Virtual Volcano Vacation #110 WINNERS! – Kelimutu


Summit lakes of Kelimutu volcano in Indonesia – Image via – photographer not credited

Volcanoes are beautiful in so many ways. They can be perfectly symmetrical, snow-crested, shrouded in mist, covered in lush forest, or even draped in lava flows. But the sad truth is that unless a person has an acute eye for variations in hues of rock, volcano summits are not terribly colourful. This week’s volcano, on the other hand, isn’t afraid to show its true colours in a way that is unique and a bit perplexing to those who otherwise know volcanoes inside and out. This week I have virtually been in Indonesia’s East Nusa Tenggara province on the island of Flores just east of the city of Ende on a volcano called Kelimutu.

Kelimutu is not known for spectacular eruptions, nor is the volcano very tall (at 1,639 m) nor particularly shapely. To truly appreciate Kelimutu’s uniqueness, one either has to climb to the top or fly over. The volcano’s summit has three craters that contain lakes, but just that does not make this volcano so special.

Kelimutu volcano’s Tiwi Ata Mbupu crater lake – photo taken 13 June 2008 by flickr user Amre [CC BY-NC 2.0] – via flickr

The westernmost lake is called Tiwi Ata Mbupu “the lake of old people”, because the people living around the volcano believed the spirits of those who died in old age go there to spend eternity. It is most often blue in colour and the least geologically active of the three.

Kelimutu volcano – Tiwu Nua Muri Kooh Tai and Tiwu Ata Polo lakes separated by thin crater wall – Photo by Tom Casadevall, 1986 (U.S. Geological Survey) – via GVP

To the east are two more lakes which are only kept seperate by a thin shared crater wall. The northern lake is called Tiwu Nua Muri Kooh Tai “the lake of young men and maidens”, and is most often bluegreen. In accordance with its name, it seems to be the most active at this time, experiencing moderate explosive phreatic eruptions, most recently in 1968.

Tiwu Nua Muri, as it is often abbreviated, adjoins Tiwu Ata Polo “the lake of the bewitched”, where it is believed those who led wicked lives spent eternity. The waters most often are red or brown, but sometimes change to olive green or bluegreen.

Kelimutu volcano’s Tiwu Ata Polo lake (foreground) appearing brown this time – photo taken 21 August 2007 by flickr user Rosino [CC BY-SA 2.0] – via flickr

It is the lakes’ colour-changing, each independent of the others despite that they are all atop the same volcano, that is most unusual. The change can be observed taking place and can happen in a matter of days. It is believed that these changes are caused by subaqueous fumaroles interacting with minerals present in the water or that even the seasonal rains might play a part. This PDF details a recent study done on Kelimutu’s peculiar summit lakes, though it delves a bit deeper into geochemistry waters than this volcanohead is familiar with.

Indonesian currency issued 1976-2000 featuring the multi-coloured lakes of Kelimutu volcano – image is in public domain – via Wikimedia Commons

The ever-changing colours of Kelimutu volcano, Indonesia – photographer not credited – image via

Congratulations to Jonet for finding me first, with Granyia coming in second the next day. This has been an exciting if only virtual adventure and I too envy anybody who may ever get to travel to Kelimutu. It will be hard to find a more intriguing volcano, but I will try…this coming Monday….same Volcanohead-time..same Volcanohead-channel.. 🙂  Come find me on a new adventure at a new volcano.

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