VOLCANOES, RELIGION AND LIFE IN INDONESIA

LIVING WITH VOLCANOES IN INDONESIA

Due to the fertile volcanic soil and the shortage of space on Java and other islands, hundreds of thousands of people live close to active volcanoes. They are used to the rumblings, but their proximity to the peaks presents difficulties for authorities—and occasionally large number casualties. Of Indonesia’s 127 active volcanoes, more than 60 of them in densely populated areas. The slopes and foothills of Mount Kelud alone are home to about 350,000 people. Millions live near Merapi.

Peter Gelling wrote in the New York Times, “Weekly earthquakes rattle the nerves of everyone across this sprawling archipelago, as do the tsunami warnings that frequently follow. That is the life here. And most accept it out of necessity. “It is God’s will,” said Suroto Jarot, a village elder on Mount Kelud who ignored government warnings” to evacuate when that volcano increased its activity “and remained at home along with 10 other men to feed livestock and protect the village from looters. “There is nothing we can do. This is our home. We have lived here for generations. I have never considered leaving.” Glancing up at the crater as he tested the hot river with the tip of a finger, Mr. Jarot said he would know it was time to go if he saw the deer and other animals around the peak fleeing to lower ground.[Source: Peter Gelling, New York Times, November 10, 2007]

Andrew Marshall of Associated Press wrote: “All hell is about to break loose, but Udi, a 60-year-old farmer from the village of Kinarejo on the Indonesian island of Java, will not budge. Not even though a mere three miles (five kilometers) separates the smoldering peak of Mount Merapi from Kinarejo. Not even though columns of noxious gas and the nervous tracings of seismographs signal an imminent explosion. Not even though the government has ordered a full-scale evacuation. "I feel safe here," he says. "If the Gatekeeper won't move, then neither will I." [Source: Andrew Marshall, Associated Press, January 2008 <>]

“Merapi is a natural-born killer. Rising almost 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) over forests and fields, it ranks among the world's most active and dangerous volcanoes. Its very name means "fire mountain."An eruption in 1930 killed more than 1,300; even in less deadly times, plumes drift menacingly from the peak. Some of the surrounding area, warns a local hazards map, is "frequently affected by pyroclastic flows, lava flows, rockfalls, toxic gases and glowing ejected rock fragments." As the volcano's rumbling crescendoed in May 2006, thousands fled the fertile slopes and settled reluctantly into makeshift camps at lower, safer altitudes. Even the resident monkeys descended in droves. Not Udi and his fellow villagers, who take their cues Mbah Marijan, Gatekeeper of Merapi. <>

Volcanoes are one of many natural disasters that Indonesians have to content with. There are also earthquakes, floods, landslides and droughts. After the the 2004 tsunami, Michael Vatikiotis wrote in the International Herald Tribune, “Indonesians are used to calamity. For almost 60 years, since independence, Indonesia has lurched from one disaster to another, never quite recovering before the next one hits: earthquakes, floods and volcanic eruptions for the most part, but a good deal of human-induced upheaval as well, in the shape of revolution, rebellion and retribution. They have become stoic to a fault, but also jaded and despondent. "There's nothing we can do; Indonesians are accident prone," said a young woman I met checking in at a Jakarta hotel. When the 17th-century Baituram mosque in Banda Aceh opened for Friday prayers after being used as a makeshift morgue, the imam said the disaster may have been punishment from Allah for "forgetting him and his teachings." [Source: Michael Vatikiotis, International Herald Tribune, January 11, 2005]

See Living in the Shadow of Kelud Under Java Volcanoes

Volcanoes and Religion in Indonesia

Most of Indonesia’s volcanoes have spiritual significance to some group of people. Nearly every one has a myth and supernatural being associated with it. Many are honored with festivals and offerings by local people. Being Muslim has not stopped the Javanese from practicing volcano worship. Sultans in Yogyakarta are officially known as "Susunan," the "Volcano" or 'Life-Giving Mountain." Every year the Sultan of Yogyakarta throws an offering of his hair and fingernail clippings in Merapi volcano.

Andrew Marshall of Associated Press wrote: “Volcanoes stand at the heart of a complicated set of mystical beliefs that grip millions of Indonesians and influence events in unexpected ways. Their peaks attract holy men and pilgrims. Their eruptions augur political change and social upheaval. You might say that in Indonesia, volcanoes are a cultural cauldron in which mysticism, modern life, Islam, and other religions mix—or don't. Indonesia, an assemblage of races, religions, and tongues, is riveted together by volcanoes. Reverence for them is virtually a national trait. [Source: Andrew Marshall, Associated Press, January 2008 <>]

Merapi is guarded by spiritual “guards” who give offerings to the mountain. Annually, on the anniversary of the Sultan’s coronation, offerings (labuhan) are brought from the kraton of Yogyakarta to Mt. Merapi, together with similar offerings carried to the Indian Ocean to the south, to appease the spirits of the mountain and the sea, in order to bring welfare to the inhabitants of Java. The annual labuhan ceremony begins with a turbaned priest reciting a Muslim prayer and presenting offerings of silk, curry, bananas, hair and toenail clipping from the Sultan of Yogyakarta to the goddess, which are carried in a procession and deposited in the sea by Muslims, who then take turns lighting incense at strange-shaped rock that is the focus of the cult.

Yadnya Kasada Volcano Festival

Mt. Bromo is sacred to Tenggerse people of eastern Java. Periodically they make offerings of animals, meat and vegetables to ensure the volcano remains calm. Sometimes when the volcano starts to rumble, the local population doesn't try to escape, instead they go to the top to make offerings to placate the volcano God. The Yadnya Kasada is a festival held in the month of Kasada on the traditional Hindu lunar calendar. This ceremony is to honor Sang HyangWidhi, the God Almighty, Roro Anteng, daughter of King Majapahit, and Joko Seger, son of Brahmana.

On the fourteenth day of the Hindu month Kasada — usually around November or September — the native people of the area, the Tenggerese, gather at the rim of Mount Bromo's active crater to present offerings of rice, fruit, vegetables, flowers, livestock and other local produce to the God of the Mountain. The Tenggerese are adherents of a religion which combines elements of Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism. In this Kasada ceremony the Tenggerese ask for blessing from the supreme God, Sang Hyang Widi Wasa.

The Tenggerese are descendants of princes of the 13th century Majapahit kingdom live in the highlands of Mt. Bromo. Though the majority of Javanese have converted to Islam, this unique community still clings to their beliefs from the ancient days of Majapahit till today. Like the Hindu Balinese, the Tenggerese worship Ida Sang HyangWidi Wasa, the Almighty God, along with the Trimurti gods, Siwa, Brahma and Visnu, with added elements of Animism and Mahayana Buddhism. [Source: indonesia.travel]

One month before the Yadnya Kasada Day, Tenggerese from numerous mountainous villages scattered across the area will gather at the Luhur Poten Temple at the foot of Mount Bromo. One distinct feature that sets the Luhur Poten Temple apart from other Hindu temples in Indonesia is that it is constructed from natural black stones from the nearby volcanoes, while Balinese temples are usually made from red bricks. These temple ceremonies are prayers to ask for blessings from the Gods, and often last long into the night.

When the Yadnya Kasada day arrives, the crowds that have travelled together up the mountain, throw offerings into the crater of the volcano. These sacrifices include vegetables, fruit, livestock, flowers and even money, and are offered in gratitude for agricultural and livestock abundance. Despite the evident danger, some locals risk climbing down into the crater to retrieve the sacrificed goods, believing that they will bring good luck.

The origin of this ritual stems from an ancient legend of a princess named Roro Anteng and her husband Joko Seger. After many years of marriage, the couple remained childless, and therefore meditated atop Mount Bromo, beseeching the mountain gods for assistance. The gods granted them 24 children, under the condition that the 25th child must be thrown into the volcano as human sacrifice. The gods’ request was observed, and so the tradition of offering sacrifices into the volcano to appease the deities continues until today, although instead of humans, chickens, goats and vegetables are thrown into the crater for sacrifice.

Describing the event in 2014, NBC reported: Tenggerese worshippers trek across the "Sea of Sand" to give their offerings during the Yadnya Kasada Festival at crater of Mount Bromo on Aug. 12, 2014, in Probolinggo, East Java, Indonesia. The main festival of the Tenggerese people, Kasada lasts for about a month, and on the 14th day the Tenggerese journey to Mount Bromo. There they make offerings of rice, fruits, vegetables, flowers and livestock to the mountain gods by throwing them into the volcano's caldera. [Source: nbcnews.com]

1) A Tenggerese worshipper carries his son as he climbs Mount Bromo to collect holy water during the Tenggerese Hindu Yadnya Kasada festival on Aug. 11. 2) Tenggerese worshippers prepare a chicken for offering to the Tenggerese shaman as they pray at Widodaren cave on Aug. 11. 3) Tenggerese worshippers collect holy water at Widodaren cave on Aug. 11. 4) Tenggerese worshippers trek across the "Sea of Sand" with a goat for offering at the crater of Mount Bromo on Aug. 12. 5) Non-Hindus carry nets as they wait on the edge of the crater to catch offerings cast down by Hindus during the Kasada ceremony at Mount Bromo, on Aug. 12. The ceremony is a way for Tengger Hindus to express their gratitude to God for good harvest and fortune. The offerings include vegetables, chickens, fruits, goats, money and other valuables. 6) A bird is thrown by Hindu worshippers over the crater of Mount Bromo during the Yadnya Kasada Festival on Aug. 12. 7) A Tenggerese worshipper carries vegetables for offerings at the crater of Mount Bromo on Aug. 12. 8) A Tengger tribesman prays at Mount Bromo during the annual Kasada ceremony in East Java on Aug. 12. [For images of these events check the link above]

Kesuma and the Volcano

Once upon a time there was a husband and a wife named Joko Seger and Roro Anteng. They had been married for years but they did not have any children yet. They dearly wanted to have children and prayed to gods everyday. One day Joko Seger had a vision: his wife would be pregnant if he meditated in a cave. However, a lion lived in the cave. Joko Seger fought with the lion. He won! [Source: by Maman Soleman, folktaleszone.blogspot May 5, 2012 ~~]

Later, when Joko Seger was meditating he heard a voice:“Joko Seger, all the Gods agreed to give you children, lots of children.” “Really? Thank you very much,” said Joko Seger happily. “But there is one condition you have to do.” “Say it. I will do anything as long as you give me lots of children,” said Joko Seger. “You will have 25 children. But you have to sacrifice one of them when they are adult.” “I agree,” said Joko Seger without any doubts. He was so happy that Gods would give them 25 children. He thought sacrificing one of them would not to be a problem. He would still have 24 children. ~~

At home, Joko Seger told his wife about his conversation with the god. And Roro Anteng could not say anything. After all, her husband had promised to Gods. She just hoped that they would never have to sacrifice one child. Later, Roro Anteng was pregnant. They had a baby! Joko Seger and Roro Anteng were very happy. The first baby was followed by others babies. Sometimes, the babies were born twins and other times the babies were born triplets. And the couple finally had 25 children! They were extremely happy. ~~

And when the children were grown up, Joko Seger had a dream. He talked to the God. “Joko Seger, remember your promise. I want you to bring one of your children to the crater of Bromo Mountain. Sacrifice your child there. If you don”t keep you promise, the mountain will erupt and destroy everything.” Joko Seger wake up from his sleep. He was restless. He then talked to all his children about his promise. “No, father. I don’t want to die,” said the oldest. “I don’t either, Father,” said another child. All the children refused to be sacrificed. Joko Seger did not have the heart to force them. He loved all his children. Suddenly, the youngest child talked. His name was Kesuma. “Please let me do it, Father. I love our family and the people of Tengger. But please, commemorate my sacrifice. Every year, please hold a ceremony and provide some offerings to the creator of Bromo Mountain,” said Kesuma. ~~

Kesuma was a very good son. He was obedient to his parents and very kind to the other people. All the villagers loved him. He was kind and always helped other people. Kesuma went to the crater. He jumped and he was swallowed by fire. Everybody was sad. And they all were very thankful to Kesuma. Because of him, their place was safe from the eruption of Bromo Mountain. Even today, once a year the people of Tengger always hold a ceremony to commemorate Kesuma. They bring offerings to the crater of Bromo Mountain. ~~

Volcanoes, Calamities, Superstitions and Politics in Indonesia

Andrew Marshall of Associated Press wrote: “In Indonesia, it's a given that human folly can trigger natural disasters. Eruptions, earthquakes, even a toppling banyan tree, have long been regarded as cosmic votes of no-confidence in a ruler—a fact of which the country's [former] president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, is painfully aware. Two months after the president's inauguration in October 2004, an earthquake and tsunami struck Aceh Province on Sumatra, claiming 170,000 lives. A quake hit Sumatra three months later, killing perhaps 1,000. Then Mount Talang erupted, forcing thousands of villagers to flee their homes. A chain text message flashed across cell phones, imploring Yudhoyono to perform a ritual to stop the calamities. "Mr. President," it read, "please sacrifice 1,000 goats." Yudhoyono—a former general with a doctorate in agricultural economics—publicly refused. "Even if I sacrificed a thousand goats," he announced, "disasters in Indonesia will not end." [Source: Andrew Marshall, Associated Press, January 2008 <>]

“They didn't. There were more eruptions—a statistical certainty in the volcano-studded country. One catastrophe followed another: a quake, a tsunami, floods, forest fires, landslides, dengue fever, avian influenza, and a mud eruption. Trains derailed, ferries sank, and after three major plane crashes—one at Yogyakarta airport—an editorial in the Jakarta Post advised air travelers to pray. The streak of tragedy haunting the president could be explained, it was said, by his inauspicious birth date and by the name of his vice president, Jusuf Kalla, which bore an unhappy resemblance to that of a man-eating monster called Batara Kala. Amid renewed calls to perform a ritual to dispel the run of bad luck, President Yudhoyono and his cabinet joined a mass prayer at Jakarta's grand mosque. "Nothing unusual," insisted his spokesman, but the high-profile gathering was clearly meant to allay national fears. <>

“Other politicians appeal directly to the spirits. Before running for vice president, one candidate sneaked off to worship at a volcano near Lake Toba, where there is reportedly a helipad for visiting VIPs. The spirits must not have been listening: He was defeated. Another time, members of the Indonesian National Unity and Fusion Party gathered high on Merapi's slopes for a ritual-laced political rally, even though the volcano was on the brink of erupting. Led by Arief Koesno, a portly ex-actor who believes he is the reincarnation of Indonesia's first president, Sukarno, the ceremony started with the slaughter of nine goats and ended with party members dancing wildly in a circle. <>

"After this ceremony," Koesno declared, "I am certain Merapi will not erupt." Three days later, it did. In the smoking caldera of Indonesian politics, belief in the supernatural persists among even the most modern, high-ranking leaders. "Indonesian politicians are hypocrites," says Permadi, a professional soothsayer and member of parliament. "They say they believe in Islam, in the Holy Koran. They also claim to be rational, because many are educated in America. But in their hearts, they still believe in mysticism." Even President Yudhoyono, claims Permadi, has conducted a ritual atop Mount Lawu, a revered Javanese volcano. The persistence of mysticism also explains why, when campaigning for office, many politicians make it a point to pay their respects to Mbah Marijan, the well-connected Gatekeeper of Merapi. <>

“Recently, Golkar, Indonesia's largest political party, held its annual conference in Yogyakarta. Its ambitious leader, Vice President Jusuf Kalla—he of the inauspicious name—is expected to run for president in 2009. In the teak-paneled ballroom of the Hyatt Regency, Kalla introduces the guest of honor as a man who is "resolute and able to make decisions in any situation or risk." It's Mbah Marijan, of course. <>

Gatekeeper of Merapi

Mbah Marijan, an octogenarian with dazzling dentures and a taste for menthol cigarettes, is the Gatekeeper of Merapi, one of the more bizarre jobs in Indonesia, or anywhere else, for that matter. Andrew Marshall of Associated Press wrote: “The fate of villagers like Udi and of the 500,000 residents of Yogyakarta, a city 20 miles (32 kilometers) to the south, rests on Marijan's thin shoulders. It is his responsibility to perform the rituals designed to appease an ogre believed to inhabit Merapi's summit. This time, the rituals seem to have fallen short. The warnings grow more urgent. Volcanologists, military commanders, even Indonesia's vice president beg him to evacuate. He flatly refuses. "It's your duty to come talk to me," he tells the police. "It is my duty to stay." [Source: Andrew Marshall, Associated Press, January 2008 <>]

“For Marijan, though, an eruption is not so much a threat as a growth spurt. "The kingdom of Merapi is expanding," he says, with a nod at its smoldering peak. If the Centre for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation, the government agency that keeps eight seismograph stations humming on Merapi, represents modern science, Marijan, the Gatekeeper of Merapi, is Indonesia at its most mystical. When a Dutch hiker went missing on the volcano in 1996, Marijan reportedly made the thick mist vanish and found the injured hiker in a ravine.

“Overnight, government volcanologists have raised the alert to its highest level. The lava dome might collapse at any moment. Hasn't Marijan heard? The entreaties leave Marijan unimpressed. The alerts are merely guesses by men at far remove from the spirit of the volcano. The lava dome collapse? "That's what the experts say," he says, smiling. "But an idiot like me can't see any change from yesterday." As things heat up around Merapi, dozens of reporters flock to cover the standoff starring the immovable Marijan, Merapi's first media-age Gatekeeper. Soon, his face and the words "President of Merapi" adorn T-shirts all over Yogyakarta. To raise funds for his impoverished Kinarejo neighbors, he appears in a television advertisement for an energy drink. One morning, soldiers arrive. "I don't want to leave," Marijan tells them with all the firmness his creaky voice can convey. "Maybe I'll leave tomorrow. Maybe the day after tomorrow. It's up to me." Then he heads for the village mosque. Marijan's duties may include mollifying a volcano-dwelling ogre. But he is also a devout Muslim who prays five times a day. <>

“Two days later, the lava dome collapses. Traffic grinds to a halt in downtown Yogyakarta as motorists gape at the scorching avalanche of rocks rushing down Merapi's western flank—away from Marijan's village. Thanks to the timely evacuation, nobody is hurt. Antonius Ratdomopurbo, director of the Volcanological Research and Technological Development Agency in Yogyakarta, is visibly relieved. "Merapi isn't a big volcano, but it's heavily populated. Many people were killed in 1930 simply because they were too close." Marijan has just been lucky, he says. A month later, the lava dome collapses again, this time to the south, and two rescue workers perish under six feet (two meters) of hot ash. Again, fortune—or is it the volcano deity?—spares Marijan's village. Does the Gatekeeper understand anything about the science of volcanoes? "I don't know," replies Ratdomopurbo with a tight smile. "You ask him." <>

Gatekeeper of Merapi Versus the Sultan of Yogyakarta

Andrew Marshall of Associated Press wrote: “In his stubborn adherence to duty, Marijan has gone head-to-head not only with the authorities but also with his own boss, Hamengku Buwono X, the sultan, who backed the government's call for an evacuation. Marijan, who inherited his job as Merapi's caretaker from his father, is paid the equivalent of a dollar a month by the kraton, as the sultan's high-walled palace in Yogyakarta is known. In traditional Javanese cosmology, the kraton sits on an invisible line between Mount Merapi and the nearby Indian Ocean. [Source: Andrew Marshall, Associated Press, January 2008 <>]

“The relationship between the sultan and Marijan is uneasy, to say the least. The two inhabit opposite poles: the modern sultan versus the mystical Gatekeeper. Marijan tells reporters he will evacuate if ordered by the sultan—but he doesn't mean the current ruler. His sultan is the much loved Hamengku Buwono IX, father of Hamengku Buwono X, who appointed Marijan as Gatekeeper and who died almost 20 years ago. "I follow the ninth sultan," he says. "He was the man in the kraton last time I visited." In Marijan's opinion, the current sultan's biggest mistake is allowing businessmen to strip Merapi of millions of cubic feet of rock and sand. "He is not the sultan," says Marijan witheringly. "He's just the governor." <>

“Marijan is not alone in his disapproval. In 2006, the sultan was conspicuously absent from an annual ritual to bless offerings for the ogre Sapu Jagat and the sea goddess Ratu Kidul. The offerings—which include food, flowers, cloth, and clippings of the sultan's hair and fingernails—are meant to ensure the sacred alignment between the volcano, his palace, and the Indian Ocean, and thus the safety of the people. Less than two weeks after Merapi's first major eruption of 2006, a powerful earthquake had struck south of Yogyakarta, killing more than 5,000 people. The palace and royal burial grounds were also badly damaged—an ill omen for the sultan, already the target of public outrage over the slow distribution of relief funds. Damage control was in order. Even a modern sultan can't escape the force of the old beliefs. With or without him, the annual ritual offerings had to be made. <>

“So the sultan's staff laid out offerings in the quake-damaged courtyard for a brief ceremony, then sent them to waiting cars, which sped off in two separate directions. The first set of offerings was brought to Marijan's house. The next morning, the Gatekeeper hiked to a pavilion a mile from the volcano's peak where, amid trees snapped in half by the latest pyroclastic flow and the crash of tumbling boulders, he solemnly prayed over the sultan's offerings. A second set of offerings was driven south to Parangkusumo, the Indian Ocean beach where, legend says, the sultan's 16th-century ancestor Senopati met the sea goddess Ratu Kidul. Thousands of houses lay in rubble amid the rice fields. At Parangkusumo, the sultan's staff buried his hair and fingernail clippings near the beach, in a walled-off compound where two flower-strewn stones marked the site of the ancient encounter. Other offerings were flung into the waves. It is August. Three months have elapsed since the first major eruption of the year. Though still active, Merapi has settled down. Residents attribute the calm to Marijan's prayers and presence on the volcano. But calm in Indonesia is about as long lasting as a plume of smoke. <>

Volcano Spirits Versus Militant Islam in Indonesia

Andrew Marshall of Associated Press wrote: “Militant Islamists have targeted mysticism in the conviction that such practices pollute the faith. Islamic relief workers who arrived in Yogyakarta following Merapi's first blowup in May 2006 vowed to disrupt rituals held on the volcano, while in Jakarta members of an Islamic youth group hacked branches from a sacred banyan tree to prove it had no magical power. “[Source: Andrew Marshall, Associated Press, January 2008 <>]

"People used to believe that things like graves and big trees were sacred," says Muhammad Goodwill Zubir, a leader of Muhammadiyah, an organization focused on peaceful ways to purge the Muslim faith of pre-Islamic influences, including the "heretical" reverence for volcanoes. "As Muhammadiyah spreads in those areas, such beliefs have died out," Zubir says. His movement boasts about 30 million members and runs thousands of mosques, schools, and clinics to promote the orthodoxy. But how to explain a painting of what looks like Merapi hanging outside Zubir's office in Jakarta? "It's just art," he shrugs. Nothing more. <>

“Still, there are men, like Satria Naradha, who believe that mysticism will not merely survive, it will flourish. Naradha owns Bali's top newspaper and television station. Locals admire the fortysomething media mogul for conducting the lavish rituals that President Yudhoyono so pointedly dislikes. "Volcanoes are the thrones of the gods," he explains. "They are nature's greatest force, one which can sustain life or destroy it." Naradha is helping underwrite an ambitious program of building Hindu temples across Indonesia, particularly on active volcanoes. In addition to raising nearly one and a half million dollars to complete a temple on Lombok's Mount Rinjani, he has plans to build on Sumbawa's Mount Tambora, site of an 1815 eruption that was the biggest in recorded history. Naturally, he hopes one day to erect a temple on Mount Merapi. <>

“Building Hindu temples in predominantly Muslim areas might seem a dangerous provocation in a country prone to religious and ethnic strife, but Naradha is undeterred. Temples help strengthen Balinese culture by harnessing the spiritual power of the volcanoes they're built on, he explains. Most of all, they help restore the harmony between humans and nature. "This helps all Indonesians, not just the Balinese," he says.

Indonesia’s Premier Volcano Watcher

Surono is a well-known volcanologist who like many Indonesians goes by only one name. According to to the Wall Street Journal: “Mr. Surono worked at the Center for Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation for more than 30 years before being named as expert staff for Indonesia’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources. Mr. Surono is credited with having helped thousands of people survive the eruption of Mount Merapi in 2010. He cranked up the volcano’s advisory from watch to warning. He also drew a 15-kilometer radius from the peak where no one was allowed.” [Source: Resty Woro Yuniar, Wall Street Journal, September 13, 2013]

On why he became a volcanologist, Surono told the Wall Street Journal: “I was almost becoming a lecturer when I had to accompany a volcanologist to Mount Galunggung when it erupted in 1982. When I was there, I was so touched by how miserable the local residents were. Once I got back, I knew I wanted to be volcanologist.” ==

Have you ever had anything dangerous happen when you’ve been at a volcano? Surano said: “Well the most dangerous thing on this job is when I start to doubt myself. Physically speaking, I never take an unnecessary risk. I always estimate everything. Once I was being interviewed by a local TV in Merapi when it was about to erupt. I had a feeling that it was no longer safe for me, so I stopped the interview. I do not rely on what I see. I rely on my estimation.” ==

What qualities are needed to be a really outstanding volcanologist? Surano said: “To determine alert level, you need to understand physics, geodesy (mathematics dealing with the earth), geology and math. You have to be clever, quick, and brave. And you must be willing to live in a remote area, too, because most volcanoes in Indonesia are located in the middle of nowhere.” ==

Indonesia is one of the world’s largest producers of geothermal electricity, thanks in part to its volcanoes. Apart from making the soil fertile, what other potential do you see from volcanoes? Surano said: “We could offer something that other countries couldn’t — a special interest tourism. When there is eruption on Krakatau Island, for example, we could let visitors view it from the hotel in Carita [a beach in Jakarta] from a safe distance. There are also many business potentials from volcanoes, such as water sources for mineral water and micro hydro to generate electricity.” ==

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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