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HELL ON EARTH Powered By Docstoc

                                                      HELL ON EARTH
DAVID J. VAUGHAN, The University of
  Manchester, UK (david.vaughan@
HARRY Y. (Hap) McSWEEN, University of
  Tennessee, USA (
JAMES I. DREVER, University of Wyoming, USA
SUSAN L. S. STIPP, Københavns Universitet,
  Denmark (
JOHN BRODHOLT, University College London, UK
   Strasbourg, France
WILL P. GATES, SmecTech Research
   Consulting, Australia                              Hap McSween                        The Kawah Ijen caldera and its caustic blue lake
GEORGE E. HARLOW, American Museum
   of Natural History, USA                                                               of sulfuric acid
JANUSZ JANECZEK, University of Silesia, Poland
HANS KEPPLER, Bayerisches Geoinstitut,
   Germany                                            Sulfur was known to the alchemists as brimstone.           use iron bars to hack
DAVID R. LENTZ, University of New Brunswick,          The etymology of brimstone probably derives                the newly hardened
ANHUAI LU, Peking University, China                   from the medieval English words birnen (to burn)           su l f u r i nto la rge
ROBERT W. LUTH, University of Alberta, Canada         and ston (stone). “Fire and brimstone” appears             chunks. These are then
DAVID W. MOGK, Montana State University, USA
TAKASHI MURAKAMI, University of Tokyo, Japan          repeatedly in the Bible and Koran, denoting                loaded into baskets.
ROBERTA OBERTI, CNR Istituto di Geoscienze            agents of divine wrath—witness the fate of the             Two baskets, together
   e Georisorse, Pavia, Italy
TERRY PLANK, Lamont-Doherty Earth                     sinful residents of Sodom and Gemorrah. The                weighing 50 to 90 kilo-
   Observatory, USA                                   Book of Revelations associates brimstone with              grams, are balanced on
XAVIER QUEROL, Spanish Research Council, Spain
MAURO ROSI, University of Pisa, Italy                 hell. During the eighteenth century, preachers             bamboo poles and car-
BARBARA SHERWOOD LOLLAR, University of                invoked the sulfurous imagery of hell so effec-            ried on workers’ shoul-
   Toronto, Canada
TORSTEN VENNEMANN, Université de                      tively that their messages about the fi nal judg-           ders up the steep crater
   Lausanne, Switzerland                              ment came to be known as fi re-and-brimstone                walls and then several Ceramic pipes used to
OLIVIER VIDAL, Université J. Fourier, France
MEENAKSHI WADHWA, Arizona State                       sermons. It’s no wonder that sulfur has a bad image.       kilometers down the channel and condense sulfur
   University, USA                                                                                               mountainside to the gas into molten sulfur
BERNARD WOOD, University of Oxford, UK                The properties of sulfur and some of its com-
JON WOODHEAD, University of Melbourne,                                                                           collection point. Each
   Australia                                          pounds do little to dispel the notion that this is         miner may make two or three such trips each day.
                                                      nasty stuff. Sulfur’s myriad allotropes come in
EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE                                                                                              The take-home pay for a day of this dangerous,
LIANE BENNING, European Association                   many colors, but the vivid red of hot, molten
   of Geochemistry                                                                                               backbreaking labor is about $5.
PETER C. BURNS, Mineralogical Association
                                                      sulfur is most remembered as the hue of hell in
   of Canada                                          artwork. (Interestingly, the viscosity of liquid
GIUSEPPE CRUCIANI, Società Italiana di
   Mineralogia e Petrologia                           sulfur, unlike most substances, increases at high
BARBARA L. DUTROW, Mineralogical                      temperatures, due to the formation of polymers.
   Society of America, Chair
W. CRAWFORD ELLIOTT, The Clay Minerals Society        The rubber industry takes advantage of this
RODNEY C. EWING, Founder                              behavior, using polysulfides to crosslink organic
CATHERINE MÉVEL, Société Française
   de Minéralogie et de Cristallographie              polymers in the vulcanization process.) The pun-
MAREK MICHALIK, Mineralogical Society                 gent stench of sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide
   of Poland
MANUEL PRIETO, Sociedad Española                      announces the presence of sulfur in even small
   de Mineralogía                                     quantities. And sulfuric acid is among the most
CLEMENS REIMANN, International Association
   of GeoChemistry                                    caustic compounds in chemistry laboratories.
URS SCHALTEGGER, Swiss Society of
   Mineralogy and Petrology                           Brimstone has many industrial uses in modern
   of Applied Geochemists                             society, and as a consequence, it is mined in many
NEIL C. STURCHIO, Geochemical Society                 places. No sulfur deposit, though, so epitomizes
PETER TRELOAR, Mineralogical                                                                                     A worker carries as much as 90 kilograms of sulfur rock
   Society of Great Britain and Ireland               its hellish image as does that mine at Kawah Ijen,         down the mountainside.
FRIEDHELM VON BLANCKENBURG,                           a 2600-meter-tall stratovolcano in western Java,
   Deutsche Mineralogische Gesellschaft
MICHAEL WIEDENBECK, International                     Indonesia. This volcano contains a caldera lake
   Association of Geoanalysts                         1 kilometer wide and 200 meters deep. Dip your             Nowhere else, to my mind, comes as close to
MANAGING EDITOR                                       hand into its 34oC water, and the burning sensa-           epitomizing hell on Earth, from the perspective
PIERRETTE TREMBLAY,              tion you feel demonstrates that the turquoise-             of both the natural geologic environment and
EDITORIAL OFFICE                                      colored liquid is a mixture of sulfuric and hydro-         the human exploitation at this mine. Sulfur
                                                      chloric acid with pH about 0.5 (similar to car             mining at Kawah Ijen is featured on a number of
                                                      battery acid). This body of water is the largest acid      websites, and the pictures reprinted here (courtesy
                                                      lake in the world. Along the lake’s edges, con-            of French photographer Fred Relaix) are part of a
                                                      tinuous fumarole activity discharges 4 tons of             larger collection that you can view at www.pbase.
                                                      sulfur gases each day. In 1976, eleven people died         com/frelaix/kawah_ijen. These images provide a
490, rue de la Couronne
Québec (Québec) G1K 9A9 Canada                        from asphyxiation when an enormous bubble of               fascinating glimpse of a world where brimstone
Tel.: 418-654-2606                                    SO2 erupted unexpectedly from the lake.
Fax: 418-653-0777                                                                                                reigns, and perhaps they will sensitize us to the
Layout: POULIOT GUAY GRAPHISTES                       Kawah Ijen houses a thriving, if hellish, enter-           high price paid for a critical natural resource—
Copy editor: THOMAS CLARK                                                                                        one that we all use in many forms, without a
Proofreaders: THOMAS CLARK
                                                      prise—an elemental sulfur mine. Fumarole SO2
   and DOLORES DURANT                                 gas is channeled through stone or ceramic pipes,           second thought.
Printer: SOLISCO
                                                      condensing and flowing out at the other end as                        Hap McSween*, University of Tennessee
The opinions expressed in this maga zine are
those of the authors and do not necessarily
                                                      red molten sulfur. As it solidifies, it transforms                                     (
reflect the views of the publishers.                   into the pure yellow solid. Workers, wearing very          * Hap McSween was the principal editor in charge                              little protective clothing or gear to protect them-          of this issue.
                                                      selves from the corrosive gas and searing liquid,

                                          E LEMENTS                                67                                      A PR IL 2010

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