Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Fire and ice

We were finally at Tanna (Vanuatu) to see the fiery cauldron of Mount Yasur, the world's most active live and most accessible volcano! We had first been told of this volcano by other cruisers (SV Red Sky) when we were in El Salvador and have been looking forward to it ever since. It would be the opposite of our experience at Ventisquero San Rafael (a glacier) when we were in Chile on January 23, 2012.

As we approached the volcano by vehicle, the lush landscape changed to black ash dunes from centuries of ash drift.

Joseph our driver took us up a bumpy steep narrow road almost to the top. The last bit we had to ascend a stair pathway as we watched shooting hot rocks and rising ash drifting into the sky above us. It was still daytime (16:30) and we were the first to arrive. We sat on the high outer rim of the volcano crater to watch the spectacle. Those are Jordan's feet at the front of the photo.

Some hit within 60 m (200 feet) of us

Looking about 60 m down into the crater we saw 3 vents, each hissing gas and spitting hot magma and ash...

2 of 3 vents spouting

Then about every 10 or 15 minutes, a concussive eruption would shoot molten rocks skyward, higher than us by about 60 m. We were instructed to keep our eyes on these hot missiles as it was possible they could reach us. We watched what appeared to be a new vent form down inside the crater as the mounds of ash rolled and curled out from the volcano looking like dirty puffy clouds forming.

New vent

As impressive as this was, it was nothing compared to what we soon would see as the sun set and the sky darkened all around us. In the daylight, the flying debris looks black even though it is molten, however at night, it all shoots up like brilliant red fireworks. The evening show seemed as if there was so much more glowing red lava spurting every few minutes but it was only because of the black night contrast.

Slowly getting darker and more brilliant

We listened to the large BOOMs as the concussions sounded. Everyone would unconsciously lean backward as the sound crashed, your body feeling the reverberations of the cannonade. A rat-a-tat followed as the lava landed, sounding like a soldier's machine gun.

3 vents


It was spectacular, amazing, mesmerizing. You couldn't take your eyes away. Nowhere else would you be able to get as close to such a show. A sight not to be missed! Two ineffable and unforgettable highlights of our lives: FIRE of Mount Yasur and ICE of Ventisquero San Rafael. Hopefully, pictures are worth a thousand words!

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