Working Man’s Death: Ghosts
When dawn breaks over Kawah Ijen, men with bamboo baskets slung over their shoulders and torches in their hands emerge one by one out of the darkness, only to disappear into the white sulfur vapors of the volcano later. We visit east Java in Indonesia – where men climb steep paths amid pungent vapours carrying a heavy load of sulphur rock from the mouth of a volcano.
The sun is already out by the time they reach the “kitchen.” The “kitchen” is the place at the edge of the hot, blue-green lake at the bottom of the crater where sulfur is mined. The “kitchen” spits, hisses, billows up in clouds of hot caustic vapor. Here molten sulfur flows through long clay pipes, touches the air, and hardens in a matter of minutes. Orange puddles turn into pale-yellow, jagged-edged chunks and slabs.
Equipped with long iron rods, the men stuff a cloth or the sleeve of their jackets into their mouths, and dash up the slope and into the biting fumes. There they break off big chunks of hardened sulfur. After a few minutes of this, they are forced to take a breath. They cough and spit, but keep on working.
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