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Mico Verde
Big Booms and Lotsa Lava

Port Resolution, Tanna, Vanuatu
September 2, 2006

(Steph) Tanna is home to Mt. Yasur, an active volcano. Totally irresistible, right? Especially when you can get a ride to the car park and hike 10 minutes to get to the rim. Yasur spews forth great geysers of molten rock every few minutes or so, and with the rock comes a lot of ash. From the anchorage, we could spot the ash clouds easily, and on particularly quiet nights we could hear the explosions.

Us and the volcano (note all the clothes -- Tanna is the farthest south we've been at almost 20 degrees, and it's chilly!). (photo 2006 Cap'n Fatty Goodlander)

Is it the moon, or the volcano?

Mt. Yasur, viewed  from the Tanna highlands (it's a little left of center).

The ash rains down a bit to the NW of the volcano (thanks to the prevailing Southeasterlies) in a place that will be known as the ash plains for the next million years or so. They are pretty impressive themselves, especially when viewed up next to the lush tropical vegetation that carpets the rest of the island.

The ash plains -- and the smoothest road conditions you're likely to find anywhere on Tanna.

Let's get on to the molten rock explosions, you say? They were pretty amazing. Upon first approaching the rim, we couldn't see down into the crater. There may not be a guard rail, but the Vanuatuans have figured out that keeping a bit of a distance is a good idea. So that first impression was awe-inspiring. First, we see this crater, and it's all black with ash and some ash is floating in a cloud above it. Then -- KABOOM!! and hundreds of glowing orange lava chunks go flying out of the crater like a fountain of fire. Whoa!!

This picture makes it look like a cute little campfire, but the fountain of lava probably went five stories over our heads.

The sound vibrated through our bones, and we could physically feel the bigger ones. And the thing was like clockwork. Every 2-3 minutes, it would put on its show. The lava jet blasted pretty high up, and all the lava bits would come straight back down again. I liked to listen to the heavy thump when the individual chunks would hit the crater's edge. After we'd been there about an hour, one particular spout didn't go as high as the rest, but it went further out. We all followed the trajectory of one particular lava rock about the size of a motorcycle. It seemed to have landed a lot closer to us than any of the other rocks ever had. That seemed to be our cue -- "Well, I think I've seen enough." "Yep, me too!"

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