At the end of a hot, steamy, equatorial day, Terri and I sipped a cold Bintang beer on our hotel balcony. We listened to the enchanting notes of the Muezzin calling the Faithful to prayers, while watching Mount Merapi smolder in the distance. Honestly, it was bliss.
This was one stop on our month-long trip across Java, and as the center of classical Javanese fine art, it was a wonderful experience. Our interest was predominantly batiks produced by the master artists of the area, but the geologist in me couldn’t ignore the volcano. Because, Mount Merapi is no ordinary volcano.
Java, and in fact the entire Indonesian Archipelago, are links in the chain of the Ring of Fire. The Javanese are no strangers to volcanoes, and even they know that Mt Merapi is a standout.
Over the centuries, the mountain has killed thousands of people, and in a 2010 event, volcanic ash blanketed trees, cars and roads 150 miles away.
In 1883, another famous volcano in the same tectonic chain, produced one of the most violent eruptions known to man. Simon Winchester’s interesting, and entertaining book Krakatoa, documents this eruption. The ultra-violent explosion of Krakatoa changed weather around the globe, and produced the loudest sound in recorded human history. When it blew, the sound was heard 3000 miles away! If it happened today the explosion would be heard from coast to coast – deafening the politicians in Washington D.C, and stunning Starbuck’s customers in Seattle, Washington.
Volcanoes, like hurricanes, are natural phenomena that I’m intrigued by … and respect from afar. But wow, that was a memorable happy hour.
P.S. If you haven’t heard a Muezzin’s Call to Prayer, this Youtube video is a good one.
1. By Lesto Kusumo via Wikimedia Commons
2. By Bklanting via Wikimedia Commons