VOLCANOES IN SULAWESI, FLORES AND THE MOLUCCAS

VOLCANOES IN SULAWESI, FLORES AND THE MOLUCCAS

Rokatenda, an active volcano on the island of Palu’e, which is 15 kilometers off the north coast of Flores, erupted violently in 1928, killing several hundred people.

MT. GAMALAMA

Gunung Api Gamalama is a 1721-meter-high (5,627 foot high) stratovolcano at the center of Ternate, an island in the Moluccas (Maluka, the Spice Islands). It erupted quite violently in 1840, killing hundreds of people and destroying nearly every structure on the island. More recently it erupted in 1980, 1983 and 1994. Reaching the top takes about five hours and requires a guide. On the way up the hike passes through clove plantations.

Gamalama dominates Ternate d by Mount Gamalama, Tours to the mountain are available. A local guide will escort you through the 5 hour trek to the mountains peak. Sometimes visitors get to see the Ternate Sultan’s crown worn only at coronations. Legend has it that the crown presents ‘growing hair’, which needs regular trimming. The people believe that parading the crown around the island prevents disaster, and has prevented Mount Gamalama from erupting in the past.

Gamalama is a near-perfect conical stratovolcano that forms the entire island of Ternate off the western coast of Halmahera. It is one of Indonesia's most active volcanoes. The island of Ternate was a major regional center in the Portuguese and Dutch spice trade for several centuries, which is the main reason the historic activity of Gamalana volcano is so well dosumented.Gamalana has 9 craters: Arfat Crater, Madiena, K1, K2, K3, K4, Laguna Lake, Tolire Jaha and Tolire Kecil. 3 cones, progressively younger to the north, form the summit of Gamalama volcano. Several maars and vents define a rift zone, parallel to the Halmahera island arc, that cuts the volcano.

According to to Travel Guide Gunung Api Gamalama: “ Gamalama erupted in 1840, destroying almost every house on the island. Although it has blown its fiery nose as recently as 1980, 1983 and 1994 it is not considered imminently dangerous. A volcanology unit keeps careful watch from Marikuruba village. There are pleasant, short, clove-grove hikes from Air Tege Tege village (near the transmitter tower). The going is very steep and climbing above the tree line is both strenuous and hazardous. Reaching the often cloud-shrouded summit takes around five hours and requires a guide. At least two foreign visitors have disappeared in the attempt; some claim this was because they broke taboos (eg not urinating above a certain elevation) or failed to say requisite prayers en route. The tourist offices can help locate guides.

Mt. Gamalama Eruptions

Eruptions on Gamalama, recorded frequently since the 16th century, typically originated from the summit craters, although flank eruptions have occurred in 1763, 1770, 1775, and 1962-63. Some eruptions such as in 1771, 1773, 1775, 1838, 1871, and as lately as in 1962 caused fatalities. Typical eruption style: Explosive. Gamalama volcano eruptions: 1510, 1538, 1561, 1605, 1635, 1643, 1648, 1653, 1659, 1676, 1686, 1687, 1737, 1739, 1763, 1770, 1771-72, 1773-74, 1775, 1811, 1812, 1814, 1830, 1831, 1833, 1835, 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842, 1843, 1844, 1845, 1846, 1847, 1847, 1849-50, 1858, 1860, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1864, 1868, 1868-69, 1871, 1884, 1895, 1896, 1897, 1898, 1900, 1907, 1911, 1918, 1923, 1932, 1933, 1938, 1962-63, 1980, 1983, 1988, 1990, 1991, May 1993-94, 1996, 2003 (31 July - 2 Oct), 2007-08, 2012. [Sources: GVP, Smithsonian Institution, volcanodiscovery.com ~~]

2007-2008 eruption: Seismic activity increased at Gamalama volcano beginning 20 August 2007 and a few days later, there was a small eruption. On 23 August, white and gray plumes rose to an altitude of 2.1 kilometers. Authorities banned access within a 2-kilometer radius of the active crater. Activity continued into 2008 with weak occasional ash and steam emissions. On 11 May 2008, CVGHM reported that emissions from Gamalama had risen to higher altitudes during the previous two days. On 10 May, white-to-gray plumes rose to an altitude of 1.8 kilometers and drifted N. On 11 May, white plumes increased throughout the day from 1.7 to 2.2 kilometers altitude.

2003 eruption: pyroclastic flows and ash fall on Ternate: On 31 July, a series of strong explosions occurred, producing ash plumes up to 2 kilometers above the crater. A pyroclastic flow traveled down Togorar valley on the northeast flank of Gamalama volcano. On 1 August, ashfall was 1-3 cm thick in the E part of the island and some of the local population was evacuated. Ternate town ca. 7 kilometers east of Gamalana was covered with thick ash. There were no reports of casualties or damage. Ash explosions continued until October 2003.

Mt. Gamalama Eruptions in the 1980s and 90s

1994 Aug 5 eruption: 3 kilometers high ash plume: An unusually powerful and sudden eruption occurred on 5 August 1994 at 21h25 local time, producing an ash cloud reaching 3 kilometers above the summit and strong ash fall in nearby areas. An aviation warning was issued for the area. A felt earthquake a few minutes before the eruption had an intensity of MM II-III. Smaller eruptions happened in the following days and weeks, such as on 14 August when there was ashfall in Ternate. The frequency of eruptions in this period was 5-20 minor explosions/day.

1993 eruptions - powerful ash emissions and minor pyroclastic flows: Strong eruptions occurred in May 1993. Explosive eruptions produced ash plumes up to 3 kilometers high and pyroclastic flows. 1990 eruption: A powerful series of eruptions at Gamalana began on 25 April 1990, with ash clouds reaching 5 kilometers above the volcano and producing strong pyroclastic flows traveling 4.5 kilometers distance, leaving a 5 meters thick deposit. 1988 eruption: Gamalama volcano eruption on 12 February 1988 caused ash fall over Ternate Island and the evacuation of 3000 people.

1983 eruption: 5000 people evacuated: A strong eruption was reported on 9 August at 04h45 local time. A thick black eruption column containing incandescent material rose 1.5 kilometers and caused a pyroclastic flow traveling down the north flank, destroying homes and plantations. Ash fell W of the volcano, closing the local airport of Ternate. Explosions on 10 August produced 1.5- kilometer ash columns. More than 5,000 persons living near the volcano were evacuated. No casualties were reported. 1980 eruption: 40,000 people evacuated: Gamalama Volcano started erupting on 4 September 1980 ejecting incandescent tephra and glowing bombs to up to 1 kilometers distance. A new crater was formed on the ENE side of the summit. On 5 Sep eruptions caused forest fires and ash fall over large parts of the island. At Ternate City 7 kilometers E of the crater ash fall reached 10 cm. About 40,000 people evacuated to Tidore Island. A new crater formed ENE of the summit. Eruptions continued until the end of September 1980.

Three Killed by Gamalama Mudflow in 2011

In December 2011, the BBC reported: “At least three villagers have died and thousands more have been displaced by volcanic mudflow in eastern Indonesia. A government spokesman said heavy rains caused cold lava and debris to flow into villages near Mount Gamalama in Ternate, Maluku province on Tuesday. The volcano erupted on 4 December but there were no casualties at the time. "Three people were killed in the lava mud flow and at least 2,561 villagers have been displaced," Sukarjan Firto told AFP news agency. "They are now being sheltered in several government offices." [Source: BBC, December 29, 2011]

A year later, Adonai wrote in thewatchers.com, “Two separate explosions occurred at Gamalama volcano on Ternate Island, Indonesia on September 16, 2012 at 13.22 and 14.15 local time. Volcano Discovery reported that the eruption followed an increase in seismic activity and triggered PVMBG to raise the alert level to 3 (out of 4) "Siaga". According to the newspaper Liputan 6 people saw an ash plume rise but have not heard the explosion. State volcanologist Kristianto said slow-moving red lava was visible at the peak of the eruption. Villages have been blanketed with thick ash but no evacuations have been ordered. [Source: Adonai, thewatchers.com, September 18, 2012 <<>>]

An eruption prior to this occurred on December 4, 2011 when Mount Gamalama ejected material up to 2,000 meters into the air. Thousands of residents in nearby Ternate City fled due to ash and dust particles raining down on the town. By December 27th 4 people have died and dozens were injured from debris falls (lahar). Some people were panicking, but the situation remained otherwise calm in Ternate. <<>>

Awu volcano

Awu volcano is a 1320-meter-high (4,331-foot-high) stratovolcano that in North Sulawesi on Sangihe Islands. It has a history of fatal eruptions. Nearly 3,000 people died when it blew up in 1812. The last major eruption was in 1966, when 40 people died and thousands were evacuated. It erupted in 1992 and May and June 2004, when it produced fountains of lava and huge plumes of smoke. In May 2004, hundreds of villagers fled their homes when Mt. Awu began spewing out smoke and ash.

Typical eruption style: Highly explosive. Pyroclastic flows and lahars. Awu volcano eruptions: 1640, 1646, 1699, 1711, 1812, 1856, 1875, 1883, 1885, 1892, 1893, 1913, 1921, 1922, 1930-31, 1966 (large sub-Plinian explosion), 1968, 1992, 2004. The eruption in 2004 prompted the evacuation of 27,000 people, but the eruption eventually did not escalate into a major event. [Source: Volcano Discovery ~~]

The massive Gunung Awu stratovolcano occupies the northern end of Great Sangihe Island, the largest of the Sangihe arc. Deep valleys that form passageways for lahars dissect the flanks of the 1320-m-high volcano, which was constructed within a 4.5-km-wide caldera. Awu is one of Indonesia's deadliest volcanoes; powerful explosive eruptions in 1711, 1812, 1856, 1892, and 1966 produced devastating pyroclastic flows and lahars that caused more than 8000 cumulative fatalities during 5 eruptions (in 1711, 1812, 1856, 1892 and 1966). Awu contained a summit crater lake that was 1 kilometers wide and 172 meters deep in 1922, but was largely ejected during the 1966 eruption.

During the 2004 eruption, the BBC reported: “There are fears that Mount Awu, may erupt in the north-east of the country. More than 15,000 people have been evacuated from the area, amid warnings of impending volcanic activity. Far more people live near Mount Awu, on Sangihe island, which began spewing ash and smoke last week. "There is a lot of smoke coming out, and there are indications that it will erupt," a local official there said on Tuesday. Those who have been evacuated from the slopes of Mount Awu have been taken to Tahuna, 15 kilometers (nine miles) to the south. They are now sheltering in government offices and other public buildings. More than 80 percent of residents in dangerous areas have now been evacuated, but some men have reportedly stayed behind to guard their villages. [Source: BBC, June 8, 2004]

Karangetang Volcano

Karangetang volcano is one of Indonesia's most active volcanoes. Located on the northern end of remote Api Siau Island north of north Sulawesi, it is notorious for building lava domes and producing dangerous pyroclastic flows. The 1784-meter-high (5,853 foot-high) stratovolcano contains five summit craters along a N-S line. More than 40 eruptions on Karangetang have been recorded since 1675 and many additional small eruptions that were not documented have occurred. Twentieth-century eruptions have included frequent explosive activity sometimes accompanied by pyroclastic flows and lahars. Lava dome growth has occurred in the summit craters; collapse of lava flow fronts has also produced pyroclastic flows. Five eruptions in the 20th century (1940, 1972, 1976, 1983 and 1991) caused fatalities. [Source: Volcano Discovery ~~]

Karangetang volcano eruptions: 1675, 1712, 1825, 1864, 1883, 1886, 1887, 1892, 1899, 1900, 1905, 1921, 1922, 1924, 1926, 1930, 1930, 1935, 1940, 1940, 1941, 1947, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1961, 1961, 1962-62, 1965-67, 1967, 1970-71, 1972-76, 1976-77, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983-88, 1989, 1991-93, 1995, 1996-97, 1998, 1999-2003, 2004-2005. 2008-9, 2010, 2011, 2012. ~~

In March 2011, Associated Press reported: “One of Indonesia's most active volcanoes has erupted, sending lava and searing gas clouds tumbling down its slopes.Volcanology official Agus Budianto said Friday that authorities were still trying to evacuate residents living along the slopes of Mount Karangetang. There were no immediate reports of injuries or serious damage. It last erupted in August, 2010m killing four people. [Source: Associated Press, March 11, 2011]

The eruption happened hours after a massive earthquake in Japan that triggered a Pacific-wide tsunami. Meanwhile, thousands of people are fleeing their homes in northeastern Indonesia after officials warned that a tsunami up to six feet (two meters) high could hit coastal areas following a massive earthquake near Japan. Some jumped in cars and motorcycles and headed to high ground as sirens blared. Others huddled in mosques or were brought to police stations or army barracks. In Indonesia, alerts were issued along a 1,100-mile (1,770-kilometer) stretch of coastline, from North Sulawesi province to Papua. Indonesia was hardest hit by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that claimed more than 230,000 lives.

Soputan volcano

Soputan is a small 1,784 meter-high (5,853 foot-high) stratovolcano. One of Sulawesi's most active volcanoes, it is located on the southern rim of the Quaternary Tondano caldera on the northern arm of Sulawesi Island. The youthful, largely unvegetated volcano is southwest of Sempu volcano. It was constructed at the southern end of a south-southwest-north-northeast trending line of vents. During historical time the locus of eruptions has included both the summit crater and Aeseput, a prominent nrotheast flank vent that formed in 1906 and was the source of intermittent major lava flows until 1924.

Typical eruption style: Explosive, construction of lava domes, pyroclastic flows, strombolian activity Soputan volcano eruptions: 1785, 1819, 1833, 1845, 1890, 1901, 1906, 1907, 1908-09, 1910, 1911-12, 1913, 1915, 1917, 1923-24, 1947, 1953, 1966-67, 1968, 1970, 1971, 1973, 1982, 1984, 1985, 1989, 1991-96, 2000-03, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2012

In September 2012, Associated Press reported: “One of Indonesia's most active volcanoes has erupted, shooting ash and smoke nearly 1½ kilometers (one mile) into the sky. State volcanology official Kristianto says there is no plan for an immediate evacuation since the nearest villages are outside the danger area of about 6.5 kilometers (4 miles) from the crater. Mount Soputan is about 1,350 miles (2,160 kilometers) northeast of Jakarta. It last erupted in July 2011, causing no casualties. [Source: Associated Press, September 18, 2012]

Mt. Lokon

The twin volcanoes Lokon and Empung, rising about 800 meters above the plain of Tondano, are among the most active volcanoes of Sulawesi. Lokon, the higher of the two peaks (whose summits are only 2.2 kilometers apart), has a flat, craterless top. The younger Empung volcano has a 400-m-wide, 150-m-deep crater that erupted last in the 18th century, but all subsequent eruptions have originated from Tompaluan, a 150 x 250 meters wide double crater situated in the saddle between the two peaks.

Lokon-Empung volcano is a 1580 meters high (5,184 feet high) stratovolcano located in North Sulawesi. Historical eruptions have primarily produced small-to-moderate ash plumes that have occasionally damaged croplands and houses, but lava-dome growth and pyroclastic flows have also occurred. Lokon-Empung volcano eruptions: 1375, 1775, 1829, 1893-94, 1930, 1942, 1948, 1951-53, 1958-59, 1961, 1962, 1963-64, 1965, 1966, 1969-70, 1971, 1973-74, 1975-80, 1984, 1986-87, 1988, 1991-92, 2000-01, 2002, 2002-03, 2011

Tomohon (40 minutes from Manado) is a reasoably nice town situated below Mt. Lokon volcano. Popular hiking destinations include Mt. Lokon volcano, which has smoking vents inside the crater. Climbing the active Lokon volcano takes two hours. The trail is somewhat difficult as it requires walking over slippery rocks of a river bed before reaching the crater.

In September 2013, the Jakarta Post reported: “Mount Lokon in Tomohon, North Sulawesi, erupted again at 6:30 a.m. local time on Monday, spewing volcanic material from the Tompaluan Lokon crater up to 1,500 meters in the air. “The lava flow reached several northern area villages, namely Pineleng, Tanawangko and Tateli,” said National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho in Jakarta. Sutopo said the explosion was heard as far away as Minahasa, which is 10 kilometers away from the volcano. [Source: Jakarta Post, September 9 2013 ><]

“Mt. Lokon has been erupting continuously for years, as such, for the local residents watching the volcano erupt is normal. Moreover, the volcanic materials have made the farming land in Tomohon fertile. The status of the volcanic activity remains at Siaga or “alert” (level 3), Sutopo explained. He said Mt. Lokon had erupted tens of times since the alert status was announced on July 24, 2011. “The Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Center [PVMBG] has warned local residents and visitors to stay outside and to not go within a 2.5-kilometer radius of the Tompaluan crater,” said Sutopo. He added both BPBD Tomohon and North Sulawesi had developed and introduced contingency plans to mitigate the impacts of the eruption on local residents. ><

In July 2011, Ali Kotarumalos of Associated Press wrote: “A volcano in central Indonesia spit lava and smoke thousands of feet into the air, sending panicked residents fleeing down its slopes. There were no immediate reports of casualties. The first eruption at Mount Lokon occurred at 10:46 p.m. Thursday, said Brian Rulrone, a disaster management agency official. It was followed by a second powerful blast just after midnight and a third at 1:10 a.m. Friday. Darwis Sitinjak, another disaster official, told El Shinta radio from the scene that soldiers and police were helping rescuers evacuate about 500 people who live along the mountain's fertile slopes. They joined 2,000 others who fled Wednesday after being warned to stay far from the 5,741-foot (1,750-meter) volcano, which has been on high alert for nearly a week, with small eruptions daily. Mount Lokon’s last major eruption in 1991 killed a Swiss hiker and forced thousands of people to flee their homes.” [Source: Ali Kotarumalos, Associated Press, July 15, 2011]

Egon Volcano

Egon volcano is one of the active volcanoes of Flores. After about a century of being dormant, the 1703-meter- high (5,587 foot-high) stratovolcano suddenly roared back to life in 2004, triggering the evacuation of about 7000 people. The barren, sparsely vegetated summit region has a 350-m-wide, 200-m-deep crater that sometimes contains a lake. Other small crater lakes occur on the flanks of the cone. A lava dome forms the southern summit. Solfataric activity occurs on the crater wall and rim and on the upper southern flank. Reports of historical eruptive activity prior to explosive eruptions in 2004 are inconclusive. A column of "smoke" (or ash) was often observed above the summit during 1888-1891 and in 1892. Strong "smoke" emission in 1907 reported in 1917 was considered by the Catalog of Active Volcanoes of the World (Neumann van Padang, 1951) to be an historical eruption, but it is likely that it had been confused with an eruption on the same date and time from Lewotobi Lakilaki volcano. Eruptions have included explosions and strong fumarolic activity. [Source: Volcano Discovery]

In April 2008, Yemris Fointuna wrote in the Jakarta Post, “Mount Egon in Sikka regency, East Nusa Tenggara, erupted, forcing about 1,000 residents from nearby villages to flee their homes. Despite the eruption, hundreds of thousands of voters in Sikka went to polling stations to elect a new regent and deputy regent. About 20,000 people in Waigete and Mupitara subdistricts are facing water shortages because their wells have been contaminated by dust and other particles spewing from the crater. The eruption, which lasted for more than 30 minutes, forced those living near the foot of the volcano to flee their homes. There have been no reports of casualties. [Source: Yemris Fointuna, Jakarta Post, April 17 2008 /+/]

“Head of social affairs at the Sikka administration, Sius Kasu, said by telephone in Maumere on Wednesday his office had taken emergency steps to assist residents, including dispatching some 20,000 masks, bottled water and medicine. "The emergency team has arrived at the location bringing with it the relief aid," he said. He said his office had yet to determine the number of evacuees, but surmised that residents living in the two districts nearest the volcano had been directly impacted by the eruption. Waigete subdistrict chief Welhelmus Cyrillus said around 1,000 residents in Egon, Baukrenget, Natakoli and Watermage villages had fled to safer areas since Tuesday night. /+/

“Mount Egon erupted without warning the day before the regency election. During the eruption, the 1,700-meter-high volcano spewed ash hundreds of meters into the air and sent out dust and debris to a radius of 20 kilometers from the crater. An official from the Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Center in Bandung, West Java, Endang Elias, said the center recorded six deep volcanic quakes and one shallow quake since Tuesday night. Ash and rocks continued to spew out of the crater. A local reporter who was in Egon village, Kristo Embu, said by phone most residents had chosen not to evacuate. The regency election was held without disturbance Wednesday. "Eligible voters turned up to the polling stations wearing mask," said Kristo. A number of residents said they were in urgent need of water. "All the wells have been contaminated by ash. We desperately need potable water for our daily needs," said a resident in Waigete, Marthen Moru. Egon erupted in 2004 and 2006 after a 75-year lull. It experienced a massive eruption in 1925, but there is no information on casualties.” /+/

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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