QuickCheck: Did a mud volcano erupt in Sabah?


A shot of the mud volcano eruption on Sept 18. Inset: Amrafel (left) and Hamit. - Photo courtesy of Sinarharian.com.my

SOCIAL media is aflutter over a video of a mud volcano eruption sending a massive spray of muddy water almost six metres up into the sky. It is said to have taken place in Lahad Datu.

Did a mud volcano really erupt in Sabah recently?

Verdict:

YES

According to Malay news portal Sinarharian.com.my, the 13-second video of a mud volcano erupting was uploaded onto Facebook on Sunday (Sept 18).

It was recorded by a tour guide who was taking a group of tourists to visit the mud volcano at Tabin Wildlife Park in Lahad Datu.

Hamit Suban, 43, said the incident happened at about 10am when he and eight foreign tourists reached the site in the Tabin area.

"Our first programme after breakfast was to visit the 'mud volcano'. We walked for about 700m to reach the site.

"As soon as we arrived, we went up to the observation tower to see the birds and other animals at the location, but suddenly we heard a loud bang and the 'volcano' started to spew mud everywhere," he said when contacted by Sinar Harian on Monday (Sept 19).

According to him, they were all stunned by the incident and he was worried about the safety of the tourists he had brought with him.

"We could see for ourselves, it's like a volcano that emits lava but in the form of mud. I understand that this incident is the biggest ever to happen with a height of almost 6m," he explained.

Hamit, who has been working as a tour guide since 2005 at Borneo Eco Tours Kinabatangan, said that although such eruptions had happened before, it was the first time he witnessed one himself.

ALSO READ: QuickCheck: Are there volcanoes in Malaysia?

Another tourist guide from Tabin Wildlife Resort, Amrafel Marang, 42, said the last time it happened was about three years ago.

Amrafel, who has been working in the area for 23 years, said the mud that came up from below ground was rich in minerals.

"Animals in this area will come to the mud to get mineral resources from the eruption.

"This is not the first time, it erupted in 2014 and 2019, but this was the first time that an eruption has been recorded," he said.

Mud volcanoes are not true (igneous) volcanoes, as they do not produce lava and are not necessarily driven by magmatic activity.

They are formed when water deep below the surface is heated up and pressurised by either geologic forces or some other heat source to the point that it explosively erupts from the ground, similar to a geyser.

However, unlike a geyser, the water of a mud volcano blends with subterranean mineral deposits that turn it into a muddy slurry when it erupts.

These eruptions can be particularly spectacular; an earthquake in Mindanao in 1897 caused a mud volcano near Sabah to erupt which created the 607ha island of Pulau Tiga off the coast of Sabah.

The island, which still has active mud volcanoes, was made famous in 2001 when it became the location for the first season of the UK version of reality TV show Survivor.

References:

1. https://www.sinarharian.com.my/article/221917/edisi/sabah-sarawak/panik-lihat-letusan-gunung-berapi-lumpur-setinggi-enam-meter

2. https://www.britannica.com/science/mud-volcano

3. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/1330295.stm

4. https://eprints.ums.edu.my/id/eprint/13597/

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