Papandayan is the volcano you can actually see on satellite images (e.g. Google Earth) even from a view point 800 km above ground – it is the white patch of a collapse scar that stands out in stark contrast from the dark green forest. The volcano sits at the southern end of the Kendang-Papandayan mountain range.
G. Papandayan is generally said to be 2665 m high but there seems to be some confusion as to location and actual height of the highest part.
It is the southern-most volcano in the Regency of Garut in West Java, Indonesia. Papandayan borders the Garut Basin together with the active G. Guntur to the NE and Pleistocene G. Cikurai to the E. Western Java belongs to the Sunda Arc which formed as a consequence of the northward subduction of the Indo-Australian plate beneath the Eurasian plate.
Apparently, the name Papandayan comes from the Sundanese language, from the word panday, meaning blacksmith: Long ago, when people were crossing this mountain, they associated the sounds made by the volcano with those in a smithy. The Papandayan, or Papandajang with the Dutch colonists, has long been a tourist attraction. Due to the relatively easy access to its main craters, and to its apparent benign behaviour, people liked to venture there for nature studies or just from curiosity. They were lead by local guides – if they even hiked on their own feet, that is, because it was so much more convenient to be carried in a sedan chair right into the crater.
Later, workers came into the craters to mine sulfur and alunite, a decomposition product of volcanic rock. Also mud from mud pools was collected by people for healing.
Photo left: “A sulfur chimney of the Papandajan volcano, a sulfur worker is squatting in the foreground.” (M. Louise Treub/Tropenmuseum, part of the National Museum of World Cultures/wikimedia)
Today, the area is a very popular destination with day visitors, hikers or mountaineers. Accordingly, the place has been pepped up with amenities for tourists – there is a large parking site, accommodation, camp ground, huts and stalls; a paved walk through the crater makes for easy walking. As those improvements (for the worse?) cost money, visitors have to pay an entrance fee, and a foreigner’s ticket is ten times that of one for locals…
A volcano observation post is located at an altitude of 1050 m in Pusparendeng Village.
Papandayan has not always been so tame and welcoming. The first historically known eruption was a moderate VEI 3 in August 1772. Even so, it caused the death of 2957 people: Extensive hydrothermal alteration of rocks within the volcano had lead to a catastrophic flank collapse during the eruption. The ensuing debris avalanche travelled 11 km from the volcano to the NE, burying 40 villages in its path. The eastern slope of the mountain was left with a huge bowl-like scar, now the main crater Kawah Papandayan and site of several new ones nested in it.
This was the last known magmatic eruption of Papandayan. It originated from the old Kawah Mas, the youngest of the mountain. There are some large older craters around it like the 1.1-km-wide, flat Alun-Alun crater to the south of the scar, and Kawah Brungbrung to the west. The pointed Gunung Puntang to the north gives the volcano a twin-peaked appearance.
Subsequent eruptions after the big flank failure created various overlapping craters within the collapse scar: There is the modern Kawah Mas (or Emas) with its heavily sulfur-encrusted areas that gave it its name, Golden Crater. It measures ~1.6 km across and is breached to the NE. Then Kawah Nangklak and Kawah Baru (New Crater) which were involved in the 2002 eruption. Kawah Manuk is presently a hydrothermal area. Numerous solfatara fields emitting hot fumes, sulfur-mud pools, hot springs and vents within these craters are signs of Papandayan’s persistent activity. The highest part of the complex is the SE wall of the big scar, actually the remainder of Gunung Papandayan proper. The underlying deposits in the active area consist of Tertiary andesitic lavas overlain by numerous alternating pyroclastic flows and falls with andesite basaltic lavas.
ERUPTIONS IN THE 20th CENTURY
A very active period with a number of smaller eruptions were the years 1923-25. On 25 January 1924, the temperature of Kawah Mas increased from 364 °C to 500 °C, followed by a phreatic eruption in the Mas and Baru craters. On 21 Febr. 1925, a mud eruption occurred in the Nangklak Crater. Many more small phreatic explosions and events of unrest occurred through the years up to 2002, when the last sizeable event took place.
FIRING FROM ALL GUNS – the 2002 eruption
On 11 November 2002 an explosive eruption vented from Kawah Baru. An hour and 20 minutes later, a landslide began at the W wall of the old crater complex. It advanced into the Cibeureum Gede river where it became a lahar and flood. Thankfully there were no deaths recorded, but eight houses, two bridges, and rice fields were destroyed. In the months leading up to that event, significant inflation of tens of centimetres was observed around the crater, with the largest displacement of 30 cm occurring at station DPN0, 500m from the vent.
For the next ten days increasing explosive activity produced dark and white ash emissions from both Kawah Baru and Nangklak crater. The Alert Level was raised to “4” on 15 Nov., but was lowered again on 18th to “3”. Yet, there was no end in sight. Very energetic eruptions took place on November 20, including a directed lateral blast from Nangklak that traveled NE as far as 2 km. This stripped all trees growing along the inside of the horseshoe-shaped area, also some outside up to 500 m radius. Breadcrust bombs with maximum diameters of 50 cm were found around Kawah Nangklak.
The eruption went on with continuous ash-and-gas explosions, more mudflows and crater wall collapses, earthquakes and continuous tremor. The movement of stepped landslides on the wall of Nangklak crater were recorded on the seismograph throughout most of December. In mid-January 2003 seismicity decreased and the alert level was lowered to “2”. However, gas emissions continued through the beginning of May 2003.
Results of monitoring the 2002 eruption
A 2003 paper by H.Z. Abidin et al. determined that the 2002 eruption was of mixed nature – phreatic, phreatomagmatic as well as magmatic. SO2 measurements proved that Papandayan is a modest emitter of that gas: the estimated total SO2 flux was ∼1.4 t/day during the inter-eruptive period against 7000 t/day during this 2002 eruption. Also during this eruption a crater lake was formed that holds acid sulphate-chloride water with a pH of 1.6 – 4.6.
There have been several periods of unrest in Papandayan since that time, but none of them eventually lead to an eruption. One of them, from August 2011 well into 2012, was quite serious. It had triggered an announcement of alert level “3”, including evacuation plans for nearby villages. But the earthquake swarms and strong gas emanations came to nothing further. The unrest was thought to be a reaction of the hydrothermal system to magmatic heat pulses: the heat transferred by the flux of volcanic gases from the magma reservoir caused increases of pressure and temperature. Thus the fluids became overheated and expanded, cracking the ground on their way out to the surface.
AN UNSTABLE EDIFICE
Most scientific work on the volcano has been conducted on its volcanic fluids and alteration of rocks – and that with a reason. The volcano’s structure is cut by many fractures. This is due to its setting in a very active tectonic zone on one hand – and to its large hydrothermal system on the other.
Its long history of activities and their moving between various eruption centres over time have given Papandayan a complex topography. Moreover, it is largely composed of highly inhomogeneous and unconsolidated materials.
The main degassing zones in the craters Kawah Mas, Manuk and Baru are all connected by conduits to a common hydrothermal reservoir at a depth of 100 m. And where acid fluids interact with rocks these are subject to advanced chemical and physical alteration. Zones of alteration have been formed along faults or across permeable structures at different levels beneath the active crater of the volcano. Hydrothermally altered rocks consist of less dense, softer minerals which eventually weaken the edifice from inside.
As a result, even minor explosive eruptions threaten the stability of its flanks.
Also, non-magmatic water like rain, fog and air moisture play a major role throughout the dynamic activities of Papandayan volcano.
Very nice and impressive YT video by “pwarr3n”: Crater excursion through G. Papandayan on 24/10/2009.
OF TABOOS AND SPIRITS
The following paragraphs are about a news paper article which might have been out for a catching headline. However, I don’t want to discredit the many knowledgeable Indonesian tour guides who are making every walk with them a great experience. I’ve read about geological tours as well as excursions into flora and fauna led by people who know their field of expertise well.
A visit to Papandayan must be one of the finest experiences of natural beauty – to most of us. Some people, though, see it as a creepy place, full of dark shadows and wafting shapes, of hellish smells and unexplained sounds. And there are some who exploit these eerie feelings, as described in an article in the “Kompas” newspaper, “Mysteries of Rain and Sightings at Papandayan and Cangkuang”:
In the rainy period there is a weather pattern on Papandayan that begins with a strong gust of wind, followed by a short shower of heavy rain. So, on a guided tour the guide mentioned that if a strong wind comes, the whole group may stop talking and just stay very silent – a taboo in order to prevent it raining. [Of course, in a large group there will always be someone laughing, coughing, sneezing or just being obnoxious.] So, a gust of wind came and in just seconds it was raining heavily. This happened several times; the group still somehow managed to violate the taboo and – lo and behold – heavy rain fell again […and to this day the tourists will never know that it would have rained anyway, even if not a single sound had been made].
Another “mystery” is about eruptions and landslides from Papandayan. They say, events occur always in years that end with the number two and the death toll is always an odd number. The guide explains that “It’s a fact that this is not a figment, because according to the records, Papandayan erupted three times, namely in 1772, 1942, and finally in 2002” [conveniently omitting the events of 1923-25]. “The victims recorded are 305 people” [what? when?]. “We also don’t understand why it’s like this, but in fact it is like this. Hence, the native people around Papandayan once a year hold offerings”. Well, nothing wrong with that, as long as people listen as much to the volcanologists as they would to the whispering voices of their ancestor’s spirits. Because – spirits don’t have seismometers.
Disclaimer: I am not a scientist, all information in this (and any of my other posts) is gleaned from the www and/or from books I have read, so hopefully from people who do get things right! 🙂 If you find something not quite right, or if you can add some more interesting stuff, please leave a comment.
Enjoy! – GRANYIA
SOURCES & FURTHER READING
– GVP, Papandayan
– Fluid dynamics inside a “wet” volcano inferred from the complex frequencies of long-period (LP) events: [… Papandayan…] during the 2011 seismic unrest (2014, paywalled)
– Tectonics Activity and Volcanism Influence to the Garut and Leles Basins[…] (2015, PDF)
– Hydrothermal system of the Papandayan[…] (2006, PDF)
– Structure of the acid hydrothermal system of Papandayan[…] (2018)
– Ground deformation during Papandayan volcano 2002 eruption[…] (2003, paywalled)
– Keluarga Matabumi
– Kompas article about Mysteries