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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Volcano visit

Tanna Island, Vanuatu
Mt. Yasur Volcano

We arrived at the trailhead shortly after darkness; about two and a half hours later than planned as the transportation was running on typical "island time". A ten minute walk up the ash and pumice slopes brought us to the edge of the crater. We forgot to bring our torches so it was a bit scary walking up there, as one wrong move could have you sacrificed to the volcano god. Luckily, the wind was cooperative and most of the thick sulfuric gas and ash was blowing away from us offering a good view below. We sat just a few feet from the precipitously steep crater lip. Below, hot lava was sputtering and spitting out of a large glowing hole in the base of the crater with puffs of gas and ash. Then after watching for a few minutes a more vigorous blast showered hot lava blobs far into the air leaving momentary streamers of glowing orange. The lava would then fall to the ground and continue glowing eerily through fog of gases and ash. Soon spitting, sputtering, belching led to a big BOOM! A shock wave pounded into our chests as Lava filled our entire field of view lighting up the sky and rising well above heads into the night sky above. Were talking huge chunks of glowing lava hurtling to fantastic heights, reaching their apex then hurtling back to earth and landing uncomfortably close to our vantage point. To give you a feel for our proximity to this fire breathing beast, some of the spectators were wearing fire proof firemen jackets hard hats and some even had gas masks. We witnessed several other similarly explosive displays and even caught one spectacular blast with the camera. It looked like a firework display.

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