Dear F&F, October 5th-6th, 2011 (Eastern Hemisphere)
I’d made arrangements for Kay and I to fly to Tanna Island, about an hour flight. Despite assurances that the drive upon arrival would be fairly easy, it was anything but! I would have to say that the 20 minute drive to our hotel was exciting, but nothing prepared us for the immediate check in and off we went for the 2 hour drive to the volcano. The idea was to get there just before sunset to see it during the day and then watch the sunset and see the volcano at night.
The drive was second in wildness only to when Cindy and I did Copper Canyon in Mexico. We finally arrived at the base of the volcano just as the sun was setting, the view was a beautiful moonscape. Mt. Yasur isn’t very tall, but it is one of the most active volcanos in the world. First, we had to check in with the park rangers who would tell our guide which of the view spots would be safe. You view this volcano based on two things. First, it’s activity level (rated 1-6) and second, where the wind is blowing!
We were told which viewing area to park at. Unfortunately we missed the sunset experience, but the excitement was about to begin!
I thought we’d see a bit of a glowing caldron, a few bubbles and a bit of “boil”. However, half way up the walkway, I heard what I only could describe as a jet airplane engine. Then an explosion followed by fairly intense heat. It was actually quite cold despite our elevation of less than a 1000 feet (300 meters). Of course, not knowing how often this explosive experience occurred gave me pause. Either it was going to be really exciting or “you missed it, should have been here yesterday” sort of experience.
Once we arrived at the viewing area, our guide explained that the volcano was at level 1-2 out of 6. He then gave us a safety briefing. “IF”, he said, “you see lava shooting up over your heads, do not run. Just keep your eye on it and you’ll easily be able to move out of the way as it approaches”. NOT KIDDING!
Apparently, if the wind were to shift or the volcano goes to level 3-4, this is a common experience. Though they do not like to talk about it. People have been killed here. Fortunately, not many and not for several years. If the level goes to 5-6, no one is allowed inside the crater area. They say that happens about one week per year. It had happened about six months prior to our visit. This volcano has been in a constant state of eruption for over 25 years.
Trust me, you didn’t miss anything if you were there at level 1-2. Amazing is not an understatement. I took lots of photos (see Vanuatu Gallery) and about 30 minutes of HD video which I hope to edit and post once back in the USA. I’ll do about a three minute highlight show. It IS something to see.
After watching “the show” for 45 minutes and feeling wave after wave of heat from the explosions (which happened about every 2 minutes!), we got so cold we had to retreat to the car. The two hour ride back was just as painful as the ride there…and, in the dark. The experience was well worth it.
The next day, we took advantage of our very nice hotel, chilled out and relaxed. After the previous nights explosions, it was necessary!
Next, getting ready to go to New Caledonia, the last and most Western vestige of French Polynesia in the Pacific.
KIT, Scott with Kay