admin, wrote on August 22, 2017:

Vanuatu! Port Resolution and a close encounter with Yasur; a live and kicking volcano…. wow!!!!!

The night before we left the west coast of Viti Levu in Fiji for our 480 mile passage to Vanuatu, the nearby islands experienced 50 knot winds and many of our friends had a sleepless night worrying about dragging anchors. It was still squally when we left and the first 24hrs were bouncy with 25 knots and a reef in the mainsail. After that the wind started to diminish and, 12 hours before our arrival in Vanuatu, it died altogether- leaving us to motor on a mill-pond sea all the way into Port Resolution… 




Vanuatu lies on the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’ -the active zone around the rim of the Pacific tectonic plate. We arrived at the island of Tanna (meaning ‘earth’) at around 1am on a glorious star-filled night and we could see the pulsating glow of the mighty Yasur volcano as we entered the bay. We anchored cautiously behind a fray of anchor lights from the ICA Rally boats (between 25-35 boats travelling in convoy between the Pacific islands)

Tanna is one of the southern most islands of the archipelago of Vanuatu and a remote outpost even by Vanuatu standards. Stark black, volcanic grit contrasts with white sand beaches and traditional villages nestle within dense rainforest. Tanna is home to some curious cults including the John Frum movement. During WWII, the island had its first glimpse of wealth when American GIs came to work at the military base on nearby Efate. Keen to disengage from European colonisation and empowered by seeing black American soldiers (presumably one was named John Frum) preside over the cargo, new religions began to emerge. There is also a tribe that worships Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh….


Above left; despite exotic locations, school still needs to get done. Kai has collided with puberty, times of extreme lethargy and complicated algebra all at the same time….enough to make anyone put their head in their hands and fall asleep over a maths book!

Above right; the locals are out fishing most mornings in their dug-out, outrigger canoes. They like to trade with yachties and we swapped canned goods, tee shirts and other items not readily available on Tanna for freshly caught fish and locally grown fruit and vegetables. 


Captain Cook named this bay after his ship HMAS Resolution during a 1774 visit- and according to Cook’s diaries and my calendar, we were in Port Resolution on the exact same date as James 243 years later…

We could hear the rumblings of Yasur from the anchorage. Smoke rose up and mingled with clouds and the steam from hot springs hissed into the air along the western cliffs. When the wind swung to south west, a fine layer of black, volcanic soot formed on Tika’s decks. Anyone would think we were camped  beneath a volcano!


Above left and right; trading, chatting and admiring this man’s canoe; his father had built it 27 years before…

Above middle; meandering through the neat, green, Ireupuow village with it’s thatched roofs and grassy, open spaces. We wandered down the track to a stunning surf beach greeting friendly Ni-Vans (locals) along the way.


Traders and missionaries arrived in Tanna in the 19th century. Apparently, the Tannise stuck to their traditions with more vigor than most and there are less Christians in Tanna than many other Vanuatan islands today. Angus and William Watt established the mission station in 1869 and the grave of A.C.P Watt (Angus I assume…above right) sits just next to the ‘Yacht club’ (below) that dwells on the site of the old mission. The club is elevated high above Port Resolution with lovely breezes and a view over the anchored yachts sitting in Yasur’s smoldering shadow.



Above; I spent many early mornings sitting on the tramp watching the local fishermen. They spend hours on the water chasing small Jack-Mackeral and had a well organised routine. Mostly they spread out with their individual nets, scanning the basin for fish. At some point, a cry could be heard and all canoes would race towards the yeller. I don’t understand any of the 20 dialects of this island but the  tone was quite similar to the “fish on!!!” cry that goes up on Tika when the line is spinning! I could not be sure exactly what happens next but the fishermen seem to link nets together to form one big circular trap. A couple of guys would be in the water diving down, presumably to weight the nets, and with great team-work, they would each pull forward towards the centre trapping the fish. One person then patiently pulls in the net removing the fish one by one, while the rest of the tribe went off to find the next school. 


There was excitement in the air as we arranged our trip up to Yasur’s explosive crater. Two kid boats arrived in the anchorage just in time to make the magma pilgrimage with us! We climbed into 4WD trucks and bounced over rutted tracks, mammoth tree roots and one dead cow to arrive at the visitors center close to the caldera at 361m above sea level.

Mount Yasur is one of the most active volcanoes in the world….


When we arrived at the visitors center we were presented with necklaces of vine adorned with a single flower by a woman with a brightly painted red face. We were also treated to a traditional dance as a welcome…


We again clambered into the back of the trucks and traversed deeper and deeper into an other-worldly moonscape as we ascended towards Yasur’s rim.

Above right; the only post box in the world on an active volcano!



We hiked up the last, steep 100m of barren wasteland that felt for all the world like a trek into Middle Earth’s Mordor; a  ‘volcanic plain riddled with fire, ash and dust’ (Tolkien)

There was a heady odour of burning rock and sulphur and we started seeing impressive, periodic plumes of smoke and ash billowing into the afternoon haze…




At the rim the density of the smoke thickened, the rumbles intensified and we got a hint of what was to come….




Approaching the viewing area tn the east side of the crater, I heard (and felt) an intense rumble and looked up to see a large bomb of smoke and massive chunks of debris flying high into the air opposite the ‘safe zone’ and viewing area…Woah! Even our fearless daughter was a little panicked- the boom of the explosions that resonated from deep under the ground sent a strong message to the primeval part of the brain. It was hard to hold your ground and not give in to an instinct to ‘run!’  Kai reported seeing a chunk of burning debris land about 10m from the path we had walked up…


It was a great perspective when the maw of the crater finally came into full view. A landscape of steep slopes sliding dramatically into deep vents, mushrooming black ash and fiery, convulsing lava. As the sun sank, the sky (and the ocean beyond) framed Yasur’s northern rim and provided a backdrop for exploding, molten rock that was blown hundreds of meters beyond the chambers.   

Yasur is what commonly referred to as a ‘dry’ or a ‘strombolian’ volcano. A vast reservoir of lava feeds the persistent eruptions through a network of faults and large gas pockets hundreds of meters underground. Yusar has been belching away for over 800 years…



Terrifying, exhilarating, awe inspiring and wonderfully humbling…


When we visited Yasur it was declared to be at a category 2 safety Level; which is described on the Vanuatu Tourism website as ‘moderate to high activity’ with ‘lava bombs’ that ‘may land beyond the crater rim’

Certainly the OH&S is pretty relaxed. There were no barricades.


We had opted for the late afternoon/evening ascent and, as the sun set, things started to get really interesting…


We experienced a couple of larger lava explosions….The 3 massive chambers looked like bubbling cauldrons that would take turns to perform impressive pyro-technic performances…


It was unbelievably cold and windy at the top of Yasur. Luckily we were given the heads-up by friends and had packed our fleeces. Down in the sweaty humidity at sea level it would not have occurred to us that it could be cold anywhere!…

When a northerly gust collided with an eruption, sulpher ash and smoke left our small crowd coughing and spluttering. Our eyes stung and watered until we followed the guides advice and turned to face downwind until the gust and smoke bomb had dispersed.







Yasur assaulted all 6 of my senses. An electrifying experience!




After getting intimate with Yasur and bumping back down the road to the village, us yachties took over a local family restaurant for a Tanna-style feast. Fish from the bay, lap-lap (layers of food- taro, meat and vegetables, wrapped in leaves, drizzled with coconut milk and cooked in a shallow pit fire) vegetables, rice, yam, papaya and banana.…


A few days later we departed Tanna to head north to Ambrym; the island of black magic….  

Below; our final view of Yusar from the water….


Yasur; the movie-

Next post; The ‘Back To My Roots’ cultural festival and the famous ROM dance of Ambrym…

This entry was posted in The Sail.

One thought on “Vanuatu! Port Resolution and a close encounter with Yasur; a live and kicking volcano…. wow!!!!!

  1. Granny & Papa, 15 October 4:36 am

    Another great photographic record – somewhat frightening!!!
    Sorry we didn’t make it too.
    Lots of love,
    Granny and Papa.

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