Five days on top of the world’s most active volcano

I’ve just returned from a mini expedition to Vanuatu, spending five days on top of Mount Yasur – the most active volcano in the world.

Our trip started with a 3 hour flight from Auckland to Port Vila. Passengers are often confused to see they are flying on Solomon Airlines rather than Air Vanuatu, but it’s become rather common. Air Vanuatu continues to experience major challenges and their single Boeing aircraft is often out of service. The upside of flying on Solomon Airlines is that the food is far superior.

We had a night in Vila before boarding our domestic flight to Tanna. Thankfully it was only one hour delayed.

The trip to Yasur Volcano is just over an hour from the airport. It’s a spectacular journey through jungle and out onto a vast ash plain. Just don’t get stuck 🙂

On previous expeditions, we have barely had time to explore this incredible part of Tanna, so on this trip, we spent a couple of days exploring. There are some remarkable formations and highly recommend to spend some time here before climbing the volcano. Over twenty years ago, a large lake once existed here (Lake Siwi). In the year 2000, the lake suddenly drained. It was extremely dry when we visited and large dust devils were a major problem.

Ropy pahoehoe flow that has been turned upright

Next stop was to explore the western flank and the old crater of Yasur. Again, this place is where few people ever visit, but is filled with wonderous sights. Large lava bombs, lava flows and even a small sulfur cave with beautiful formations.

With both places explored and documented best we could, we made our way to the summit where we would be based for five days.

Covered in ash. It gets everywhere….I mean everywhere.

Wonderfully clear views into the crater. My last visit was shrouded in gas clouds the entire time.

Over the days we observed activity from all three vents (A,B & C). Vent A (the southern most) was the most active. It produced regular vigorous strombolian eruptions, ejecting lava bombs over 200 meters. Vent B produced only gas and water vapour emissions. Vent C produced large volumes of gas, obscuring itself often. When the gas cleared, it became apparent that there was an active lava lake down there. Yasur is known to have semi-persistent lava lakes. Vent C would erupt in spectacular fashion, throwing thousands of small incandescent rock into the sky (but less frequently than Vent A). Overall, Yasur’s activity was typical of a Level 2 Alert Level. No lava bombs made their way outside of the crater this visit.

Yasur’s Lava Lake. Unlike Ambrym’s lava lake, this one would erupt lava sometimes 200 meters or higher every 15 minutes or so. 

Regular and vigorous strombolian activity from Vent A

Eruptions from both vents produce stunning photos


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