Expedition Vanuatu 2022

Spending an entire week on top of an active volcano and filming closer than ever before.

Vanuatu finally announced the reopening of their borders and with that, Geoff Mackley, Justin Noonan and myself headed to Tanna Island, to spend an entire week at the top of Mt Yasur Volcano. Having been to Yasur Volcano on previous occasions, such visits were always so incredibly short. So this time, we were given exclusive access to spend as much time on and around the volcano for an entire week.

Our fist hurdle started at Auckland Airport, where no one could find where to check-in. Not even the airport staff. After waiting over an hour, a lady from Air NZ (not Air Vanuatu) told us to walk to a closed counter and someone would check us in there. But where were the other hundred or so passengers? How would they know where to check-in? The lady then told us that we were to be the only ones on the flight. And so, we boarded our flight to Vanuatu, with a Boeing 737 jet all to ourselves.

Checking in at Counter Closed.

Our private Air Vanuatu jet

We landed just after 1AM and had a very quick clearance through customs….considering we were the only ones on the plane. The hotel was directly opposite a nightclub and so had very little sleep that night. Next morning, I met up with Justin who had arrived from Brisbane and had breakfast. We had a spare day to sort out our domestic flights that had been changed and/or cancelled multiple times. A complete nightmare.

The following day, we headed to the chaotic domestic terminal and checked in for our flight to Tanna.

Thomas from Yasur Lodge met us and drove us through the ash plain and to the Jungle Oasis Bungalow where we would be based for the week. This bungalow was right at the base of the volcano.

Our first view of Mt Yasur

After settling in, Justin and I made our first climb up Yasur. As we got closer, we were blown away with the immense size of the ash plumes – bigger than we’ve ever seen them before. The volcano was angry, rumbling deeply and emanating deafening bangs as a warning sign to stay away. The plumes were just meters in front of us and when the wind dropped, ash would rain down all over. It got everywhere and made filming very difficult.

At times the eruptions were so big, we had to run and leave the cameras running.

Whilst the plumes were impressive, we saw very few lava bombs. Yasur had changed dramatically from our last visit. As night fell, we noticed a faint orange glow, so knew there was lava, but was obscured by the vast amounts of ash. As we waited for conditions to clear, it started raining and quickly turned torrential.

We headed up the next day and found a worse situation. Not only did we have the ash to deal with, but thick SO2 gas.

We cautiously headed closer to the crater and filmed some incredible footage of the rising plumes. However one was particularly big and had us running.

Unfortunately our efforts to observe at night were thwarted by the rain which arrived earlier and didn’t stop for almost a day.

We spent the next couple of days exploring around the volcano and going to places tourists never get to see. We found many steaming fumaroles, lava flows (not active) and other interesting lava formations.

After 5 days of not seeing in lava (very unusual for Yasur) we decided to send the drone in. I do not recommend flying into an ash cloud :-). The drone did come back, but the ash destroyed the gimbal and other components rendering it useless. We did however get to see deep inside the crater, observing multiple vents and strombolian activity.

Yasur was doing what it’s always done – spewing red hot lava sky high. It was just being obscured by rather big ash clouds.


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