Friday, January 17, 2014

Blue spew

French photographer Olivier Grunewald has been photographing volcanoes since 1997 and, with his friend Régis Etienne, captured scenes of the otherworldly Kawah Ijen volcano in East Java in images (EXAMPLE ABOVE) and a 52-minute documentary film (CLIP HERE). It is sulphur that makes the views so eerie and spectacular, appearing red during the day but glowing shades of blue during the night as it flows from an active vent. Flames from the adjacent hydrochloric acid lake flare up to 5 m high. It is also sulphur that threatens the health of the men who have been mining it for over 40 years. They brave the toxic fumes and heat to break up, gather, and load the crystallized hunks of the mineral. The loads they carry weigh between 80 and 100 kg and sell for 680 roupees per kilo (about €0.04). Some workers managed to haul out 2 loads every 24 hours, but at quite a sacrifice. Grunewald writes, "The sulphur, among the purest in Indonesia, is destined for the food and chemical industry. Whitening sugar, at the price of their health and youth, such is the destiny of these serfs to sulphur."

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