Blog

Mount Merapi: it’s Australia’s ‘fault’

By: Fran Dorey, Category: At The Museum, Date: 17 Nov 2010

Not all exhibitions at the Museum take months or years of planning. Sometimes we have a day!

There are times when we want to get information and objects out for our visitors at the drop of a hat - particularly if the subject is topical. These 'rapid response' displays are small but fun to do and, with deadline of one day, quite a challenge! Our latest display looks at the Mount Merapi eruptions in Indonesia. Why did we want to focus on this? Read on...

Mount Merapi

Indonesia’s Mount Merapi is one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Recent eruptions have filled our news with devastating images of the hundreds of people that have died and the thousands left homeless. Australia may seem a world away from this tragedy, but we have a much closer ‘connection’. In fact, you could say it’s Australia’s fault.

How is that possible? It’s a simple matter of plate tectonics! The Earth’s crust may feel solid and stable, but it is actually a slowly moving ‘jigsaw’ of continental plates (that move about the same speed as your fingernails grow). These plates collide into or move away from each other, resulting in the continual creation and destruction of the crust.

Indonesia lies on part of the Earth’s crust where two plates – the Indo-Australian and the Eurasian – collide. The Indo-Australian plate is subducted, or forced under, the Eurasian. Spectacular volcanic eruptions and massive earthquakes result.

These geologically active zones along the edges of plates are often called ‘faults’. As the Indo-Australian plate is currently being destroyed (or subducted) right near Indonesia, it is at ‘fault’ in more ways than one.