Oct 23

Mt. Yasur

Tag: fun activity,interacting with the locals,VanuatuJonathon Haradon @ 10:09 pm

Our sail from Fiji to Tanna Island, a southern island in Vanuatu, lasted for four days.  The passage was not unpleasant, but it took me a couple of days to get over a lethargic feeling of seasickness.  The last two days, however, I felt fantastic, and I remember thinking ‘I’d forgotten that passage making was enjoyable!’

I have to remind myself of that feeling repeatedly so as to give it more prominence in my memory, because most of the time, passage making is not enjoyable.  Like our three day bash into confused seas and high winds from Tanna to New Caldonia where all I felt like cooking or eating was Ramon and a general malaise infused my entire being.

The last stretch of sailing to Tanna happened at night.  We were forty miles away when I took over the watch at midnight.  Two hours later we were thirty miles away and I noticed a glow on the horizon.  The mysterious glow seemed to hover over the island, like the lights of a metropolis from a distance in the evening, though a metropolis we certainly were not approaching.  The mysterious glow was why we were here.  The mysterious glow was from the boiling molten magma in the crater of an active volcano.  Our plan was to stand on the rim of this rumbling, lava- spewing, debris-belching beast.  Mt. Yasur.

Us and, as it turns out, 40 of our not-so-closest tourist friends.

We traveled by pick-up truck which somehow managed to transport thirteen people there, winding through a veritable four wheel drive jungle road.  Tiny villages occasionally dotted the sides of the road, and we passed clearings were Vanuatians were playing soccer.  There were many tree-houses, full-fledged houses not like little kid versions,  the banyan trees being enormously large; I saw one that had a spiral staircase ascending around the 20 foot diameter trunk system.  Other banyans had a multitude of tree limbs that jutted for 100 feet away from the center.  Once the road began it’s climb up the sides of the volcano however, the jungle quickly gave way to drier and drier conditions, until we were in a veritable wasteland.  It was about 5 pm, the sun was casting a terrific eerie light and the smoke and ash billowing from the volcano added a layer of depth to the color of the skyline.

We made the final climb to the rim of Mt. Yasur and peered over.  The edge sloped away at 45 degrees and then a few hundred feet away, cut down steeper, hiding the actual bottom.  Smoke puffed out at random intervals.  Sulfur filled the nostrils with an acrid stench.  Booming sounds of explosions and rumblings echoed up.  And the ground.  The ground shook when a large explosion would deafen the air sending a shock-wave of sound and air streaming past.  Projectiles shot up above the level of the rim.

Someone asked our guide if you could see the actual magma pit from any vantage point on the rim, and he replied they wouldn’t take tourists to those places.  If you can see the magma pit, the guide said, that means it could shoot something directly at you and you were vastly more likely to be in the path of flying debris.

Our guide held us where we initially gained the rim for a few moments as he stared into the pit of the volcano.

“Can we hike higher along the rim?” he was asked.

“We must wait for a moment.”  he replied.

“For what?”

“I must see which which way the volcano is shooting debris today.”

And shoot it did.  A few minutes later it exploded, and the senses were assaulted with the acrid smells, booming sounds, sights of billowing smoke and projectiles, and feel of a shuddering ground and shockwave of air.  One got the feeling that nature was very much in charge here.

Our guide then led us higher on the rim of Mt. Yasur.  The random and intermittent explosions continued, but now with a better angle to see, we were witness to lava exploding forth, sending showers of molten rock high into the air and spreading red hot glowing debris over a vast area of the inner slopes.  As the sun set behind us, the scene became even more impressive as the glowing became more brilliant.  Glowing debris from even the smallest explosions could now be seen more easily.  And when the largest explosion yet erupted, it was simply awesome.

One Response to “Mt. Yasur”

  1. Phil says:

    Damn right! You have every reason to crow. You and Karen both do. An amazing accomplishment by any measure. And when I think back to when you were telling me you wanted to learn to sail…holy shit did you LEARN TO SAIL!
    Also love the Bloody Jack reference, my friend.

Leave a Reply