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June 11, 2008 Permalink

Sidoarjo's Man-made Mud Volcano

On the two-year anniversary of its eruption, international scientists say they are almost certain a mud volcano that displaced tens of thousands of villagers in central Indonesia was caused by faulty drilling of a gas exploration well - not an earthquake as claimed by the gas company. "We are more certain than ever that the Lusi mud volcano is an unnatural disaster and was triggered by drilling" said Richard Davies, lead author of a study published this week in the academic journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

Two years ago now, on 28 May 2006, gas company PT Lapindo Brantas exploring for gas in Sidoarjo, in East Java, Indonesia, drilled a borehole. At 5 AM, a secondary stage of drilling began and the drill string went about 9,300 feet down, after which the first small eruption of water, steam and a small amount of gas occurred at a location just southwest of the well. Several other eruptions followed over the next few days. The flow of hot mud has not ceased since.

Fourteen people have been killed and 30,000 people have been evacuated from the area. At least a dozen villages, with more than 10,000 homes have been destroyed while schools, offices and factories have also been wiped out and a major impact on the wider marine and coastal environment is expected. (11 photos total)

A villager displaced by an ocean of mud oozing from a mud volcano which began erupting nearly two years ago salvages bricks from the ruins of a village Thursday, May 29, 2008 in Sidoarjo, East Java, Indonesia. For two years a hole in the earth has been oozing enough mud to fill 50 olympic size swimming pools every day and has covered villages and factories roof deep in mud and forced the evacuation of thousands.(AP Photo/Trisnadi)

more photos
This page lists only comments and the first photo for the entry.
To see the entire entry, with all photographs, click here.

64 comments so far...

Great pictures, that is so bizzare! I had never heard of a mud volcano before this.

Posted by B June 11, 08 11:35 AM

I'd certainly hate to be one of the men carrying out maintenance work on the volcano itself (especially on top of the water!)
Every day this blog has increased my understanding of the world while delighting my eyes. Job well done!

Posted by Axeman89 June 11, 08 11:39 AM

this "The Big Picture" page is awesome!
thanks for your time to share this

Posted by q325mg June 11, 08 11:43 AM

Amazing pictures, this blog is my new favorite.

Posted by JK505 June 11, 08 11:50 AM

Incredible that this blog creates a more relevant presentation of what the world and humankind has created for us to see. Not just a broadcast for a moments interpretation. Some compelling pictures that help to see that we Americans have neighbors that love, hate, live, and die. Some that know us, some that hate us, and some that don't even know we exist. All with the same basic needs. Also some amazing pictures that celebrate human ingenuity in America and abroad...its strengths and weaknesses. Thank you for helping to teach all of us our ignorance in this world that can't be controlled.

Posted by David June 11, 08 12:29 PM

This site is AMAZING!!!

Posted by Anonymous June 11, 08 07:48 PM

Wow, this is insane.

Keep up the good work, k :)

Posted by usernameguy June 11, 08 08:27 PM

great. here in Brazil I already recommended this blog to many friends. I hope that they're also viewing it everyday, as I am. many great pictures about relevant subjects. thanks a lot.

Posted by Vitor June 11, 08 09:33 PM

You are doing Great Job. The Quality you bring in is amazing so are you themes. Continue Your look.

Posted by Prakash Anandaraj June 11, 08 11:48 PM

although it is a great tragedy that so many people have be displaced, and their village has been completely destroyed, they can at least try to rebuild on top of the dried mud.. can't they? these pictures are awesome.. it really does paint a picture of what we don't know about others around the world. never heard of a mud volcano.. and these pictures definitely help explain what it is.

Posted by holly June 12, 08 07:02 AM

unbelievable pictures, as always.

This is what a news service *should* be. Unbiased, literally images.

Posted by mikeb226 June 12, 08 07:18 AM

kudos to the team who has put togeather this photos

really a opener

great job done guys.

Posted by Sriram June 12, 08 07:58 AM

This journal is amazing! Keep it up.

Posted by Geoffrey Lee June 12, 08 09:00 AM

I lived in Indonesia last year and many locals told me the mud volcano was a punishment from God. I was also told that the government had tried a number of attempts to stop the flow, including 'plugging' it with a giant boulder.

Posted by Jeff Werner June 12, 08 09:41 AM

Iam from Slovakia. This web page is wonderfool pictures. Very good photo.

Posted by Mike June 12, 08 10:50 AM

I linked to your site through Photo JoJo and I am SO HAPPY they sent advertisement for your blog my way. I will be sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for what you post next...truly amazing stories and photography here. Thank you so much for sharing this with us all!

Posted by Rebecca June 12, 08 11:29 AM

thank you so much for this blog - a friend passed me the link and I'm just amazed. Beautiful! Keep it up, please.

Posted by born2me June 12, 08 11:39 AM

Well done to the Boston Globe.

This site is an example of just how great the web can be at showing us all how the world is, and how our fellow humans live.

Thank you!

Posted by Jon Tilney June 12, 08 01:39 PM

Well that's ONE way to renovate a neighborhood!
Is that gas company going to be held liable for causing all this loss of life and property? They say we're too litigious in America, but without the threat of financially crippling lawsuits over their heads I wonder how many U.S. corporations would behave like this.

Posted by kevjohnphotography June 12, 08 04:47 PM

I second the #2 comment

Posted by alex June 12, 08 09:27 PM

Response to #19 and all of reader of this blog.

Nop, the company didn't held liable for their action. After two yrs, no legal decision yet on the cause, and 50.000 people left permanently homeless. While the company owner became wealthiest man in Indonesia at the same time serving as
minister that hold this fact not be recognized worldwide

This post and pics did bring awesome sight, but it failed to tell its audiences that there's so much misery to the victims as well.

plz check for more info on this worst industrial disaster the world hv ever seen

Posted by mud victim June 14, 08 07:02 AM

Yes, not only the news you import to us, but the big picture concept is great! Thanks.

Posted by Zey Tavia June 17, 08 03:49 PM

This site is so awesome. Why havent other newspapers thought of this yet?

Posted by Jeff Kelley June 17, 08 10:51 PM

Great blog, I just discovered it today thru, and now I am going thru your archives. Love the idea, love the pictures.

You are doing so much, bringing this into my live, all this sights from far away places...

Keep it up :):):)

Posted by Sue June 20, 08 01:57 PM

the last one is the best!!!! what I would do to check out the inside of that building! Starting from the roof heading to the first floor.

Posted by David Soto June 21, 08 01:14 AM

Drilling 9300 feet down !?!?!
Some of us humans are the most stupid species ever and anywhere ! Some day we're going to crack this planet in two !
All this mud, gases and water coming out... I would think it's vital to earth in some way or another. All this mess we're making on this ONE and ONLY planet of ours for the sake of money !!! Retarded I say ...

Posted by Cristian Fernandez June 21, 08 11:15 AM

With regard to #26, 9,300 hundred feet is nothing, especially where oil & gas is concerned.
Deep wells of 12,000 feet are normal in most rugged locations. Records start to get set, when drill depths descend to over 31,000 feet.
However, all in these deep wells, geophysical mapping is also the norm, from the surface, down.
Clearly, here, if any proper geophysical work had been done, then the gooey mass under their feet, well within Deep Ground Sonic Detection range, would have been noticed. Clearly, this accident was preventable. Clearly, greed or incompetence or both, created this mess. Clearly, someone should pay.

Posted by john.harris June 22, 08 06:48 AM

its weird!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by tadpoles June 29, 08 09:06 PM

This is a disaster of truly Biblical proportions. La Pindo and their JV partner Santos are clearly to blame. Normal drilling practice would have ensured this disaster did not ever occur. The fact that the well was not cased is the primary cause of the problem. That the Government is still procrastinating about who is to blame is extraordinary. Could it have something to do with the fact that La Pindo is owned by Bakerie !!
What about justice for those impacted by this !

Posted by s milne July 21, 08 01:18 AM

i gonna go and have a look tomorrow.....just by ciincident i am in indonesia and got this info by coincident also....tomorrow will see...and i will send you some more photos to confirm!!!

Posted by kosita July 26, 08 11:39 AM

Thanks so much for publishing those excellence phographs. Until more than 2 years of LUSI's Birth Day the hot mud eruption still going steadily. Until Now has experienced with sudden collapse, in which it create a big a depression region, particularlly in the south and easth sides of eruption centre. Surprisingly, the last sudden collapse occurred just about 5 days from yours photograps was taken in May 29 2008.
For non commercial purpose I would like to ask you to use some photographs in my technical report, concerning Evaluating and Monitoring of geological hazard due to Lusi Eruption.
For whom interesting to see directly until it's big hole or eruption centre please contact me, I am very happy to give ypu with some guidances and help (See You in Sidoarjo, East Java, Indonesia).
Sincerely Yours
Hardi Prasetyo
BPLS (The Sidoarjo Mud Flow Management Board)

Posted by Hardi Prasetyo July 29, 08 06:38 AM

The last picture depicts a remnant of a mosque. Mosques are usually among the tallest and of highest quality of building in most Indonesian Villages. It explains why this building is the last thing standing. The same thing happened in Aceh during Tsunami.

On top of the building, it used to be a dome. I believe the dome has been taken and perhaps relocated elsewhere.

Posted by boed August 16, 08 08:22 PM

Mud ow

Posted by w September 23, 08 12:12 PM

Why only the opinion of one (and smaller) group of scientists is presented?
See also ...

Posted by MikeJkt October 4, 08 09:17 PM

The mud ,as of this writing, is STILL flowing. The owner of the company, Aburizal Bakrie (PT Lapindo Brantas), is currently a minister in the cabinet. He is also the richest person in Indonesia according to forbes.

Posted by Andadinata October 8, 08 02:42 AM

This site has heaps of interesting info

Posted by Me October 14, 08 01:37 AM

And his daughter was just held one of the most expensive wedding reception in indonesia.

Posted by sidoarjo citizen November 3, 08 04:27 AM

Are not humans part of nature and don't we do things to survive like any animal? Why is this called an "unatural" disaster assuming it was caused by drilling and not some other event. Did they drill with a pretend bit, or were robots doing the work? This disaster is as natural as any caused by any other reason. Man needs to stop thinking of himself as seperate from nature and see the truth, and that is we are as much a part of nature as any plant rock or animal. Humans engage in activities because we must and I see no fundamental difference between humans drilling for gas and beavers making a dam. If a gopher caused it by digging would it still be considered unatural. Just because we use tools and they use claws makes no difference.

Posted by Michael H. December 1, 08 03:22 PM

I live in this area and have done so for the last 5 years. I have worked in Indonesia for the last 15 years. I have also worked in the oil and gas drilling business. This was nothing more than someone wanting to save a buck or two. If they would had a proper BOP (blow out preventer) this could have be shut down long before it got this far. A well know oil well blowout consultant was broght in two days after it happened and he told the oil company it would cost about 25 to 30 million to cap it and it was decieded that it was too much and Lapindo could do it themselfs. If this would have happened any where else in the world there would be people in jail and paying for this with everything that they have

Posted by jls December 8, 08 06:22 PM

Oh.... Amazing
Keep it up

Posted by uday January 12, 09 01:08 AM

op 8 jan 2009 voor het eerst is het nu op 1 maart 2009 nog bezig of staat alles stil komt er niets meer uit de grond

Posted by steenkamer March 2, 09 04:17 PM

it's big Disaster for indonesia.......

Posted by Nugroho March 13, 09 02:29 AM

The vulcano is stil active and will not stop for a while a friend of me is living 300mtrs from the mud i passed this place in february .
the problem is that a BOP wil not work
the drilling company did not instal the casing requiered for drilling
probely this couldt not be prevented the drilling only speed up the proces
one year before the disaster there where already mudgas wells in this area
the company was also warned many thimes that this couldt happen.
this is now almost inpossible to stop becaus you can not find back the drilling hole in the hard layer of sandstone (vulcanic).
but the question is now it is mud what comes out with 150.000 m3 per day
what should the world do when it was 150.000m3 of oil comming out
than the big boats and pipeline would be there verry quick
if they can drain the mud to the ocean the problem for the people living in this area is solved.(is possible with big sand pump installations.)
then they can also do something with the gasses that also escape there
CH4 H2s CL .these are all dangerous gasses that flow in the air there uncontrolled.
It is a big disaster and many people lose everything they have.
in kuwait they had the same problem but it was oil what was comming from the ground on many places the world solved the problem in 6 mnds
this is now going on for 3 jrs and nothing happend, with the money they have they build dams but did not compansate the people.
this can go one for many years.
rgeard JIJ Skillpool manager

Posted by JIJ March 13, 09 05:49 AM

Excellent article and photos. One wonders how permission was granted to allow drilling to such depth in such an unstable environment , considering Indonesia lies in one of the most earthquake and volcano prone areas of the world - think of Krakatoa. The Ring of Fire. Wikipedia gives a good rundown on the legal action and the three companies responsible for this disaster. My heart goes out to the 36,000 people who have so far lost theirs homes and villages.

Posted by S Clarke April 21, 09 05:54 AM

Heureusement que vous êtes là pour diffuser l'information au monde entier.

Fortunately, you can tell this story for a lot of poeple

Posted by Mathieu July 11, 09 08:05 AM

I am a Westerner, who has visited Indonesia a dozen times over the last few years. I understand the pernicious, ubiquitous, local, Muslim excuse for everything that happens in life, "Insha-Allah," As God Wills It.

This mouth-breathing, sleep-walking, bromide works for just about everything..........I wonder how well it works NOW for all of the thousands of displaced villagers.................Did Allah will this for you? Why? Wake up, and realize that you are the Creator of your own life. Nobody else.

Posted by Mr. Giri July 13, 09 12:09 AM

is er foto op 3 sept 2009

Posted by Anonymous September 3, 09 06:26 PM

This is a true example of being an oil greedy. Fossil fuel creating problem to our environment from exploration to final usage of it. It's about time to use renewable source this is a strong message. Lapindo should think now to convert it to geothermal energy. Good luck..

Posted by kin September 9, 09 01:01 PM


Posted by Anonymous September 15, 09 01:36 PM

I have been Indonesia researching this mud volcano. This work has involved interviews with stake-holders such as the Government agency managing it, victims, owners of the exploration company when the disaster happened (all 3 companies), independent drillers and geologists (Jakarta has plenty of these experts), NGO's and lawyers involved.

The problem with this issue is Indonesia itself, too many people, strange politics and culture all mixed into a developing (poor) country.

The fact is, this area has been drilled for years by both foreign and local firms and has lots of hydro carbons to exploit. PT Lapindo Brantas was previously owned by US exploration company Huffco, with many of the employees US trained. The driller whom designed the well near the mud volcano worked for Conoco for 25 years, he is an experienced driller. The mud didn't erupt from the well, it came from a fracture in the surface 150m-200m away and from up to 5 locations up to 1 km away. I have interviewed foreign (US, Canadian, Aussie) drillers whom have worked in that area, they reviewed the drilling process and said there is nothing wrong with it. Its correct that Lapindo Brantas didn't keep to the original drilling plan, that is because the well was easier to drill than expected. The partners and oversight government agency received daily drilling reports and all agreed with the changes. The steel casing issue is rubbish.

Many experts believe seismic movement reactivated a known fault in an area prone to mud volcanoes and some think drilling caused it. Was it drilling or seismic activity, that fact is, nobody can prove it either way.

What is interesting is that if the eruption came from the bottom of the well (where casing didn't exist) then it should have, considering the pressure found its way up the easiest point of escape. It didn't and nearly 3 years later the main eruption hole still hasn't opened enough to cover the area where the drilling occurred. The main hole is 50-60 m wide. Some experts whom say drilling caused it, explain that the top of the the well could have been blocked. Sure it could have, thats would be the logical position to say if I backed that drilling caused the eruption. But why would it be blocked? The drill string was intact, and the sonics and temp didn't increase in the bore hole. To support the seismic theory, an earth occurred 2 days earlier 250km away, killing 6,000 people. Experts whom say the earthquake was too far way, can't explain why another volcano reactivated (also 2 days later), and further way than this mud volcano. So, was seismic activity was the cause! Again either way how do you prove it? With all this information its very difficult to blame Lapindo Brantas, if you can't prove the cause and when you take all the facts into account its pretty well innocent until proven guilty in the real world!

What's interesting is that Exxon Mobil have just purchased an exploration concession next to Lapindo Brantas.

Hope you find this interesting.

Posted by Anderson Billings September 19, 09 12:11 AM

Thank You very much for the visual format information :-)))

Posted by A. Bujane November 14, 09 10:55 AM

great pics i feel sorry for the people in them

Posted by fred March 16, 10 04:20 PM

Excelente articulo, felicitaciones

Posted by Jorge Llosa May 2, 10 09:39 AM

either corporate crime.. or enviromental disassssssssteeeeerrrr
for the next 100 years we must live with it, if no solutions found.

help us


Posted by isal May 6, 10 09:59 PM

I just came back from Java and saw this area, but these pictures are much better than what we could see from the levee. Awesome

Posted by Eric May 27, 10 09:12 AM

The BP disaster in the Gulf continues to spew out millions of gallons of oil
since the blow out in April 2010...I just heard about the PT Lapindo Brantas Java Mud Volcano and the Shell Nigeria catastrophe that rivals the BP Gulf disaster and has not been capped !!! but explains to me the Shell Energy campaign on TV in recent weeks. Do we stop all U.S. offshore drilling...I say no...but for offshore drilling to be allowed to continue the rules and oversight of ALL U.S. fuel extraction must change...or incestuous patronage government players in league with their Energy Corporate patrons will not only destroy vast tracts of our shores but remove whole mountain ranges as seen already in West VA and soon to see in PA. Yes Pogo we have seen the enemy and it is U.S.

Posted by Poogie Mam June 26, 10 10:00 PM

Thank you so much! I'm doing a geog project on natural hazards and Lusi was my chosen disaster. These photos are really helpful.

Posted by Sandra August 1, 10 08:20 AM

it still happen until now, the govt couldnt solve it

Posted by i am indonesian September 19, 10 04:03 AM

Letter from an Indonesian:

the aesthetic of human creation surely is amazing (the photo), but the rendered of pain, suffering and the cause is very painful. More painful for me to read some of your comments, that the capture of aesthetic replaced the next level of consciousness SO Lightly. My family, two household has been moved away, displace and not only we struggle to find new home, (after they lost land, home and the more important "safe geopolitical" location.(.wonder if you aware how this issues place in Indonesian society). But the level of fear and intimidation. Further, the train ride which exist since i was born, affordable for some of us, the road that connected Malang City and Surabaya (where the airport located) has been vanished...the news is not as big as any small earthquake in post sunamy of Indonesia, because the complicit international corporate involvement in this sense, the gas company. while many more (thousands....) lost land, home and family, there is victim that not even being discussed.

Posted by Larasati September 19, 10 11:39 AM

at #59
i agree with you. thanks brother...

from bandung

Posted by kaisar September 30, 10 12:24 AM

the pictures talk about what government should do in 2008, but it didn't did anything significantly

Posted by permana yudiarso October 19, 10 07:33 PM

Amazing picture. But we must remember, though not to cause casualties, release of hot mud from oil drilling has been flooded an area of 850 hectares and resulted in more than 8200 people were evacuated from the disaster site, 25 000 people had to flee and leave the home and farm. Losses arising from this disaster are estimated at Rp 33.27 trillion ($ 3.3 billion).

Posted by atmomiran October 22, 10 08:27 AM

I was here last year October and you don't believe it, also when you see it with your own eyes. I missed this report and found it on Google. It's really great to see that also reported about this situation.

If you have the opportunity to see this yourself, just do it. Bring something nice for the locals, they don't have much and it doesn't seem to end in the nearby future.

Thank you for showing this photos !

Posted by elcastel March 3, 11 02:43 PM

Is this why they have spent so much money on space exploration, so when they have destroyed planet Earth they can move on somewhere else to start again?

Posted by David Goddard May 13, 11 04:40 AM
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