The Deceptive Beauty of Indonesia’s Deadly Acid Volcano

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Image: Bertrand Claude

This large caldera holds the world’s most acidic lake, roughly a kilometer wide. Beside it lie vents that spout the elemental sulfur mined here. Ceramic pipes stud the landscape, channeling the volcanic gases containing the sulfur. These pipes are cooled by water, which condenses the gases into pure, molten sulfur.


Image: Bertrand Claude

When the molten sulfur first emerges from the pipes it has a temperature of over 200°C (392°F) and is a deep, blood red color. As the sulfur cools down it begins to solidify into vivid yellow lumps. These lumps are what the miners then break down into manageable pieces, which they can transport down the volcano in wicker baskets.

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Image: Bertrand Claude

The miners produce about 14 tons of sulfur a day, which is used in the manufacture of a variety of everyday items, including cosmetics, fertilizer and even wine. It is also an important ingredient in the sugar refinery process.

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