Tuesday, July 19, 2016

In memory of Om Leo (@LeopoldAdam)

- Janine and Jeannie Curtis

Tree planting Gunung (Mount) Merapi's west flank

Many of us online know of and had interacted with Leopold Kennedy Adam - @LeopoldAdam on twitter, and the administrator of volcano communication websites such as Gunung Slamet. We know him through his excellent communication of the activity and hazards of Indonesian volcanoes, in particular, Sinabung. This ongoing disaster has been largely forgotten by international media and it is through efforts of those in Indonesia, like Leo, that have helped keep the world aware of the volcanic and human impact of these events.

In August of 2010 Sinabung volcano (Gunung (Mount) Sinabun(g)) entered a phase of unrest. Since then the volcanology community has been watching. Many of us have been watching from a distance like myself, through social media, videos of incredible and dangerous pyroclastic flows, and using Google Translate to read official and media reports of the sometimes deadly eruptions. It is a heartbreaking situation where local villages have been evacuated, leaving all that they know, and attempts to tend to their homes have resulted in fatalities.

Major volcanoes of Indonesia (courtesy of USGS, adaption of CIA map 1997 from Simkin & Siebert, 1994).

This continues to be a very serious situation, and is not an isolated event in Indonesia, you can see in these maps the sheer number of volcanoes, with 460,000 people living within 10 km of an active volcanoes in North Sulawesi alone (USGS).

Population and volcano density in Indonesia (courtesy of USGS).
It is important when sharing information on these events to use trusted sources, there are far too many inaccurate and blatantly fear-mongering news articles reporting "facts", when they are only interested in gaining page views. In fact, this is one of the reasons I started using twitter in the first place - to find and provide facts on volcano activity and information on volcano hazards.

One of the sources I trusted and greatly appreciated was Leo. Along with his network of friends he posted up to date images of the activity of Sinabung volcano and information on the state of activity. One of the most obvious reasons for using social media is to connect. We have a relatively new way of connecting with people around the world who have interests similar to our own, and there is a strong group of passionate volcanologists on twitter - see the list @kenhrubin put together here.

Something I took for granted was how checking the online activity of volcanoes most days on twitter would form friendships, and how my appreciation for these people would grow. When Jeannie told me of the passing of Leo I was heartbroken, it felt like I lost a friend and I am sure that many others feel the same way for someone we did not get a chance to meet face-to-face. The following words are from Jeannie, a friend of Leo who worked with him on social media pages to educate the world on how the volcanoes of Indonesia affect the many people living there.

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Leopold (Leo) Kennedy Adam, known to many as 'Ulik', and 'Om Leo', (meaning Uncle Leo a term of endearment and respect by thousands), was born 22 March 1962 at Poso, Central Sulawesi and moved to Jakarta as a young child. He married, had two children and studied Geology at Bandung Institute of Technology in the 1980s, living in Bekasi, Jakarta, West Java. Later, Leo was employed with the Secretariat of School SMA Negeri 1 aka Boedoet 7, a religious Higher Secondary School in Jakarta and as part of the job, he took up residence in East Jakarta's Velodrome at the Boedoet 81 Sekretariat Office.


Leo, a humble, family man, was spiritual and devout, loved athletics, volcano backpacking, lots of coffee and had a huge passion for volunteering in disaster mitigation projects, religious and athletic events. He spent many years volunteering his time as a Geological Hazard Mitigation National Disaster Volunteer in times of volcanic disaster; recruiting volunteers, Disaster Mitigation training drills and in many conservation efforts such as the mass tree replanting on the west flank of Gunung Merapi.

Leo's biggest passion was athletics, he mentored and supported so many athletes and track/field events at the Sports Arena (GOR) Velodrome, Pulogadung, East Jakarta, where he lived, onsite. Leo had a legendary knack of acquiring event results even before the media, and forwarded these results nonstop to the very grateful athletes and coaches. Many athletes mentored by Leo, speak of his unconditional faith in their ability; as a motivational speaker; and hands-on support and inspiration in their endeavours to become athletes.

Leo with athletes at the Velodrome.
Leo was very well known in Social Media on Facebook and Twitter for his unrelenting updates on Indonesian volcanoes and disaster mitigation. Leo started the Facebook page 'Gunung Slamet' with Boemi Djawa (https://www.facebook.com/gunungapi.Slamet/ …) and was an admin on many other Indonesian pages and groups. His name is synonymous with Gunung (Mount) Sinabun(g) updates and using the photos taken by his friends, Boemi Djawa, Endro Lewa, Tibta Pangin and Sadrah Peranginangin, he has supplied the world for years with non-stop updates about the volcanic state of Gunung (Mount) Sinabun(g), Gunung (Mount) Slamet, other Indonesian volcanoes in the news and Disaster Mitigation volunteer programs and assistance.

Leo was quick to admonish others, if he felt they had disobeyed the Disaster Mitigation rules. He once wrote "We are here in Indonesia trying to educate and to rise up the capacity of our people on handling the disaster mitigation". When a stuntman snowboarded into the very active Gunung Bromo in February 2016, Leo was extremely offended and wrote, "It is not about what things you believe in Life... It is about the regulation people here must obey, because it is about their lives" and "For every single disastrous volcanic activity, the official institution try to make it Zero Victim".


Leo, a long-term smoker, had battled known lung problems for many years. On 13 July 2016, at 8:30am, Leo was found deceased in his employee residence, at the Sports Arena (GOR) Velodrome, Pulogadung, East Jakarta, aged just 54 years old. Leo's death has left a great hole in the reporting of Indonesian volcanic news, made even harder, because he has personally touched our hearts and shared his personality with us.
Selamat Jalan Om Leo! Goodbye Uncle Leo!

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Jeannie Curtis @VolcanoJeannie Twitter/Facebook