And Now for Something Completely Different: Blue Lava!

So, we’re all familiar with lava, yeah? Beautiful, bright red glowing rivers of molten rock that make great desktop backgrounds and create inescapable trails of hot, fiery death. How ‘bout we mix things up a bit with some new blue flavored lava!

No trick photography here! These photos are from the Kawah Ijen volcano in East Java, Indonesia. Ijen is actually packed full of sulfur. What you are seeing here is a river of molten sulfur that has been set alight, so it is as poisonous and delightful smelling as it is beautiful.

It gets weirder.

The Ijen crater, picturesquely depicted below with its one kilometer wide acidic lake, is the site of an active sulfur mine. Moreover, it is one of the last mines where the work is all done by hand. Ceramic pipes tap and active vent in the volcano to capture gasses and condense molten sulfur where it is dumped on the shore to cool into the yellow rock. Miners then use hand tools to carve out chunks of sulfur weighing about 180 pounds. The sulfur blocks are then carried 980ft up to the crater rim and then back down the volcano to complete the nearly two-mile trek to a sugar refinery before getting paid. Wages in 2010 were reported to be about $13 per day. The 200 miners working Ijen are estimated to bring in 14 tons of sulfur a day, a mere 20% of Ijen’s daily sulfur output.

The Kawah Ijen volcano is not actually hot enough to cause the sulfur to combust on its own. The occasional outbursts of blue, molten sulfur-lava are caused by stray sparks or dropped torches from miners carrying on their duties throughout the night.

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