Java, the island of Indonesia, takes pride in two unique things. One of them can be found in the western corner of the country – a very unusual way of sulfur production at the bottom of the active crater of the volcano Kawah Ijen. Another one is the most highly acidic lake in the world. It was created in the crater when the rain and sulfur vapors mixed. The image of this place is fixed in my mind like no other memory of any place I have ever visited. The memory of unbelievably hard lives of the miners and a sinister smell of sulfur. The memory of the place like no other on this planet. If you are curious, and plan to travel around Indonesia, you can take inspiration from us and visit Kawah Ijen.
Kawah Ijen, the Active Volcano
Earth’s crust contains approximately 0.03-0.09% of sulfur. In its pure form, sulfur can be found around active volcanoes or hot springs. The unique way of its production can be found in the volcanic field of Java, Indonesia. It is the only place on Earth with this way of sulfur production. There have been no changes in the production of the bright yellow element since the end of World War II.
The crater of the volcano Kawah Ijen lies at the height of 2.148 meters (7.047 feet) above sea level. It emits combustible sulfuric gasses with the temperature around 200 °C (392 °F). As soon as they leak into the atmosphere, where they mix with oxygen, they start to burn.
Sulfur burns with a bright blue flame which is visible only in the dark.
Drop in temperature causes condensation of sulfur, and it consequently falls to the ground in a liquid state. Then it is tapped off a steel pipe to one place where it is left to congeal slowly. At this point, the miners come to the scene; they break the matter while it is still warm, putting it into a bamboo handbarrow. Each day, up to 10 tons of pure sulfur is created, with 7-5 tons mined.