A Volcano With Blue Lava

Photographer Olivier Grunewald captures images and video of an Indonesian sulfur mine, Kawah Ijen, that produces stunning, spectral blue lava.

The lake is a sulfur mining site; miners carry sulfur-laden baskets by hand the miners work at night to double their meager income.

Miners gather the sulfur, load it up and transport it to the side of the crater. The crystals are sold at about a nickle per kilogram. The miners haul up about 80 to 100 kilograms per load, two loads every 24 hours.

The miners at Kawah Ijen work in pretty bad conditions – with little or no safety equipment.

Olivier tried to capture these blue flames in 2008, and lost two lenses and a camera in his quest for the perfect photos. He wore gas masks for the shoot and had to discard his clothing afterward.

The mine isn’t such a nice place to be in. One tourist wrote on her blog: “From an active vent in the volcano, gases billow out. And when the wind blows, these dense fumes head straight to your lungs, leaving you coughing and anxious to find cover.”

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