Monday, January 14, 2013

A volcanic life in Indonesia

Driving up to Merapi, we saw lots of Indonesian life.

A peak at one flank of Merapi
We didn't see much of our first volcano: Merapi near Jogjakarta because it was rainy season and there was so much cloud cover. It made us a bit nervous; were we going to come on a volcano watching holiday and, er, not see any volcanoes? It was disappointing but actually didn't change the impact of the thing. Thousands of people still live and farm the flanks of Merapi and some of them were there to collect toll/entrance money and to sell souvenirs and fruit to any passing tourists. It was a sobering experience.

Merapi, meaning Mountain of Fire, is considered to be one of the most dangerous active volcanoes, (in Indonesia? The world? Claims vary...) famous for its pyroclastic flow (hot gas, ash and rocks that flows (like liquid) along the ground at up to 450 miles per hour. Pyroclastic flow reaches temperatures of 1000˚C, can move hundreds of kilometres and it can cross water. This phenomena is what happened at Pompeii.


It's last big eruption was 2010, 2006 before that... the next one is due, our guide told us, in 2014. Stupidest question of the week was definitely mine: I asked him if it was frightening living here under these volcanoes. I just don't think I could do it. He shrugged and said, 'it's our motherland.' I think, maybe, if you grow up with it, you learn to live with it.

After failing to see much of Merapi we visited the museum. They had a huge model of the volcano and if you pressed the button, it would erupt for you. I don't think I was alone in finding the earth tremors of this replica, terrifying for the shadowing of what it might really be like. We saw just what pyroclastic flow could do, stripping motorbikes of all soft fittings, leaving behind a metal skeleton. And I learned the different ways they are monitoring Merapi and his brothers in Indonesia. (I didn't learn any of this in school. I switched off that day because it didn't interest me. It's one of the many things I've understood about myself as an adult. I am lucky enough to realise NOW how fascinating it all is.) They use photography from both satellites and ground level (bulges are a comment early sign), seismic measurements, monitoring the fissures on the surface and monitoring the gases from the output. I may have forgotten other ones....

Unsurprisingly, there are strong spiritual beliefs about these volcanoes (Merapi and Mount Bromo, the one we did get to SEE at New Year) and the Javanese people still make offerings to them to keep them appeased. I think if I lived here, I would too; it couldn't do any harm, could it? But if you didn't...

You can see here what Merapi does look like without the cloud cover.


Sue Guiney said...

Yikes! But you're making me want to go....

Jenny Beattie said...

Oh Sue, it's beautiful. Cheaper than Bangkok; madder, maybe. The food is gorgeous though less spicy in our (tourist?) experience. Predominantly Muslim rather than the mainly Buddhist of Bangkok. I'd like to go back not in the rainy season!

And if you liked this, wait 'til you see the volcanoes we did see at New Year!

Carol said...

Loved this post! Really under volcano threat is something that has never really occurred to me yet there are 1,000's of people that do it! Yup, like you, that would make me all kinds of nervous!

Can't wait to see the pics from New Year!

C x

Luizze Oliveira said...

I have read this content and I really like it. It is very interesting and informative. As per mentioned in above content, huge model of the volcano in Museum is very.

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