One thing that the north of England lacks is a good volcano, although Newcastle University’s scientists may create one if they drill too deeply for their geothermal water under the city centre.
We’ve also got some excellent reminders of igneous, ash-cloud days in the heart of the Lake District where you can still pick up scraps of rock burnt red or ochre, and rare minerals such as diatomite and graphite have made fortunes for enterprising prospectors.
These musings are prompted by Gunung (Mount) Lokon blowing its top a quarter of a century after I nearly fell into its crater, along with assorted other Northerners including an officer from RAF Newton-on-Ouse. We were on a scientific expedition to Northern Sulawesi (formerly the Celebes spice islands) and decided that Lokon was too good a target not to climb.
Foolishly, we ignored the valuable motto ‘Time spent on reconnaissance is never wasted’, thus proving it true as what appeared from a distance to be springy, Blencathra-like turf turned out to be elephant grass. This has sabre-shaped leaves with edges so sharp that they cut you like a scalpel; you feel nothing until blood starts dripping from your arms and legs.
Lokon’s nastiest trick, however, is hiding its crater in a cloud of sulphurous steam between two cones from which scree runs lead enticingly downhill after the stiff and bloody ascent. Discarded bottles of Bintang (Star) beer on the highest summit lull trippers into a state of complacency. It’s a picnic spot for local hoodies; no need to take special care.
Oh yes there is. It was by luck not judgement that this contributor to The Northerner and Environment blogs didn’t end up poached in the scalding hot water which fills the crater, at the bottom of the scree run, like a pan of pea soup. Read more here.
All these years later, as Lokon blows its top for the umpteenth time, I still remember its name with respect. And a shudder. But it would still be nice to have a tamer version to add to the other attractions of England’s better half.