National Geographic : 1963 Sep
KODACHROME() NATIONAL GEOGRAPHICSOCIETY Hands raised in prayer, priests bless food prepared by pilgrims for presenta tion to the gods at Besakih. From this pavilion the offerings moved to the altar. was to keep watch on Gunung Agung and eventually to examine its crater. "But that can't be done safely for at least two months more," Mr. Soerjo said. "The chief danger is the ash. It can avalanche at the slightest trigger, and if there is a rain, it can come down as lahar. Agung Erupts Again "Most of the victims," the volcanologist went on, "were killed by clouds of explosive gases mixed with pulverized ash and lava. The glowing clouds came down the moun tainside at very high speeds, searing every thing in their path. "It could happen again," he warned. "That's why we have recommended that ev eryone within ten kilometers of the crater be evacuated." Mr. Soerjo was right. Agung erupted again on May 16, causing more than 100 deaths and heavy property damage. When Governor Sutedja closed the area to all habitation, he found himself with a difficult problem at Besakih. "Besakih is our mother temple, the holiest in Bali," the Governor told me. "We have not had much trouble in persuading villagers to leave their homes, but the priests do not like to leave the temples-particularly Besakih." Two days later came the day of the April full moon, with another key ceremony of the Eka Dasa Rudra to take place. The Governor announced that Besakih would be forbidden to the people, and that he himself would go there alone to pray for the entire island. But on the holy day we found him waiting beside the road to Besakih, helplessly watch ing lines of worshipers making their way up the mountain. The Governor scanned the peak with binoculars. For the first time in a week, it was clear. A high column of smoke billowed from the crater. "I am told it is safe today," he said plain tively. "Who knows? But there is nothing I can do to keep the people away." The ceremonies went on while Mount Agung streamed its plume of roiling smoke across the troubled sky of Bali. SIX-MONTH INDEX AVAILABLE As one of the privileges of membership in the National Geographic Society, members who bind their GEOGRAPHICS as works of reference will receive upon request an index for 458 each six-month volume. The index to Volume 123 (January-June, 1963) is now ready.