Merapi, pyroclastica and earthquake

  Java, from the 24th-30th 2006

by Martin Rietze


in deustch

Due to the increasing growth of the dome and the strong activity I decided spontaneously to visit the volcano Merapi. Contrary to my summer attendance last year the rare opportunity to observe such glowing clouds called pyroclastic flows
(PF) could be expected. Beside that natural phenomena it was a lucky circumstance that Chris Weber with friends and Marc Szeglat wanted also reach the localities in Yogyakarta and Merapi. Thus a common vehicle could be used. Here I met coincidentally Tom Pfeiffer who was staying already some days before in the town. Together we started to search places with good prospects for the evening and morning observations. In irregular time intervals the Merapi did show glowing stone avalanches accompanied with dust clouds. A few smaller PFs  toward SW to the Krassak valley could be particularly seen a few times the day. A beautiful alternation offered the ‘30 hour’s young moon’ with a weak but clear earth light reflection before the sunrise on the 26th.


In the morning of the 27th it should come different. Together with Tom we observed the glowing stone avalanches in the dawn on a moderate PF during the sunrise of a high-altitude parking lot in the south of the volcano.


5:55 am: Suddenly the bottom began to swing horizontal accompanied with a dull / musty rumbling sound. The vegetation produced an unbelievable rustling caused by rubbing plants one to another. Over there at the Merapi (summit distance for instance 4km) dust clouds raised up everywhere and for one minute I believed we have to die immediately in case of an over dimensional landslip. Cries and engine noises in the background showed an upcoming panic by locals. Also our native driver preferred the fast escape without us.


So fast the quake came, it was already gone with the duration of perhaps 20 seconds. Now, the Merapi shows nearly in minute intervals approximately a half dozen larger PFs,  and an unbelievable ash cloud did arose kilometre high into the blue morning sky and towered the 3000m high Merapi over a multiple height. As usual the video cells were empty, and so I took only a few snapshots by using my trembling hand.


Thinking about searching the nearest shelter instead to run the cameras, the volcano  calmed down during one hour.

Also our driver returned and we could drive back to the total chaos overwhelmed city. People in their cars escaped from the volcano, the other ones escaped from the sea coast fled toward the mountains because of the Tsunami warnings. This caused a longer traffic chaos and therefore we tried to inform us about the radio broadcasts. In this afternoon I met Chris Weber. He took the detour over Solo because of the closed and damaged airport. His report of nearly completely collapsed and enormous destructed city parts and a lot of dead people let us comprehend that a tectonic earthquake with the strength of 6 RS took place. In our mountain region only small damages like falling roof brick were recognized by us. Also at an outlook point at the Krassak valley in the SW direction of the Merapi we saw small seismic damages



The next day during the travel to Prambanan we saw partly substantial damages and the local resident people began to sort the left remainders in an unbelievable relaxed manner, that the high number of approximately 6000 dead people appears so unbelievable for us.




On the next morning at the southern outlook point again, I searched alone a way in the forest in order to approach to the Merapi more closely. On this morning the cloud appearance was stronger, but opened for a short time. From here only 3 km away from the volcano you feel formally the breath of the volcano.

Each falling stone could be heard and ash was laying on each leave, unfortunately also on my camera stand. Therefore I visited this place early in the morning the next days again. Most impressing, the glowing clouds (PF) which were sliding down like
'hovercrafts' down to the valleys. Remembering to the reports of Pompeij and St.  Pierre I was allowed to see this fabulous game of nature from a closer range. In contrary to the rumbling stone avalanches this type of material movement was extremely loud less. Only a fast raising ash cloud at the summit announces their appearance. Whereupon a dark cloud tongue with small expansion shoots down the slope.


This cloud blows itself high up for more kilometres. Numerous birds were flapping nervously 10-15 minutes around the areal until the spook has gone. In the early dawn you can recognize at the PF's base a weak glowing. In the morning hours of the 27th  two PF's could be seen.



Together with Chris, Marc and companions the observations were continued from a further distance on the next days.


Unfortunately the evening observations were disturbed regularly by thunderstorms with strong rain. At the 30th I decided, to leave the Merapi to explore further volcanos in the western Java. The ideal opportunity for this tour offered the small group from Chris, which I could follow the next days.

Jump to

   Slamet    Talagabodas    Papandayan



Etna    Stromboli    Volcano world    Cinema

From Etna to Stromboli     Planets & Space

©2006 photos and text Martin Rietze, web, transl. Th. Boeckel, last modification 23.6.2006

This private, non-commercial web site do not use cookies !