Vanuatu: Yasur, Ambrym

 10th August to 9th of September 2006

by Martin Rietze, Organisation: Christoph Weber, VEI

in deustch

Incl. GIF's

The Vanuatu island. More maps by  


After a journey of several days via Australia we reached the haven Vila on the island Efate, the capital of the independent Vanuatu island group. After the first preparations, we flew two days later with a Twinotter to the north of the island Ambea. Only a few months ago the volcano Aoba was highly active. With this eruption the crater lake 'Lake Vui' was formed in a new cinder cone. The entire forest landscape in the periphery was strongly damaged and destroyed within the closer range. An evacuation of the population took place for a longer time.


By landing in a more or less spectacular way (very short grass runways) we made ourselves on the way to an accommodation.On the next day in the village Nakano some carriers were engaged and the food supply was organized. The natives were really curious and decided spontaneously to come along with us. Thus the half village escorted us through the jungle to the direction to Aoba Caldera. 


Arriving by drizzling fog, the camp was situated in a sink. A fast excursion to the Lake Vui was organised in the dark. Although the sunny weather prevailed at the coast, the cloud and fog conditions at the Lake Vui remained faithful to us. During the next two days it didn't cleared off at all. Completely wet the camp was stroken and the descent to the coast began without an overview. The only possible action was a hike to the bank of the Lake Vui to examinate the dramatic effect of the past eruption and the strange and nearly surreal edge with a red-colored sea water.


The new strongly steaming cinder cone in the center of the sea could only be recognized very dimly and the exploration by swimming was abandoned due to the exotic chemistry of sea water. Disappointed the return flight followed to the main island Efate. Here particularly drinking water and food was organized by going  further to Lamen Bay on the Epi island afterwards. The next two days several trips took place...


....with first views to the neighbour island Lopevi, an island which is formed practically by only one volcano and is unsettled meanwhile. Again and again spectacular outbreaks with lava flows down to the sea happened. Unfortunately the last larger outbreak of Lopevi ended a few weeks ago. This was confirmed by observing the volcano during the night without seeing a red dimming. Since Lopevi is unsettled, the passage can take place practically only with chartered fishermen boats. These boats brought us adventurously to the beach of Lopevi. It is amazing to cross the sea with such nutshells an to reach the distanced coast at all. Details such as life jackets or closed cabins are accounted as a unnecessary luxury in this country. For clarifying possible emergencies, the sharks are responsible for this job, - a specimen with 2 meters was observed by us in this area.


In any case it is recommended to spend more money, to keep the fishermen including boats on the island. This money is a good investigation, because you have the fair chance to leave again the uninhabited island. Also you can learn a lot of the natives how to survive and what the jungle can give you edible. In the afternoon the ascent to the active crater on the recent lava stream was surprising easy, however it became already night before the arrival. The left picture of the glowing soil...


...with the starlit sky behind should become the only one. Afterwards the fog changed itself into a strong cloudy appearance with continuous rains. So we could terminate the direful bivouac in the morning and completely wet we descent the slopes. Also in the next night the summit was under clouds, and a new ascent would have been senseless. On the next morning we traveled a long time with the boats to Ambrym, the next island with active volcanos. Here we landed near the village Sanesup. Like everywhere on Vanuatu island extremely friendly natives accepted us immediately and vacated the woman house especially for our group.


On the next day the ascent took place to the Caldera with numerous carriers. Dry and sunny was the beginning, but the well-known drizzle expected us at the summit. The next 5 days brought a only one quite sunny morning, otherwise the drizzling nebula alternated partial with enormous rainfalls. The otherwise critical water supply proved itself as unproblematic. Such continuous rain weather conditions were not known by me. Up to this time each excursions crosswise to the 6km distanced crater was punished with heavy rainfalls. The clamminess was such as strong that our skin did nearly peeled off.


The rare dry moments were used for a view into the crater and to take a few pictures. The entire caldera pointed out the typical erosion traces, and the heavy rain falls did washed out the unique ash landscape and formed out bizarre wrinkles . Beside the two main craters Benbow and Marum which are situated in the center of the caldera a lot of smaller side craters are existing. In the Benbow- and in the Marum crater lava lakes are often existing at the deep bottom. But this lakes are only reachable by an intensive down roping. However the descent to Benbow allowed also climbing down the ash or lava banks.


The lava lake had itself retreated, and only the noise announced activity. An open lava lens could not be observed. In comparision to the  Marum the view of the lake was free, but in these minimum conditions  the lava lake has withdrawn itself. Only the view through a round opening showed the lava which level was underneath the bottom. This hole ' breathed ' strongly which probably based on a fast varying lava niveau.


In such a way of minimum active craters and a maximum active rain  we went depressed to Craig Crove to the flight runway for our return flight to Efate and one day later far to the island Tanna with the volcano Yasur. From there the Yasur is reachable in a comfortable hike trough the jungle. Also Pick Ups partly operates in the evening.


As a remuneration for the past weeks we experienced a more or less middle activity with rising tendency at the Yasur. On the last day already the lava shreds flew far over the edge of the crater.






Picture above shows a typical outbreak on this day, photograph focal length 24mm, associated ejection of such eruptions at the crater slopes.

Due to the good weather conditions at the Yasur, we decided to stay here for the remaining week



By the special proximity to the three active vents in the carter interieur, seldom closer observations became possible. More-meter-large lava shreds and extremely fast high-catapulted ejection material left steam-traces up to the higher regions of the crater. Enormous pressure waves (GIF animation underneath) were well visibly and moved cross the ash clouds.

Click here for GIFs

These pressure waves were clearly noticeable at my body and also very strong on the soil. The appropriate acoustics often overrode the microphone.


Unfortunately you can not look from the outside crater rim on the discharge positions. This is only possible from the internal edge of the next terrace. Due to the high risk getting hitten by the ejection material, only a remote camera was positioned for long-continuous observations.




After the return flight to the main island Efate and a last stay the quite long home flight  took place without incidents.


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©2006 photos and Text by Martin Rietze, Weblayout, translation Boeckel, last modification 27.10.2006

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