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Stowing Away I stood between two facing mirrors & almost caught a glimpse of infinity, but my bloody head kept getting in the way

Volcanoes & Earthquakes: Tanna Island, Vanuatu

VANUATU | Thursday, 14 December 2006 | Views [8900] | Comments [4]

By the crater of Yassur volcano, Tanna, Vanuatu

By the crater of Yassur volcano, Tanna, Vanuatu

So there we were, quietly sitting in the airport terminal munching on a sandwich waiting for our flight to Tanna when suddenly the ground shakes & ceiling fans start wobbling wildly. Earthquake!!!

We looked at each other, then at the floor - which while it didn't look to be moving, certainly felt like standing on the deck of a small boat in a swell. Hmmm, maybe we should go outside.... Suddenly the tremor stops after about 15 seconds & a babble of talking breaks out inside the terminal.

We are about to get on a light aircraft to fly for an hour to an active volcano - was the earthquake a really big eruption & is there now a Tsunami moving our way?

The plane ride was without incident & provided us some great views over Efate Island, many coral reefs and a low fly-in over rugged Tanna. We quickly checked into our modest grass-hut accomodation (complete with 3 hours of electricity a day) and organised a 4WD to get us to Yassur volcano (about 2hrs away on the other side of the island, reached via rugged & muddy 4wd tracks), hoping to get there before the sun went down.

Crossing the vast ash-plain that surrounds the volcano was fascinating, very much like a lunar surface- all deep gray & devoid of vegetation. At times we had some light "ash rain", like fine snow. When we reached Lake Siwi - or where Lake Siwi used to be - It drained out to sea several years ago after breaking through it's natural levee bank. Where the water level once was, you can see numerous layers of ash deposits from many years of the vocano's constant erruptions.

Click to see Google Satellite map of Yassur Volcano & it's ash plain, and the remains of Lake Siwi where it drained out to sea

We reached the summit of the volcano, near the crater edge just before it got dark. We found a track that led a bit higher & would have given us views into the magma lake, but we were warned that the erruptions were throwing lava up onto that track today (due to the strong winds), so we stayed where we were. Every 3-4 minutes the smoke clouds in the volcano crater would glow bright pink, then a loud whooshing noise emenated from the crater depths. About 2 seconds later, a spray of small glowing blobs of lava would rise above the lip of the crater like fireworks, before falling back down into the crater. Some of the lava blobs could be seen splatting onto the far side of the crater, and stayed glowing for up to a minute. You would not want to be struck by some falling super-hot liquid rock!!! A few people have been killed at this volcano in the last few years, mostly by getting stupidly too close to the lava pool.

We spent about an hour by the crater rim after darkness fell, in the howling wind & intermittent rain, watching many erruptions light up sky. A continual shifting glow came from the crater, reflected off the clouds, fog, smoke & steam, but all else was pitch black - not even starlight due to the clouds.

The return trip was equally as adventurous as the drive out - recrossing the ash plain at high speed in the darkness, then the steep jungle tracks with wild shapes illuminated in the powerful headlights. Cattle & boars wandered suddenly onto the track in front of you, or reflected red-eyes in the distance. Eventually we got back to where our hut was, and after a quick dinner of local fish, crawled under the mosquito net & went to bed. A very good day!

Click to see Google Satellite map of Tanna Island, Vanuatu

Tags: adventures, ash plain, earthquake, lake siwi, lava, tanna, tanna, vanuatu, volcano




I read with interest your visit to Tanna, my husband, son and a friend are going againg this year. This is my fourth trip, my husband's second and my son's first. We want to go to Tanna, It sounded like you organised your own trip there, we have been looking at tours and wonder if it is cheaper and just as easy to make our own way to Tanna any advise would be appreciated


  Mary Mar 5, 2007 1:10 AM



  cheese head Jun 15, 2007 7:42 AM


awesome pics.

  Melanie May 30, 2008 12:21 PM


wow this place looks awesome!!!!

  pinchora Jun 13, 2008 11:07 AM



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