Eruption of the Gamalama volcano, Ternate, Indonesia - December 6 video showing multiple lahars

On December 05 at 00:08 local time (some reports say on December 4 at approx. 23:00), Mount Gamalama erupted and spewed lava and ash on a town in eastern Indonesia, prompting thousands of residents to flee. A scientist monitoring the volcano says the eruption has caused panic on the island.

Update 06/12 - 23:55 UTC
On December 6 the weather improved a little bit providing a better view of the still active volcano. A lot of white patches or lahars  can be seen.  Most of the bigger lahars reach approximately the middle of the volcano. The Reuters video below shows the impact of the ash rich water in the rivers at the foot of the volcano. This video is courtesy of an Indonesian TV channel

Update 06/12 - 11:44 UTC
A very good Reuters video describing the power of the volcano, including the lahar-like mixture of ash and torrential rain, and the way people have to deal with it.

Gamalama volcano, Ternate, Indonesia - image courtesy

Update 06/12 - 11:31 UTC
Alert level remains at 3 (max. 4). NO evacuation has been ordered. People living on the higher slopes of the Gamalama volcano have been staying at the former governor's building on Sunday. Most returned to their homes on Monday afternoon. A 3.5 km NO-GO zone has been declared around the crater. People can take refuge (if they decide to) in temporary shelters at different local government buildings, schools and at the local football stadium. On Monday 800 people, mostly women and children, were staying at the shelters, although not because of the direct threat from an eruption but out of fear of landslides along the banks of the rivers. As stated in our earlier updates, ash rich rain waters were coming down, flooding the volcano slopes.  The local volcano monitoring post reported at least 6 major eruptions following the initial outburst on Sunday night. The volcano seemingly went silent again yesterday. Thick cloud cover is blocking all views.

Update 05/12 - 12:25 UTC
- The Indonesian authorities are maintaining the current alert level on Siaga
- The latest bulletin of VAAC (Volcanic Ash Advisory ) mentions the eruption but gives no specific ash cloud radius due to the bad weather (clouds). VAAC says the the volcano plume rose 1500 ft above the crater (approximately 500 meters).

Update 05/12 - 11:00 UTC :  Disturbing images on the Indonesian TV are showing people running away from their houses and ash floods in the villages. The weather is really bad in the area and the actual footage of the eruption itself has not yet been published.
- People are advised to wear masks as it is raining ash.
- The airport has been closed.
- The volcano has been in the second highest state of alert (Siaga or Level 3) since December 4, 2011.
- Some people chose to evacuate to the neighboring island of Tidore.
- Last eruption of the Gamalama volcano occurred in 2003.

Historic eruptions of the Gamalama volcano (Gunung Gamalama)

Data from James Daniell Volcano CATDAT

2010 Video of a climb to the Gamalama summit and crater
Today's media enable us to show the volcano in its perspective.  The video shows a couple of interesting things about the volcano and the island of Ternate.
- The (mainly) volcano shaped island has a number of towns with active trade and means of transportation.
- The island has a population of 145,143 people (census 2003). Local authorities are claiming that at present the number has increased to 185,705.
- The volcano is a typical cloud catcher (like the Hawaiian volcanoes).
- The main crater seems to be rather deep and narrow.

Volcano Information :
- Gamalama (Peak of Ternate) is a near-conical stratovolcano that comprises the entire island of Ternate off the western coast of Halmahera and is one of Indonesia's most active volcanoes.
- The island of Ternate was a major regional center of the Portuguese and Dutch spice trade for several centuries, which contributed to the thorough documentation of Gamalama's historical activity.
- Three cones, progressively younger to the north, form the summit of Gamalama, which reaches 1715 m.
- Several maars and vents define a rift zone, parallel to the Halmahera island arc, that cuts across the volcano.
- Eruptions recorded frequently since the 16th century typically originated from the summit craters, although flank eruptions have occurred in 1763, 1770, 1775, and 1962-63.
Source : Smithsonian Institute

Special thanks to reader Kukide from the Czech Republic, for telling us the news of this eruption

Originally Portuguese Fort of Saint John Baptist of Ternate. 1720 drawing of Ternate by unknown, presumably Dutch, artist. Inset shows a Portuguese/Spanish-built fort on the island. - Wikipedia image



  1. A little note on what is written in the paragraph headed "2010 Video of a climb to the Gamalama summit and crater", last phrase says "looks like steam from the crater view, but in the sequence before, the typical smoke color can well be seen". Truly enough, volcanic gas nearly exclusively IS steam, which is why it looks like steam. At Etna, the volcanic plume is about 97 per cent steam (that is, water vapor), and at other volcanoes the amounts are similar. Volcanic plumes can appear dark, like "smoke" (though they certainly are NOT smoke, which is a combustion product and there's no combustion within volcanoes), when they are either rich in ash, or when they are viewed against the sun, especially when there are significant amounts of sulfur dioxide in it.

    By the way, congrats for the excellent site!

  2. The beautiful painting (sketch) is made by François Valentijn (valentyn(original grammar),valentine)

    The original is in black and white no color.

    In total, Valentijn lived in the East Indies 16 years. Valentijn was first employed by the V.O.C. (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie) at the age of 19 as Minister to the East Indies, where he became a friend of the German naturalist Georg Eberhard Rumpf (Rumphius). He returned and lived in Holland for about ten years before returning to the Indies in 1705 where he was to serve as Army Chaplain on an expedition in eastern Java. He finally returned to Dordrecht where he found time to write his Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indiën (1724–26) a massive work of five parts published in eight volumes and containing over one thousand illustrations and including some of the most accurate maps of the Indies of the time.[2] He died in The Hague, Netherlands, in 1727.

  3. well another volcano, its 2012 🙂
    this volcano can cause danger in the vilages around them, but not more, because this historical pass it isn`t very damaging besides one or two eruptions. but perhaps this eruption will be diferent.
    i like very much this website.