(1) Merapi is simultaneously unique and representative of stratovolcanoes.
Lots of drawings of the inside of a volcano look a bit like this:
In fact its a lot more complicated than that. Volcanoes don’t grow in neat alternating layers of lava and pumice coming from one crater (‘Mmmmmm; I had lava the last eruption so this time, must be an explosion!). ‘Stratovolcanoes’ are a complicated melange of often jumbled blocks, belched out to completely fill one valley and ignore another from one eruption to the next. Magma likes to follow the path of least resistance on the way to the surface and that doesn’t mean it always comes out in the same place, nowhere near it. All this combined with the double-jeopardy of tectonic activity means that many of these volcanoes are prone to slough off entire sides sending hundreds of millions of cubic metres of material hurling downslope in one go: called a collapse or ‘sector collapse’.
Merapi is no exception. Photo’s of Merapi often show the scar (running between the vegetated area and the more barren upper peak) from one of its latest collapse events; the new activity has filled in and outgrows the scar! For more discussion see our Topography Blog and Katies’ blog about Merapi activity.
(2) Society and culture have been responding to this volcano for thousands of years
Norfolk in 700- 900 A.D was part of the Kingdom of the East Angles living in wooden houses and fending off Viking Invasions. Meanwhile, the population around Merapi were building magnificent copper-inlaid stone temples to celebrate their Gods. Much like Medieval or Tudor England there was lots of fighting between families focused around wealth, religion and power. Temples were both Buddhist and Hindu and were mysteriously abandoned shortly after construction. The products from larger eruptions of Merapi punctuate periods of construction and its not clear whether politics or pyroclastic flows precipitated the shift of power away from this region**.
Even today this beautiful, fertile countryside is a living embodiment of the ways in which volcanic eruptions both provide for and tamper with the lives of the people, plants and animals who inhabit their slopes.
(3) It erupts in spectacular (although sometimes devastating) ways
We are, after all, trying to rise to the challenge of creating a spectacle by trying to mimic nature! See Katie’s post for more details of Merapi’s eruptions. We think this is the first time someone has tried to collaborate with a ‘firework-maker’ to try and re-create an eruption in as realistic a way as possible.
(4) Researchers at UEA work on Merapi
We have been working in collaboration with Ralf Gertisser at the University of Keele to use the erupted rocks to understand some of the important changes that happened in the run up to the most recent eruptions in 2006 and 2010. You can read more about that here.
(5) ‘The Fireworkmaker’s Daughter’ and relevance to other volcano myths, beliefs and literature
Merapi and it’s rich history provided an awful lot for our literary analysts to get their teeth into. Remarkably, an inscription from 842 A.D. .read .’so long as the underground fire-breathing heat remains, as the wise see, unsuppressed through the openings which are in its control…’ **. Seems just like Ravjani in Tom’s description of the Firework Maker’s Daughter!
Even now some legends and beliefs would have that the eruption of Merapi is related to the consummation of marriage, between the God of the Mountain and the Goddess of the South Seas. It seems its not just the Icelandic Giants in BJ’s post that literally make the Earth move !
…and that seems a great note to finish on!
These references are hidden behind paywalls, sadly
(*) B. Voight, E.K. Constantine, S. Sismowidjoyo, R. Torley Historical eruptions of Merapi Volcano, Central Java, Indonesia, 1768–1998 Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 100 (2000), pp. 69–138
(**) C. Newhall, S. Bronto, B. Alloway, N.G. Banks, I. Bahar, M.A. del Marmol, R.D. Hadisantono, R.T. Holcomb, J. MCGeehin, J.N. Miksic, M. Rubin, S.D. Sayudi, R. Sukhyar, S. Andreastuti, R.I. Tilling, R. Torley, D. Trimble, A.D. Wirakusumah 10000 years of explosive eruptions of Merapi Volcano, Central Java: archaeological and modern implications Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 100 (2000), pp. 9–50
The quotation from that paper is attributed to another source paper.
Preece, K., Barclay, J. Gertisser, R and Herd, R.A. Textural and micro-petrological variations in the eruptive products of the 2006 dome-forming eruption of Merapi volcano, Indonesia: implications for sub-surface processes. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 261 (2013), pp98-120
If you follow this link you can find a version of one of the scientific papers that summarises the observations and interpretations from the most recent activity.