Spectacular Yasur just about sums it up. An archipeligo of islands in the Pacific, Vanuatu is home to some of the most unique and interesting volcanoes worldwide, including my target destination, Yasur. I am paticularly interested in a style of volcanic activity termed strombolian, that which is driven by large bubbles that ascend and burst at the surface. A style of activity I have written about lots before. Yasur is unique because of the frequency that these explosions occur and the number of vents at the summit which produce activity. The archetypal Stromboli (see post here), produces activity from 3 or 4 vents every 5 – 10 minutes (ish), this of course varies. Whereas at Yasur explosions were coming from more than 5 vents (it was difficult to tell how many exactly) and occurred more frequently, from seconds aparts to just a few minutes. So, two volcanoes with a potentially similar mechanism for driving the activity but visibly different behaviour at the surface, a perfect reason to study Yasur, all thanks to a Royal Society research grant.
The journey to Vanuatu was a lengthy one from the UK, with stopovers in Singapore and Brisbane, before arriving at the capital Port Vila. A few days in Port Vila to acclimatise and sort out officialdom then off on a short internal flight to the island of Tanna. Arriving at Tanna really felt remote, perhaps not as remote as up near Sabancaya, but the tiny concrete airport building and vast lush green forests (I want to call them jungle but not sure I can) were quite something. Picked up in a 4×4 by our lodge owner, its a short 1 hour excursion across a mixture of paved, roads in progress, and dirt tracks. The approach to our ‘jungle huts’ crossed the ash plane created by the frequent explosions and as we neared the volcano I experienced the familiar buzz of visiting a new volcano.
Arriving at dusk it wasn’t possible to take a look at the view, but the next morning after breakfast, up to the treehouse and there it was (see photo on left), the prime measurement spot used for the next few days. The following 7 days were a mixture of hiking around to different spots, heading up to the summit area to observe the activity and make thermal measurements, meeting a wandering pastor, and meeting friendly locals.
My favourite moment, returning from a hike up to the summit in the pitch black on a crystal clear night, pausing a moment to take in the prominent Milky Way streaked across the sky with strombolian activity roaring in the background, if only I was a good photographer…
It has been a busy year of travel, now some time to write results up. I certainly hope to return to Vanuatu soon!