VOLCANOES IN SUMATRA

VOLCANOES IN SUMATRA

Mount Talang is a 2597-meter- high (8,520 feet-high) stratovolcano that is a hiking destination because of its view of beautiful Twin Lakes and Lake Singkarak. It's one of the six active volcanoes in West Sumatra. It is said that the tea grown here tastes wonderful. The view is breathtaking and the weather is cool and pleasant.

Talang forms a twin volcano with the extinct Pasar Arbaa volcano and has two crater lakes on its flanks.The largest of these is 1 x 2 kilometers wide Danau Talang. No historical eruptions have occurred from the summit of the volcano, which lacks a crater. All historical eruptions from Gunung Talang volcano have involved small-to-moderate 19th-century explosive activity originating from a series of small craters in a valley on the upper northeast flank. There were eruptions in 1833, 1843, 1845, 1868, 1963, 1967, 1968, 1986, 2001, 2005. The eruptions are generally small explosive eruptions.

Sinabung

In August 2010, 2,460-meter-high (8,071foot-high) Mount Sinabung in northwestern Sumatra erupted for the first time in 410 years, sending thousands of people into temporary shelters and disrupting flights. Mount Sinabung is near Lake Toba, a 100 kilometre long volcanic crater that is the remnant of a catastrophic eruption about 70,000 years ago that was the largest eruption on Earth in last 2 million years.

Sinabung is located in the Karo Highlands, a beautiful area with a relatively cool climate and many trekking opportunities next to the town of Berastagi about 100 kilometers from Medan, Sumatra’s largest city. The two primary destinations of the highland are two volcanos: smoking 2094-meter-high Gunung Sibayak to the north and Gunung Sinabung to the west. The hike up Gunung Sibayak is very popular. There are three man routes up. The easiest and shortest way takes about three hours to traverse the seven kilometer distance. The climb up Gunung Sinabung takes six hours up and four hours back. Guides are recommended because it easy to get lost. One traveler died in a fall after getting lost in bad weather.

Sinabung volcano is a stratovolcano. Typical eruption style: Explosive. Eruptions: 2013-ongoing, 2010 There are no confirmed historic eruptions before the re-awakening in August 2010, but possibly it has had activity in around 1600 and 1881. It is evident that Sinabung volcano has frequently erupted on its flanks producing lava flows. Sinabung has four overlapping summit craters, where fumaroles have been active, particularly in 1912, but no eruption followed the increase of fumarolic activity then. The 4 summit craters are aligned along a N-S direction. The youngest crater of this andesitic-to-dacitic volcano is at the southern end of the four overlapping summit craters. [Source: volcanodiscovery.com ~~]

Sinabung Erupts in 2010 after 410 Years

After no volcanic activity for more than four centuries, Mount Sinabung erupted in August 2010, leading to two deaths and displacing thousands living on its slopes. Apriadi Gunawan wrote in The Jakarta Post, “The eruption also led to the delay of several flights at Medan’s Polonia airport. N. Surbakti of Cinta Rakyat subdistrict reportedly died because of respiratory failure bought about by thick smoke. Reuters reported another death from a heart attack. Thousands of residents, forced to seek refuge at temporary shelters, complained of slow handling of emergency aid. They staged protests by blocking access roads to the Karo administration building, demanding food. About 50 tons of rice and 12,000 face masks have been supplied to temporary shelters. [Source: Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post, Medan, August 30 2010]

Eye witnesses said Mt. Sinabung erupted at two minutes past midnight with three explosions followed by a lava flow down the slope of the volcano. “We were shocked because the local administration had previously informed us that the volcano was stable. We panicked and fled our homes,” Sukanalu subdistrict head Paten Sitepu said. Lulled into a sense of calm by news of the stable condition, some residents who had fled their houses two days ago when the volcano first started spewing thick smoke decided to return home only to leave their houses again a few hours later when the volcano erupted.

Paten said he saw the volcano erupt and spew hot lava from its crater and send smoke and dust 1,500 meters into the air. North Sumatra Mining and Energy Agency head Untungta Kaban said this was the first eruption at Mt. Sinabung since 1600. “For almost 410 years the volcano showed no dangerous volcanic activity, which was why it was categorized as a dormant or type B volcano,” Kaban told The Jakarta Post.

The Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Center (PVMBG) announced that the eruption set a historical precedent. “This is the first time in our history that a type B volcano suddenly turned into a dangerous one, or a type A volcano,” PVMBG head Surono said after meeting with provincial officials Sunday. The center classifies type A volcanoes as having erupted at least once since 1600, type B as never having erupted since 1600, but showing signs of volcanic activity, and type C as never having erupted in recorded history. Surono said the PVMBG was studying why Sinabung erupted. “We never monitored the development of Mt. Sinabung because it was considered extinct,” Surono said. He added he would increase the monitoring activities on the volcano.

Residents in a 6-kilometer radius of the volcano have been instructed to leave their homes. At least 12,000 residents in three districts around the volcano have been evacuated to Kabanjahe and Brastagi in trucks and ambulances. They have been placed in eight shelters, including the regency administration building and other public places.

Sinabung Erupts Again in 2014, Killing 15

In February 2014, Sinabung erupted again, killing 15 people, mostly high-school students who died after being burned and suffocated by hot gas while hiking too close to the crater. The volcano had been erupting almost daily for the past three months. Immediately after the eruption, Binsar Bakkara wrote in the Washington Post, A volcano that has been rumbling for months unleased a major eruption in Indonesia, killing 15 people, officials said, a day after authorities allowed thousands of villagers who had been evacuated to return to the volcano’s slopes. Among the dead on Mount Sinabung were a local television journalist and four high-school students and their teacher who were visiting the mountain to see the eruptions up close, according to Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman. At least three other people were injured, and authorities said they feared the death toll would rise. [Source: Binsar Bakkara, Washington Post, February 1 2014]

Sinabung, in western Sumatra, has been erupting for four months, sending lava and searing gas and rocks rolling down its southern slopes. Authorities had evacuated more than 30,000 people, housing them in tents, schools and public buildings. Many have been desperate to return to check on homes and farms, presenting a quandary for the government. The day before the eruption, authorities allowed nearly 14,000 people living outside a three-mile danger zone to return home after volcanic activity eased. Others living close to the peak have been returning to their homes over the past four months despite the dangers.

On the day of the eruption, a series of huge blasts and eruptions thundered from the 8,530-foot-high volcano, sending lava and pyroclastic flows up to nearly three miles away, Nugroho said. Television footage showed villages, farms and trees around the volcano covered in thick gray ash. After the eruption, all those who had been allowed to return home were ordered back into evacuation centers. “The death toll is likely to rise, as many people are reported still missing and the darkness hampered our rescue efforts,” said Lt. Col. Asep Sukarna, who led the operation to retrieve charred corpses some two miles from the volcano’s peak.

Two days later, AFP reported: “Before they stopped their search, a rescue team found the charred wreckage of motorcycles buried under ash which they believe had been carrying some of those killed by Mount Sinabung’s eruption. Sinabung, which often erupts numerous times a day, spewed clouds of hot ash and rocks up to 2,500 meters into the air, the national disaster agency said. “For the safety of the rescuers we decided to temporarily halt the search operation at midday,” local rescue agency chief Rochmali, who goes by one name, told AFP. There were no reports of new casualties from the latest eruption. He added that rescuers had yet to see any signs of life during their search and did not believe anyone else was still missing. However he said the team had found the wreckage of eight motorbikes believed to have been carrying 14 of those killed in Saturday’s eruption. The bikes were inside the five-kilometer danger zone, an area decreed by the authorities that was supposed to be off-limits, he added. The eruption blanketed the countryside surrounding the volcano with grey ash. Most of the victims — who were mainly local tourists and included four high-school students — died instantly when they were cloaked in clouds of hot gas and ash. [Source: AFP, February 3, 2014]

Folklore Helps Explain Why Sinabung Returned to Life

Reporting from Kabanjahe, Ben Otto wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “Scientists can’t explain precisely why Indonesia’s Mount Sinabung – quiet for centuries – is now one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Many locals, however, point to folklore to offer one explanation: the mountain is angry. Government volcanologists say they have little way of knowing what Sinabung might be capable of. Evacuees at different shelters have their own theories: perhaps someone swore while climbing to the peak, perhaps unwed youth are engaged in sexual exploits at the lake northeast of the mountain. [Source: Ben Otto, Wall Street Journal, February 3, 2014 \~\]

“Some Muslims in this largely Christian region of the world’s most Muslim-populous country worry that someone cooked meat that was haram – forbidden by Islamic law – or that too few of them pray regularly. “Most of us didn’t pray five times a day,” said Sistari Barugintang, who has been living at the city’s largest mosque in Kabanjahe, the district headquarters, since November. Her house now sits under a layer of ash less than four kilometers from the peak. “We’re all praying now,” she said. \~\

“In local folklore, Sinabung is guarded by the spirit of a woman of uncommon purity. Years ago, one tale goes, a young woman of good heart, who lived in the Karo region around the volcano, grew frustrated with her family and ran away to the mountain. There she changed into a spirit that now guards Sinabung, bringing the wind and rain and clouds whenever someone offends her. For many locals, hiking the 2,500-meter massif—as they often did before the volcano sprang to life late last year—meant leaving offerings of cigarettes and other goods to the mountain spirit. \~\

“A guide and resident of Berastagi, the highlands town east of the volcano, tells the story of a group of university students from nearby Medan who hiked up the volcano a few years ago in search of edelweiss, a white mountain flower. One young man in the group was openly contemptuous of local tales about the mountain; he swore as he climbed, littering whenever they stopped for snacks. At a camp about 500 meters below the summit, the group went off to look for the flower, and the young man was separated from the others when a cloud rolled in. When he didn’t return to the camp later, the group went looking for him. All they found were his shoes and shirt. “He probably went mad,” the guide said. “Spiritual leaders say he’s still up there on the mountain, but that he no longer looks like us. One day he’ll resume human form and return home, but he’ll be an old man and not even his family will recognize him.” \~\

Mt. Talang Eruptions

Talang volcano is a 2597-meter-high (8,520 foot-high stratovolcano that is) located 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of Padang, Sumatra. It erupted in 1833, 1843, 1845, 1868, 1963, 1967, 1968, 1986, 2001, 2005. Most of its eruptions have historically been small explosive ons. Talang, which forms a twin volcano with the extinct Pasar Arbaa volcano, has two crater lakes on its flanks. The largest of these is 1 x 2 kilometers wide Danau Talang. No historical eruptions have occurred from the summit of the volcano, which lacks a crater. All historical eruptions from Gunung Talang volcano have involved small-to-moderate 19th-century explosive activity originating from a series of small craters in a valley on the upper northeast flank. [Source: Volcano Discovery]

On the 2005 eruption, the Bbc reported: “About 25,000 people have fled from the site of a volcano which has sprung to life on Indonesia's Sumatra island. The increasing activity on Mount Talang coincides with a string of earthquakes on Sumatra in recent weeks while the island was still struggling to cope after the 2004 tsunami, which killed at least 120,000 people in the Sumatra’s Aceh province. "The status of Mount Talang is now at top alert," local vulcanologist Surono told Reuters new agency. [Source: BBC, April 13, 2005 <>]

“The mountain was spewing ash 500 meters (1,640 feet) into the air, although not as forcefully as it was the day before, he said. Residents from villages around the volcano have now been evacuated, although many are reportedly returning to their homes during the day to tend their crops. "The volcano has not yet spewed lava from the crater, but in order to anticipate such an incident, we have evacuated those living around the mountain to safer areas," district chief Djamawan Fauzi told the Associated Press. <>

“Local villager Syafrudin described the volcano's sudden reawakening as "like the end of the world". "I first heard the rumble and then the ground started shaking... then there's smoke and sparks. We all ran in fear," he told Reuters. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is due to visit the region to try to calm the inhabitants' fears, his spokesman said.<>

“Scientists have warned of increased seismic activity in Indonesia, while the tectonic plates that make up the earth's crust realign following the magnitude 9 earthquake in December which caused the devastating tsunami. "The plates' movements release energy underground, and the energy could add to the activity of many volcanoes on Sumatra, but it doesn't mean this will trigger an eruption," said Surono. Indonesia, especially Sumatra, has suffered many aftershocks since the 26 December earthquake. A tremor on 28 March killed at least 1,200 people, many on the island of Nias, off Sumatra's west coast. <>

Kerinci volcano

A 3805 meters high (12,467 feet high), Gunng Kerinci is the highest peak in Sumatra and the highest volcano in Indonesia. It is popular with mountain climbers and lies at the heart of one the last refuses for nature and wildlife in Sumatra. The nearest village and climber’s base is Kersik Tuo, near Kayu Aro, Kerinci. The route is marked by signs, posted at half kilometer intervals.

Kerinci is a stratovolcano that has experienced numerous moderate explosive eruptions since its first recorded eruption in 1838. There were eruptions in 1838, 1842, 1874, 1878, 1908-09, 1921, 1923, 1936, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1952, 1960, 1963, 1964, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969-70, 197, 1990, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2001-02, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009. [Source: volcanodiscovery.com ~~]

Kerinci is capped by an unvegetated young summit cone that was constructed northeast of an older crater remnant. The volcano contains a deep 600-m-wide summit crater often partially filled by a small crater lake that lies on the northeast crater floor, opposite the SW-rim summit of Kerinci. The massive 13 x 25 kilometers wide volcano towers 2400-3300 meters above surrounding plains and is elongated in a N-S direction. ~~

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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