▲ The unmistakable crater of Seonsang Ilchulbang is instantly recognizable from the air or even on satellite photos. It is a must see for anyone coming to Jeju Island. Photo courtesy Jeju Provincial Government
Whether you are a volcanologist or simply a tourist, no visit to Jeju is complete without a trip to Seongsan Ilchulbong.
One of the most scenic attractions in Jeju, Seongsan Ilchulbong is a stellar example of a “tuff” cone, which is different from the 300-plus other volcanic peaks on Jeju.
Scientists estimate that somewhere between 40,000 to 120,000 years ago, an underwater volcanic eruption formed this tuff cone, pushing the massive structure into the Jeju sky.
Its shape is instantly recognizable, sweeping up from the northeast corner of the island, a perfect bowl perched on the ocean. A climb up the well-groom path reveals a Jurassic Park-like caldera, a jungle-filled crater formed when the cooling magma collapsed.
Since its formation, years of erosion have washed away the sides of the cone, with the exception of its northwestern section, leaving behind a truly unique remnant of a tuff cone. Known as a ”Surtseyan erutption'” or “Phreatomagmatic eruption,” it is the result of an explosive thermal contraction between the magma and water, wherein the magma is rapidly cooled by an ocean or lake, producing a widening interaction surface along the crack or fissure.
Seongsan Ilculbong is estimated to be 90 meters in height and around 600 meters in width at its greatest point. The jagged rocks formed around the perimeter of the crater give it a crown-like apperance, while the exposed cliff faces are a geological archive of its ancient volcanic past. The cone's sedimentary layers are a composite of various deposits which have made it into a remarkable example for the study of volcaniclastic sedimentology.
The peak is also a botanist’s dream. There are hundreds of species of flora inside the crater. Among them are some unique flora, including one significant species, Aeginetia indica, that is parasitic to eulalia or “silver grass,” a native species of China, Japan and Korea. It is found only on Jeju within Korea, and even then only in remote locations.
As well as plant and animal life found inside the crater, there are several unique plant species found in the waters that surround the cone. Several new species were discovered and are known to be found only within the region. The reef around the cone also acts as a land-bridge to Jeju, otherwise it would have remained an islet.
Sunrise Peak is widely known for having one of the best views on Jeju, particularly during the hours of twilight, and of course, sunrise. There is a large field along its ridge which is used for horseback riding, and is a great area for taking a walk or having a picnic. Haenyeo divers can be seen in the waters to the west of the peak.
It is listed as a World Natural Heritage Site by The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and attracts thousands of people every year. It will be celebrating its second anniversary, along with Jeju's other UNESCO sites on June 27. Jeju was unanimously voted to be included by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee at the thirty-first summit held in New Zealand.
Seongsan Ilchulbong can be easily reached by bus from Seogwipo or Jeju-si. Just ask for the bus going to Seongsan.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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