Indonesia and the Ring of Fire

Mount Bromo, East Java, Indonesia
Indonesia - Volcanoes
Indonesia – Volcanoes

This is a spin-off of my earlier blog: Towering Infernos. I did some drilling-down into Indonesia, the archipelago country with the highest number of volcanoes. At present, the nation has 149 volcanoes – some active, some dormant and some extinct. While the number of extinct volcanoes is few and far between, the number of active lava-spewing monsters is alarmingly high. Add to it, the fact that some of these mischief-mongers are still actively spewing lava.

Mount Tambora
Mount Tambora

The primary reason for such alarming volcanic activity in Indonesia is because it sits tightly along what’s called the Pacific Ring of Fire. This is an area in the Pacific Ocean where most earthquakes and volcanic eruptions have been happening since aeons. It is said that the naughty boys in Indonesia (Mt. Merapi, Kelud etc.) are the most active volcanoes known to mankind, at least on our planets. Wait – so you did not know there are extra-terrestrial volcanoes? Well… there are. More about that later – or maybe in another blog.

Here are some stats for you to chew on:

Submarine volcanoes:


Elevation (m.) Elevation (ft.)

Submarine 1922

-5,000 -16,404




Emperor of China






Banua Wuhu -5




Elevation (m.) Elevation (ft.)


2,276 7,467




Sekincau Belirang






Sempu 1,549


Complex Volcanoes:


Elevation (m.) Elevation (ft.)


3,088 10,131


2,919 9,577




Peuet Sague 2,801


Dieng 2,565




Elevation (m.) Elevation (ft.)


3,800 12,467


3,726 12,224
Semeru 3,676


Slamet 3,432


Sumbing 3,371


Mt. Merapi is tagged as the most active volcano, globally speaking. Is it active, it is a stratovolcano, and has been erupting since 1548, not continuously though. This volcano is flanked by the busy Yogyakarta city that houses nearly 2.5 million citizens. Another tag this volcano has is ‘Decade Volcano‘.

Some of the notorious volcanoes in Indonesia are Krakatoa (or Krakatau) (I’ll get back to you with a full blog on this monster of a volcano), Toba and Tambora.

Anak Krakatoa
Anak Krakatoa

Krakatoa erupted with all its fury in 1883 (26th or 27th August). This was a ‘suicidal’ explosion since the explosion wiped 2/3rd of the island off the map of the world. Secondly, it was one of the loudest sounds ever heard. The explosion was heard almost 3000 miles (approx. 5000 km) away. That’s as good as 1/8th of the earth’s circumference. From the volcanic ejecta of Krakatau, rose Anak Krakatau (meaning ‘child of Krakatau). Those who are wondering where the photos of Krakatoa went – just a reminder – the volcano went suicidal in 1883. No photographer dared to paddle a canoe upto such a violent place just to get a photo op. Hence, no photos.

Lake Toba
Lake Toba

Toba (better known as Lake Toba) is famous (or shall I say infamous) for a ‘supervolcanic’ eruption that dates back to 75,000 years ago. It caused six years of Volcanic Winter which simply means a drop in temperature as a result of excessive volcanic ash in the atmosphere. To be precise, the destructive effects of this explosion went up to the stratosphere. For those who heard this for the first time – it is the atmospheric layer/zone in which planes fly. A regular aircraft flies at an altitude of just about 39,000 ft. while the debris from this explosion went all the way up to 1,64,042 ft. (that’s 3 times higher).

Mt. Tambora
Mt. Tambora

Now for the badass – Tambora. In 1815, this bad boy caused crop failures of epidemic proportions. This led to 1816 being labelled as The Year Without A Summer.

Banua Wuhu
Banua Wuhu


Whenever we talk about volcanic eruptions – we also need to talk about how its destructive power is measured/described. That’s why we need to talk VEI or Volcanic Explosivity Index. The rankings range from 0 to 8 where 0 denotes the weakest and 8 denotes the strongest/most violent/destructive explosions. Just so you know, there haven’t been any VEI8 explosions in the last 50,000 years.

The bad boy Tambora scored a 7 (VEI7) and Krakatau managed just a 3 (VEI3). Now you do the math – at VEI3, 1/8th of the earth’s circumference could hear the explosion. What do think will happen if there’s a VEI8 explosion. I’m guessing, Martians will report ‘disturbance’ from Earth.

Volcanic Explosivity Index
Volcanic Explosivity Index

I started by providing a teaser on ‘Ring of Fire’. Now, Indonesia is not the only country in that ring. Other countries include the likes of Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Philippines, Russia, United States etc. The only reason I’m fixated on Indonesia is because this county alone has 149 volcanoes spread across such a small area (19,04,569 sq. km.). In essence, each volcano occupies about 12,697 sq. km. which is equivalent of 180 states of Tripura each having one volcano.

Mount Bromo, East Java, Indonesia
Mount Bromo, East Java, Indonesia

All this is what (IMHO) makes Indonesia a marvelous country. One that lives at the edge – at almost all times. One that has a never-say-die attitude even in the presence of such geographical monstrosities. One with cost of living that goes easy on an Indian’s pockets. One that offers excellent conversion to the Indian Rupee (1 INR = 204.50 IDR or to have 1 पेटी in IDR, I just need a 500-rupees note). One that offers Visa on Arrival to Indians. Once that shares a lot of cultural similarities with India. So, did someone just ask me if I was planning a move to Indonesia? Well, I won’t say no. I’ve handled a rock-solid marriage for 8 years 5 months 26 days (as of today). You think these volcanoes can scare me? They haven’t met my wife yet.

So, see you soon (if I’m alive – she can read English too, you see?)


Disclaimer: This blog post is just an attempt at unveiling the volcanic activity in the archipelago nation. This post in no way suggests that Indonesia is a dangerous/uninhabitable/inhospitable country or allude to anything remotely related to that thought. The author personally admires seismic activity in the area and is even open to the idea of moving to Indonesia.

Towering infernos!!!


So what if the title’s ispired from the 1974 hit? Hello friends, after my post on Mesoamerican civilizations, I wanted to extend my repertoire to other topics of interest. This time it’s Geography/Geology. We all have heard of volcanoes. Most of us have seen on TV and even in movies. I loved the 1997 hit ‘Volcano’ starring Tommy Lee Jones, Anne Heche, and Don Cheadle. Equally interesting was another 1997 hit – ‘Dante’s Peak’ starring Pierce Brosnan and Linda Hamilton. Both movies’ themes draw eerie references to Yellow Stone national park and a Colombian Volcano respectively.

Most of us have studied about volcanoes in geography classes in school. We all (presumably) know that the word ‘volcano’ is derived from the name of Vulcano, a volcanic island in the Aeolian Islands of Italy whose name, in turn, comes from Vulcan, the god of fire in Roman mythology. (Courtesy: Wikipedia)
Simply put, it’s a mountain or hill, mostly conical, having a crater or vent through which lava, rock fragments, hot vapor, and gas are (or have been) erupted from the earth’s crust.

Based on their lifestyles – volcanoes can be broadly classified as follows:

Volcano Classification - Activity
Volcano Classification – Activity

You got it right by now – in very simple terms an active volcano is one that can erupt any time – very unpredictable (like your significant other?). A dormant volcano is like me – COOL; it hasn’t erupted in a while but can do so anytime – just that this ‘time’ is not anytime soon. Maybe next year – but this guy is still dangerous. He still CAN erupt. Highly deceptive as they are, one of them – Vesuvius, in 79AD, decimated Pompeii and Herculaneum, 2 great Roman cities. Another volcano worth mentioning here is Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines. It shot to fame (rather: infamy) in 1991 when it erupted as an unpleasant surprise, destroying life and property. An extinct volcano is almost like a dinosaur – gone forever. Typically, one that has not erupted in the past 10,000 years is considered extinct. They serve as excellent and safe tourist destinations.

Trivia: The Indonesian archipelago alone has more than 100 volcanoes, most of them are active! Beware the next time you plan a trip to Jakarta or Aceh.

Volcanoes in Indonesia
Volcanoes in Indonesia

Don’t let this map scare you though. The Indonesians have been living there since the ‘Java Man’.

Volcanoes come in many shapes are sizes. Let’s see the most common types. Before we do that, let’s see why do the volcanoes do what they so notoriously do. I remember reading somewhere, a volcano is an angry mountain that keeps blowing its top off. Now, to understand why does it blow it’s top off every now and then. It’s worth noting that when a volcano erupts, the most powerful ones have produced sounds audible enough to almost half of the globe to hear. I’m referring to the Indonesian superstar – Krakatoa.

A volcanic eruption can be likened to a burp or a fart or let’s say like a champagne bottle popped open. Just like in these cases; there’s a buildup of gases that the body (mostly, a mountain) cannot contain. After a point, when the going gets tough, the body expels this unwanted cargo – violently. That’s what we call a volcanic eruption. To be a little more precise, a volcano erupts when magma (subterranean molten rock) owing to its low density (and being subjected to high pressure) rises to the surface. How high – well, the rocks, that weigh down this subterranean layer, will decide. Heavier the rocks, shallower the rise. As the magma rises – it’s already angry (it’s molten, you see) – it’s bubbling (thanks to the gases within) and it is this bubbling that helps the magma rise to glory. Once the threshold (the amount of pressure, magma can withstand) is crossed, magma is thrown in the air, to great heights, with a thunderous sound. That’s an ERUPTION.

Alright, guys, this is different from ejaculation?. Can we focus now?

Based on their prowess and their shapes – they can be classified as follows:

Volcano Classification - Formation
Volcano Classification – Formation

Note: These are not the only types – these are the main ones – the celebrities. There are several other poorer (volcanic) cousins – just that did not make it to my list, that’s.

In this post, we’ll just sample some trivia. In my following posts, we’ll discuss the aforesaid volcanoes in in details. This is just because I (painstakingly) figured out that cramming all that info into one would be equivalent to putting all eggs in one basket. I can’t stand that eggy mess. So here goes…

  • Volcanoes have their favorite hangout joint… it’s called the Ring of Fire (to be politically correct – the Pacific Ring of Fire). Most of the world’s badass volcanoes (75% of them) are found here. A very BAD place to be in case you’re packing your bags ?.
  • The entire state of Hawaii is a result of a volcanic eruption. I don’t know much about its timeline though.
  • Molten rocks – the main ingredient in the Volcanic recipe, is called MAGMA while it’s subterranean. It’s called LAVA once it has erupted and is out in the open and is cooling down.
  • Some celebrity eruptions:
    – 1883: Mount Krakatoa – King Kong of volcanoes – it’s eruption caused rumbling so loud that half of the globe could hear it.
    – 1912: Novarupta
    – 1980: Mount St Helens
    – 1991: Mt Pinatubo
  • A volcanoes power (rather destructive power) is classified in VEI (volcanic eruptivity index) with 1 being the wimp, 5 – the badass and 8 – the baddest-ass. Well VEI 8 volcanoes get the title SUPERVOLCANO.
  • Volcanoes have a kill zone of about 20 miles wide and about the same distance tall.
  • The largest volcano is actually not on Earth. It’s on Mars. It’s the Olympus Mons – a shield volcano, 22 km/13.6 mi/72,000 ft. tall. That’s practically 2.5 x Mount Everest.
  • Volcanoes are not just terrestrial, they are found in the ocean bed and under icecaps too.
  • Ingredients of volcanic gases:
    – water vapor
    – carbon dioxide
    – sulfur dioxide
    – hydrogen chloride
    – hydrogen fluoride
    – hydrogen sulfide (this rotten gas is present in almost everything that stinks e.g. rotten eggs)
  • Yellowstone in the US is the home to 4 devastatingly powerful (VEI 8) volcanoes: Bruneau-Jarbidge caldera, Heise volcanic field, Island Park Caldera and the Yellowstone Caldera. Shape-wise they are classified as CALDERAs however as per their destructive prowess, they are called Supervolcanoes. This makes the Yellowstone National Park seemingly the most dangerous place on earth. You don’t wanna know the kind of destruction a VEI 8 volcano is capable of unleashing. Let’s just say – they could wipe humans off the face of the earth, that’s all.
Yellowstone Calderas
Yellowstone Calderas
  • 2 of the world’s largest volcanoes Mauna Loa (largest on earth) and Mauna Kea are on the same Hawaiian island, just 25 mi/40km apart.

  • One byproduct of a volcanic eruption is also a beauty product – Pumice. Go figure.
  • Finally, there are at least 20 volcanoes erupting now, as you’re reading this.

That’s all for this time. Details about the classification and more, next time.