ambience: lake at Kawah I’gen
On the Indonesian island of Java, a volcano called Kawah I’gen is home to a lake where swimming is definitely not advisable. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
“Kawah I’gen is an active volcano located in eastern Java which is one of the bigger islands in the country of Indonesia. Kawah I’gen holds the world’s largest acid crater lake.”
Jim Webster is a curator at the American Museum of Natural History, where samples from Kawah I’gen will be on display in the new Hall of Planet Earth.
“The water is actually dangerous to touch. You can put your hand in the water and your skin will start burning within seconds. This crater lake actually sits in the core of the volcano and the reason it is so acid is because hot gases are escaping from the magma that lies below the surface of this volcano.”
Sulfurous and other gasses emerge both through the lake and through vents in Kawah I’gen’s surface. If you listen carefully you can hear them as they seep out of the volcano. The gasses make doing research on Kawah I’gen hazardous work.
“In doing scientific research at Kawah I’gen, the most important concern is the volcanic gases that are being released. Whenever we’re working inside the crater we’re always wearing a respirator. And this is basically a full facial mask to give you eye protection. Hydrogen sulfide, H2S, is a poisonous gas. Breathing it in is actually a poison to your system. So it can damage the lung tissues. It’s bad for the eyes.”
Scientists and others working on Kawah I’gen limit their exposure to its dangerous gasses by visiting the volcano only a few times a week.
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