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The Volcano at Port Resolution, Tanna, Vanuatu

October 23rd, 2010 · 2 Comments · Beautiful, Famous Firsts, Our Route, shoe-cruising, Shore Excursions, Vanuatu

Since we knew we would be staying in Fiji for so long, it was never in our original plans to go to Vanuatu.  Yes, we had heard interesting things about it, but we just felt like we didn’t have enough time.  But, as fortune would have it, we randomly ran into fellow cruisers S/V Victoria in Musket Cove and when I asked about their future plans, three words stood out to me – Tanna, active volcano.  I knew that Matt and Jon weren’t really paying attention to the conversation, but I had little doubt that when I pitched visiting Tanna to them, they would say yes.  So, after a brief glimpse at the map and a quick read through our Moon guidebook, it was decided that Tanna, Vanuatu would be our next and only stop on our way to New Caledonia.

We arrived in Tanna in the early morning, Jon telling us how he was able to see the glow from the volcano while he had been on watch that night.  We were eager to find out what we had to do to get to Mt. Yasur.  S/V Victoria and another cruising boat we knew, S/V Savannah, were in Port Resolution, too, and so we wasted no time calling them up.  We learned that the “national park” where the volcano was located only took Vatu (their money), and the only way to get Vatu was to take a 2hr truck ride (one way) to the other side of the island.  However, luckily for us, Savannah & Victoria pooled their leftover Vatu and had the exact amount needed for the three of us to go the volcano!!  We were so excited about this turn of events because none of us were looking forward to 4 hours of bumpy road after 4.5 days of sailing!  Victoria also related stories to us of their interactions with the Tannese locals.  She could not say enough how friendly and unassuming the people were and also how remote, yet connected, the village at Port Resolution seemed.  They have no electricity and had never seen duct tape before, yet had cell phones and MP3 players and computers.  (It wasn’t clear to us how they managed this technology w/o electricity, but we did learn that it was common practice for people to come out to boats asking if the boat could charge their cell phones!)

Tanna is very jungle-y (is that a word?)  On land, it felt warm and humid and was very lush, green, and dense.  We arrived at the base of the volcano, a shocking barren, gray landscape compared to what we had just come from.  The crater spewed thick gray smoke and there were ashy, dark gray boulders scattered all around us, evidence of past explosions.  We walked up a short, steep section to the rim of the crater, then were led higher up to the left once our guides determined which side of the crater would be safest.

From higher up, we could see down into the crater, see its shape, see the red glow emitting from deep inside it.

We all waited anxiously, wondering what the explosions were going to be like.  Finally, we heard a rumbling blast, short but intense, and then fiery, bright red rocks shot up out of the crater.

As the daylight faded, the volcanic eruptions grew stronger and stronger, with the molten lava shooting up higher each time.

With every explosion, our guides clapped and cheered, as though encouraging the volcano in its performance.  As I felt the blasts beneath my feet and watched the fireworks rain down from the sky, I couldn’t help but think how spectacular and strange it was, and we knew how it worked, we knew what was going on, we understood the science behind it.  No wonder, I thought, that back in the day, people did whatever they could to try and appease the gods! I couldn’t imagine how *I* would have reacted back then had I simply encountered this smoking, writhing, quaking, effervescent mountain that erupted unpredictably, releasing glowing hot coals from its bowels, and occasionally spewing thick, red, boiling magma over its sides.  No, it’s no surprise to me why they would sacrifice women or children or warriors or pigs or all the tea in China if they thought their offerings would quell this giant’s roars.

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Ankitha


    Ah!! That’s probably one of the most freakin’ awesome things ever! Your pictures look like something straight out of NatGeo and you’re RIGHT THERE next to it! Fantastic. I’m so glad I get to see these things vicariously through you. Thank you so much for documenting all this as you experience it.


    (P.S: I got your email – thank you! Very sweet of you to take the time out and write; I can imagine how busy you must be when you’re at an anchorage.)

  • Diane

    Very Cool Karen-looks amazing. We’ll have to make note of this one for next year.

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