Over the years, volcanoes have been observed, studied and researched for their various features. There are about 1,500 potentially active volcanoes around the world, out of which 500 have erupted as recorded in history, and about 45 are erupting at the time of writing this article.
When you think of a volcano erupting, the colours that come to mind are a mix of molten orange-red-yellow. Certainly not blue, right?
The island nation of Indonesia, dominated by active volcanoes, has an eerily beautiful volcano of blue fire.
Most volcanoes are found in Java, which itself was formed as a result of volcanic eruptions. The 13th largest island in the world, Java also houses the mysterious Kawah Ijen volcano—the one that spews blue lava.
The blue, unusual for a volcano, is due to the presence of an active solfatara (a natural volcanic steam vent) which emits strong gases with high levels of sulphur. The gases emerge from the cracks in the volcano, and when they come in contact with the oxygen-rich atmospheric air, they ignite, giving rise to a blue flame.
Some of the gases condense into liquid sulphur while they continue to burn and flow down the slope, giving the appearance of blue lava. The flame burns throughout the day, but the blue hue is best seen at night. Hence, most visitors make their way to the crater post sundown.
Also situated within the crater is the world's largest known acidic crater lake. Its bluish-green colour comes from a high concentration of dissolved metals. The gases from the volcano react with the water resulting in a low pH of 0.5. As soon as the gases cool down, they leave sulphur deposits around the lake as residue.
If you’re planning to visit this unique volcano, be sure to pack a gas mask as well as eye protection gear, as the gases might compromise your vision and breathing.
For the trek, which can be done all round the year, it's best to enrol the services of a local guide as the path is undulating and the crater, active.
The terrain to the highest peak starts off with fine volcanic sand as you climb up, going on to loose rocks as you walk along the crater rim, and then, as you descend into the active crater, you will encounter boulders.
Most people prefer to take the two-hour hike post midnight, in order to avoid the morning heat. Once you reach there, maintain a safe distance from the sulphur fumes. Find a safe spot to sit and do not remove your mask while you take in the surreal electric blue flame and lava.