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Upside-down canoe volcano

Posted by Lil Stevens Nov 23, 2010

By Simone Arragoni, University of Granada, Spain


Indonesia… Just the sound of this word is enough to excite every geologist’s fantasy!! And that’s the place where we are right now!


Here the geology is something living, not just strange and boring words on a book: Indonesia is the hot and restless daughter of the convergence between the Indo-Pacific and Australian plates, animated by earthquakes, tsunamis, giant slides and….volcanoes, of course!!



We are now in Bandung, 140 km east of Jakarta, close to the Tangkuban Perahu Volcano (the “overturned boat-shaped” volcano), so we have enjoyed a “wet” tour in the lush rainforest which covers the flanks of the mountain, reaching a small crater with steam and boiling water springs. There you can even cook an egg and eat it in the foggy atmosphere created by the hot steams and the showery rains.



But the best is yet to come… through a slippery and narrow “natural staircase” we eventually reach the top of the volcano and have a look inside the main crater. And there you do feel that the mountain is alive, blowing its white fumes and quietly sleeping before the next eruption…Towards the east endless and mysterious mountains form the backbone of Java, while thousands meters below your feet the Australian plate is being pushed northwards and downwards in the mantle. The emotion is too strong (and the humidity too!), so we have to go away and eat something.


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The Tangkuban Perahu Volcano


We go down to Lembang, stopping at a typical Indonesian restaurant, where you can eat the famous ayam goreng (fried chicken). This is the real “Indonesian experience”, eating strange and spicy things and drinking hot tea and mango juice while the rain is hitting the roof.


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Javanese ayam goreng


The best conclusion for such a nice day would be a crazy ride on a rollercoaster-like road, packed up in a small van that will carry us to the hotel and the desired hot shower.


Hellfire on the reef

Posted by Lil Stevens Nov 23, 2010

This is the first day into the field with the group in order to see whether the field approach we discussed yesterday would work out when standing in front of an outcrop. Well, with three members of the expedition accidentally left behind in the hotel we had an early learning moment. Nevertheless, a trip with the taxi made  us reunite. We climbed across the stony wall through a lush forest, the air is humid, thick and full of tropical smells, it is great to be back in the field here!


My name is Frank Wesselingh and I am a paleontologist working with bivalves and snails. The hard limestone in the mountains about one hour west of Bandung have few shells but provided an excellent training ground. Our young researchers were drawn almost immediately into the rock layers forgetting about the big picture straight away. Another learning moment! The geology is excellent. Carbonate of approximately 25 million years old. The outcrops probably contain the slope of a carbonate platform, with lots of algae, corals, foraminifera and other organisms.



Two outcrops done, we are on the way to our lunch and drive over a pass as the road winds along a scarp. Alongside all kind of medieval looking furnace ovens where lime is burnt show up. The sight is impressive, deep fires burning in towers that could have staged in a Hollywood movie about an ancient quest or so.



These are the lime ovens, there is a big fire at the bottom and the lime is thrown in at the top


The final site is a complex of caves alongside a mountain. We climb across small passageways and enter into a large amphitheater with an open roof. To the side some sort of windows in the limestone walls offer a view of the rice paddies and villages in the valley below us. Behind us the screeching of bats and the particular smell of their excrements all add to the strange beauty of this place. Climbing into the cave we see a chimney and far above us there are circling our screeching friends.



This is the view from the bat cave down into the field below



The first day in the field was hot and hugely educational. It is strange to see the massive limestone walls and to think how it must have been to dive around in a blue tropical sea teeming with life 25 million years ago. We will be looking into such ancient sea deposits in the weeks to come.