifying blue color is not lava, as many people may think. It is instead from the combustion of sulfuric gasses. Cracks in the ground leak these gasses to the surface. Of course, a volcano means immense pressure and temperatures, reaching as high as 1,112 degrees Fahrenheit (600 degrees Celsius).

Having temperatures this high causes the gas to burst into flames, leaping as high as 16 feet (5 meters) into the air.

Some of the gas becomes condensed and forms liquid sulfur, falling to the ground but continuing to burn. This is what flows down the mountain, appearing somewhat like lava.

Blue Fire Crater and Lake

The locals refer to this as Api Biru (Blue Fire), and it is the largest blue flame area in the world. But that’s not all that makes this area unique.

At the top of the volcano lies a lake filled with hydrochloric acid. The world’s largest, this lake is caused by emissions of hydrogen chloride gas from the volcano, which reacts to the water and results in condensed hydrochloric acid. The lake is tinted green, and has a pH level at about 0.5 (almost as acidic as battery acid!).

But Wait, There’s More

Since there is so much sulfur released in the area, a mining operation has started. The miners have rigged a system to channel escaping volcanic sulfur gas through ceramic pipes, condensing into molten sulfur.

The molten sulfur comes out red hot, and turns a brilliant yellow as it cools. The miners break it into pieces and carry it down the mountain in baskets. The trek is dangerous, not only because of high temperatures but prolonged intake of fumes can cause respiratory afflictions as well. As of 2010, the daily earnings of these miners was $13 USD (187,000 Indonesian Rupiah).

Tourism

There are a handful of different tours that will take you to see this phenomenon, averaging to about $150 USD per person. The hike takes about two hours, and is regarded as safe, as long as you don’t go too close to the fire. The volcano has erupted six times since 1796, the most recent being in 1993.

The gasses and fire are always burning blue, however it is best seen when it is dark out. At about 6 am, just before sunrise, you are able to see the blue glow and the beautiful surrounding mountainous area, creating a truly unforgettable memory.

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