The island of Java
For many generations, extracting sulphur from the Ijen volcano, on the island of Java, has been a traditionally occupation. The volcano's caldera measures around five kilometres, within a radius of twenty kilometres where are are several dozen volcanoes – some of which are active.
The best-known is Ijen, with its crater lake, Kawah – known as the largest sulphurous lake in the world.
The water in the lake is tinged to a bluish turquoise – and by night it takes on a beautiful blue glow by the light of the jets of flame of the flammable sulphuric gas, which seeps out of the fissures in the rock.
Sulphur mining is considered to be one of the most harmful and dangerous of occupations. It has been going on here for centuries, and local people still use traditional methods for their work. Sulphurous gas escapes from the crater of the volcano, where it is fed into ceramic tubes where the sulphur condenses – it flows out of the tubes in a molten state.
The workers lop off solid lumps of sulphur, then carry them in baskets back to the collection point, which is located at the foot of the volcano. A full basket of solid sulphur chunks can easily weigh 80 kilograms.
The work is carried out amid the fumes of sulphurous gas, with no respirators – and goes on round the clock, including all night.
The length of the path to the collection point is around two kilometres – the workers must first climb to the rim of the crater, and then descend to the collection point on foot. Around halfway along the trip there is a weighing point, to weigh the load. It was set up on the initiative of the miners, who wanted to know what the cash value of their basket would be – the price depends on the weight of the basketful.
In their spare time, the workers make figurines from the liquid sulphur, which they sell as souvenirs to tourists. Visiting the volcano crater is a popular tourist activity – even though there is officially a ban on entering the crater, as informational posters remind visitors.
Visiting the volcano crater is a popular tourist activity