Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0


By Duncan Graham - posted Thursday, 26 May 2011

Like a Hollywood horror movie the monster from the depths was released on an ordinary Monday afternoon five years ago.

It was almost the end of May 2006 and I was driving home to Surabaya, the capital of East Java and Indonesia's second largest city.

The previous couple of days had been spent in Malang, a 90-minute drive south, visiting relatives. A typical weekend. But this time there were problems.


Entering the toll road near Sidoarjo, about 30 kilometres short of our destination the normally free-flowing traffic was snarled. It hadn't been raining – this was the dry season – but the road was awash with muddy water.

So were the paddy alongside – and the water was moving fast, swamping the young rice. Mechanical diggers and men with hoes were trying to clean a clogged ditch. About 200 metres away a white cloud was billowing from the mud, hiding a giant rig that had been working there for weeks. The rotten-egg stench of hydrogen sulphide answered the question every motorist was asking.

There'd been a gas and liquid blowout.

During the next few days Indonesians were assured the problem would soon be solved, though there was much confusion about the cause.

As the days rolled into months and the mud and gas continued to gush, weird plans to shut the flow were suggested, including dropping giant concrete balls into the well mouth. Then large sums were offered to religious leaders and paranormals to pray for a cessation, which they did with great ceremony and certainty.

Nothing worked.


Now jump to the present. What's come to be known as the Lapindo mud volcano (after the company running the project, PT Lapindo Brantas) continues to spew out an estimated 30,000 cubic metres of hot mud a day. It's reported to be the biggest disaster of its kind in the world.

Two years ago Australian expert Dr Mark Tingay from Perth's Curtin University of Technology claimed the belching could last for 30 years, and that the area was slowly sinking. His estimate of the damage was then US$4.9 billion.

Huge levees built to contain the slime are frequently ruptured and have to be raised even higher. Enterprising locals have put ladders up the banks so tourists can pay to get a better view of the boiling mud.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. All

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

1 post so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Duncan Graham is a Perth journalist who now lives in Indonesia in winter and New Zealand in summer. He is the author of The People Next Door (University of Western Australia Press) and Doing Business Next Door (Wordstars). He blogs atIndonesia Now.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Duncan Graham

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Article Tools
Comment 1 comment
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy