Today’s image isn’t the result of a specialized filter or selective coloring. At Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression, blue flames naturally erupt from the ground. For the past few years, French photographer Olivier Grunewald has documented volcanic hotbeds, but few locations are quite as brilliant as Dallol volcano:
National Geographic once dubbed Danakil, which is at the junction of three tectonic plates, the “cruelest place on Earth.” Aside from the consistently high temperatures and vibrant acidic lakes, the barren landscape also hosts some volcanic activity. Though a camera couldn’t capture it, magma boils just below the earth’s surface. From time to time, the heat ignites the sulphuric dust present in the soil, creating the unusual flames seen at Dallol volcano. Some of the gas then condenses into liquid sulfur, which flows down the slopes of the mountain.
Though this magnificent scene may be awe-inspiring, venturing to the depression is certainly not for the faint of heart. The alien landscape is devoid of roads or paths. Harsh conditions are generally incompatible with sustaining life. Valuable salt deposits incite violent conflicts among the people that can withstand the environment, posing a security threat for passersby.
While we can’t recommend packing a bag and shipping off to Danakil for a photo op, we have to lend a hand to Grunewald. Despite numerous obstacles standing in the way, this photographer’s willingness to tread through sulphuric fumes and acidic waters led to the capture of this breathtaking natural phenomenon.
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