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Report on Soputan (Indonesia) — May 1985


Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 10, no. 5 (May 1985)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Soputan (Indonesia) Seven-hour tephra eruption; jumbo jet flies through plume

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1985. Report on Soputan (Indonesia) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 10:5. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198505-266030



1.112°N, 124.737°E; summit elev. 1785 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

An ash eruption from Soputan's main crater occurred 19-20 May from 1815 to 0130. The eruption column rose to 4 km altitude, and ~2 cm of ash (fine to coarse) accumulated at villages (Kawangkoan, Langoan, Noongan, and Ratahan) 9-12 km from the crater. There were no casualties and no evacuations were necessary. The volcano has remained quiet since 22 May.

On 20 May at 0058, a jumbo jet en route from Hong Kong to Sydney, Australia, with 267 passengers and 16 crew members encountered the ash cloud ~80 km SSE of the volcano (approximately 0.5°N, 124.54°E). An orange glow discharged from the nose of the aircraft and orange sparks passed over the windshield. Engine inlets were illuminated by a white light. A light haze that smelled like burnt dust filled the cabin, and ash accumulated on flat surfaces. These effects continued for 7-8 minutes, while the aircraft remained on course at 0.85x the speed of sound, for a distance of roughly 120-135 km. The aircraft continued to Sydney, arriving 4 hours after exiting the ash cloud, and landed uneventfully. Because of damage caused by the ash cloud, it was necessary to replace all four of the aircraft's engines, other navigational components, and more than a dozen windows.

The TOMS instrument on the NIMBUS 7 polar orbiting satellite detected an area of SO2 enhancement SE of Soputan during its pass at local noon on 20 May. The area of enhancement extended from about 124.5°E to 126°E near the equator and from about 125°E to 127°E at 1.5°S with the maximum at about 1°S, 126°E.

Geological Summary. The Soputan stratovolcano on the southern rim of the Quaternary Tondano caldera on the northern arm of Sulawesi Island is one of Sulawesi's most active volcanoes. The youthful, largely unvegetated volcano is the only active cone in the Sempu-Soputan volcanic complex, which includes the Soputan caldera, Rindengan, and Manimporok (3.5 km ESE). Kawah Masem maar was formed in the W part of the caldera and contains a crater lake; sulfur has been extracted from fumarolic areas in the maar since 1938. Recent eruptions have originated at both the summit crater and Aeseput, a prominent NE-flank vent that formed in 1906 and was the source of intermittent major lava flows until 1924.

Information Contacts: VSI; Boeing, Seattle, WA; A. Krueger, NASA/GSFC.