Stories tagged Indonesia

What's the hottest thing these days in Indonesia? People are flocking to a hospital to get a peek at huge newborn that tipped the scales at 19.2 pounds. Here's the link to more info and an amazing picture of the newborn.


A Komodo dragon gnaws on a water buffalo: The buffalo may or may not have been on a quest.
A Komodo dragon gnaws on a water buffalo: The buffalo may or may not have been on a quest.Courtesy Mats Stafseng Einarsen
In a classic case of life-imitates-art, a man on a quest was attacked by dragons early this week.

Although… appreciation of the above statement depends on your ability to accept “Harry Potter” as art, and your willingness to interpret a fatal animal attack as anything other than a tragedy.

Neither point is a problem for me.

Indonesian adventurer/fisherman Muhamad Anwar was questing on a forbidden isle at the time of the attack. Anwar’s quest mostly involved searching around for sugar-apples, but still, the whole thing is very Goblet of Fire, I’d say. So let’s say he was looking for dragon eggs, instead of sugar-apples.

Questing for dragon eggs on a forbidden island probably always involves some hazards, but this particular forbidden island happens to be forbidden because it’s part of Indonesia’s Komodo National Park. That means that it has actual dragons. Oooh.

Whether or not Anwar found any dragon eggs was not made clear in the article, but he certainly found some dragons. Or they found him. Anwar was severely mauled by a group of Komodo dragons, and bled to death as a group of fishermen took him to a clinic on a nearby island.

Komodo dragons are the heaviest lizards in the world (an easy 150 pounds in the wild, with captive individuals growing even larger), and they’re carnivorous, which makes them pretty frightening and fascinating right off the bat. There are a few additional characteristics of Komodo dragons, however, that should be taken into consideration when questing in dragon country.

1) Komodo dragons have poor hearing. So, when on an egg quest, be sure to sneak quietly. Note from the author to the author: John, This doesn't make any sense.
2) Komodo dragons do, however, have an exceptional sense of smell. Or, if not smell exactly, chemical analysis. Komodo dragons sample the air with their long forked tongues, and use a Jacobson’s organ like snakes. So be sure to sneak quietly and odorlessly.
3) Komodo dragons have huge teeth and bloody spit. Komodo dragon teeth can grow up to an inch long, but gum tissue covers most of each teeth. That means that when the dragons do much chewing… things get bloody. The bloody saliva, however, makes a nice environment for item number 4.
4) Komodo dragon bites are way toxic. Many monitors (the larger group of lizards that Komodo dragons belong to) have slightly venomous bites, which cause swelling, shooting pain, and disruption of blood clotting. The main danger from the bites, though, is the massive colony of toxic bacteria each Komodo dragon keeps in its mouth. Dozens of species of bacteria have been isolated in dragon mouths, and if an animal isn’t killed by a Komodo dragon’s initial attack, it will generally die within a week anyway, thanks to massive bacterial infection. So be sure to pack your protection from poison potions (or just a ton of powerful antibiotics).
5) Komodo dragons are capable of parthenogenesis. Think, “Jurassic Park,” and you’ve got it. In the absence of male individuals, a female Komodo dragon can still produce offspring. Where the sex of humans is determined by the pairing of X and Y chromosomes (you get one from each parent, if you’re XX, you’re a girl, if XY, you’re a boy), Komodo dragon sex is determined by “ZW” chromosomes. ZZ individuals are male, and ZWs are female. A mother dragon can give one Z chromosome to an egg, and the egg will duplicate that chromosome to become a ZZ individual, a male. If the mother passes on a single W chromosome, the egg may still duplicate it, but WW individuals aren’t viable, and never develop to hatching. So even if a forbidden island was cleared of male dragons, it still may not be safe for questing in the following generations.

All things considered, it’s probably best to avoid Komodo dragons entirely on quests. Unless you’re questing to the zoo.

Soputan Volcano erupts in Indonesia
Soputan Volcano erupts in IndonesiaCourtesy guano

The alert status for Mount Soputan in Indonesia has been raised
to the third highest level on their four-level system after beginning a minor eruption on Monday.

The region around the volcano is relatively uninhabited, with the closest villages at least 5 miles away. Still, residents were warned to stay a safe distance from the volcano.

The Soputan stratovolcano is one of Indonesia's most active volcanoes.


Satelite Imagery of Sidoarjo before and after Sidoarjo mud flow.
Satelite Imagery of Sidoarjo before and after Sidoarjo mud flow.Courtesy NASA
I saw this story as I was flipping through the January 2008 issue of National Geographic. Since May 2006 a mud volcano has been “erupting” 18.5 million gallons of hot mud a day along with hydrogen sulphide gas in Sidoarjo, East Java, 22 miles south of Indonesia's second largest city, Surabaya. The volcano, called Lusi, has displaced 10,000 families and has cost Indonesia over $3.7 billion to date.

What caused the mud volcano to start erupting is interesting – and up for debate. Initially, PT Lapindo Brantas, an oil and gas company drilling just over 200 yards away when the volcano started to erupt from its drilling rig on May 28, 2006, was blamed, and it was ordered to pay nearly $500 million. However, on May 27, 2006, a major earthquake struck and devastated Yogyakarta on Java (5,782 dead, 36,299 injured, 1.5 million homeless) and this too could have contributed to the mud volcano’s eruption. Skeptics point out that the epicenter of this earthquake was nearly 200 miles away and the earthquake was only 2 on the Richter scale in Sidoarjo. Recent rulings regarding the eruption have called it a “natural disaster”.

Given the amount of the damage, and the impact on the people and the economy and businesses, the issue of who, or what, is responsible is being hotly debated. The disaster is being investigated by local, national and international experts.

There are tons of interesting articles about this on the web – I’ll list a few below. What I highly encourage you to check out are the satellite photos of the region that are available – to visually see the amount of mud that has overtaken this area – up to 60 feet deep in some areas, is remarkable.

These satellite images show the difference in the area around the eruption between October 2005 and August 2006 (scroll down on the page to see the images).

This is the most recent photo of the area. Click on the earlier images to see the spread of the mud over time. It’s scary.

Google site seeing.

A slideshow of images from Greenpeace. The first image is striking.

Inside Indonesia article.


Get used to this view: They're coming.
Get used to this view: They're coming.Courtesy WhatDaveSees
When will we learn that “lost worlds” should stay lost? Ask Challenger – that sort of thing is best left alone.

But no. We can’t leave well enough alone, and now giant rats have been unleashed upon the world.

Last year an international team of scientists discovered an incredibly isolated and pristine jungle in Papua New Guinea. Even the nearby indigenous groups claimed to have never visited the area, and it was dubbed “a lost world” (there has to be a Buzz post on it somewhere around here, but, failing that, here’s an article on the discovery).

The region has since yielded dozens of examples of previously unknown species of plants and animals - lots of flowers and pretty little birds. The most recent expedition, however, found something altogether less pleasant. Two things, actually: a a giant rat, and a tiny possum (which I don’t particularly like either. Who knows what they could be keeping in their tiny little pouches? Derringers? Marsupial pornography?).

The rat is about five times the size of a normal city rat, and apparently has no fear of humans (it wandered into the biologists’ camp several times during the expedition). Also, according to my imagination, it feeds exclusively on human babies, smells like burning tires, and endlessly thinks of ways it could sneak into your bedroom at night.

So far, the beast seems to be confined to Papua (another “Rat Island, if you will), but I am entirely of the opinion that the rest of the world should prepare for imminent invasion. How? Conventional anti-rat weapons won’t work on these behemoths, although Hollywood has shown that they can be killed the same way as most monsters: by fire and swords. So stockpile that.

Honestly, in this picture it looks kind of cute.

While Indonesians have been warned for weeks about an imminent eruption of Mount Kelud, a different volcano in the South Pacific nation has erupted. Here’s a link to a National Geographic photo from a few weeks ago when Anak Krakatua was starting to get cooking. An offspring volcano of the infamous Krakatua, the younger volcano erupted on Thursday, sending up a tower of black rock and ash hundreds of feet into the sky. The black sand on the volcano’s non-active side is so hot that people can only walk on it briefly. In the meantime, the threat level for Mt. Kelud has been reduced, and people who had been evacuated from its vicinity are now able to return home. But it’s further evidence that some hot things are brewing in the “The Ring of Fire,” that circles the Pacific Ocean. Science Museum of Minnesota visitors can learn more about that by viewing the currently playing Omnifilm “Ring of Fire.” The chain of islands that make up Indonesia have about 70 active volcanoes right now.

Despite warnings by officials in Indonesia of a possible eruption soon by Mount Kelud, thousands of people living within the six-mile danger zone of the volcano are staying put.
The imminent eruption warning was issued on Tuesday following weeks of monitoring tremors and temperatures in the southeast Asia volcano.
Some villagers had evacuated at first, but are returning to their homes complaining that there isn’t enough food at the emergency shelters that were set up to handle the evacuees.
The warning is calling for people to stay at least six miles away from Mt. Kelud. It last erupted in 1990, with about a dozen people perishing. An eruption in 1919 killed about 5,000 people.
Volcano experts credit modern warning systems for helping keep the death tolls much lower, as long as people living in the affected area evacuate. Historians say that an eruption at the same volcano in the 16th century took an estimated 10,000 lives.


The author personally investigates Indonesian flora: Photo by Ranti Junus
The author personally investigates Indonesian flora: Photo by Ranti Junus

And Borneo. And Bali. And Banjarmasin. The southeast Asian country of Indonesia plans to plant 79 million trees on a single day -- November 28. The event will take place ahead of a UN climate change meeting on Bali the following month.

Indonesia has cut down more tropical forests since 2000 than any other country. It is also the world's third-largest producer of greenhouse gases. It is hoped that this massive planting project will reverse these trends.

Many of the rainforests have been cut down to make room for palm oil plantations, which are expanding to produce raw material for biofuel -- another example of how everything is interconnected, and trying to solve a problem in one area can create a problem in another.

(Indonesia's entry into the biofuel market strikes me as odd, since they are a major oil-producing nation and a member of OPEC.)