Monday, August 22, 2011

Tanna, Vanuatu

Hot springs on the shore of Port Resolution

A little tourist hostel

Mt Yasur

Lava bomb

Mt Yasur at night

Mt Yasur ash plains

Pandanu on Tanna

Banyan trees are important in Vanuatu- a massive one often stands at the centre of a village and acts as a hurricane shelter.

Port Resolution

On the rim of Yasur

Yasur ash plains

Mt Yasur

Our first encounter with pidgin english is in Tanna

Hot springs flowing into the ocean at Port Resolution

Ash cliffs of Port Resolution

Mt Yasur at night
Went in evening to see 1000’ tall Mt Yasur- we wanted to see it in the daylight and after dark.  We drive up big barren ashy/ejected rocks slope, then walk a couple hundred feet up to rim. The path was lined with flimsy bamboo rails that were broken in many places by ejected rocks.  Every few minutes we could hear a deep booming, like distant artillery.  The noise got louder as we climbed (first heard it at gate), and we started to see red ejected rocks coming up amidst big clouds of smoke.  When I paused to look up, I could feel warmth through my shoes.  A strong SE wind was blowing it away from us and making it safe to stand on the rim.  We stood on the high part of the rim, on a 20’ wide flat area looking down a steep rubble slope to the 3 vents in the crater.  Little fumaroles puffed away a few feet below us on the slope. Behind us was a shallower rubble slope leading to ash flats where everything was dead, and flat grass and forest areas that the ash fall had spared.  Cloudy night. 
There were several others on the rim.  Every few minutes the volcano would send a big shower of molten rock far above our heads , accompanied by a boom, a pressure wave visible in the smoke, and then a throaty sucking sound.  Everyone stopped and looked up at each eruption, watching the trajectory of the ejected lava bombs.   A Japanese tourist was killed here a few years ago by a lava bomb.  One sailed over the rim, but we didn’t have to step aside for any.
Mt Yasur is of the most amazing natural phenomena I’ve seen.  The noise and sight of the lava bombs soaring up above me- and the potential of being hit by one- made me jumpy and weak-kneed at first.  After awhile I got a little habituated to it and made a careful journey partway round the rim to look down into the craters.  They were very deep and steep and lit by a wavering red glow.  Incredible place.

Next day we took a truck across Tanna and went in to Lenakal for supplies.  Lenakel is very small.  I witnessed a strange event when a happy, laughing crowd ran and gathered to watch some girl who had tried to run off on a ship get wacked with a palm frond for her supposed infidelity.  It was creepy cause she looked terrified and her arm seemed to be broken/dislocated.  She carried a machete in the other hand and was being dragged around by a man- her Father?
Not much to Lenakal, some dry goods shop and market with carrots, cabbage, lettuce, plantain, pumpkin, cocunut, papaya, fish, 30 lil mandarins on stick for $1- all real cheap.  Nat bank with Short Term Deposits for 5.5%.
Port Resolution village, next to the anchorage, is big and spread out, almost all totally thatch/bamboo/logs.  People say hi, but not as overtly friendly as Fjij.
Left at sunset for Errogmango.  Sleepy night.  Seas pretty regular, big swells 3-6’ rolling us around, partly cloudy with a couple rain showers, wind SE at 15-20knots.  We can see the red glow of Yasur from far out to sea- the same glow that beckoned Cpt Cook.  Anchored in clear water, sand, 20’ in Dillon Bay.  No other ships seen.  Just a couple lights on Tanna, none at all on Erromango.  Only saw a couple fishing ships and a cargo ship since leaving  Fiji.

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