Thursday, September 02, 2010

We walked up to see the volcano, what an experience! It was quite a hike, we tromped through the Vanuatu rainforest. Our guide led us up a winding path which led from the anchorage to the rim of the volcano’s crater. It seemed like we were climbing forever, we went past where the villagers have their gardens. They grow bananas, grapefruit, cassava, taro, manioc and coconuts. It was about an hours walk just to get there. We asked why it was so far away from the village and were told it was because the soil is better higher up and there is more water. The rain forest was very thick and luscious with several layers, the undergrowth and then the canopy. If we did not keep up to the person in front of us we soon lost sight of each other, having to call out when we came to a crossroads to figure out which way to go.
We emerged from the forest onto the ash plains of the volcano. The ash has suppressed plant growth immediately around the volcano and it is like being on a moonscape. There are old lava flows with jagged boulders sticking up and a thick layer of black ash that covers everything else. As we clambered up the steep side of the volcano you could hear it rumbling and then a large round plume of smoke would emerge from the top. Once we reached the top it was AMAZING. I think being there has to rate as one of the most wondrous things to experience.
Both hot spots of the volcano erupting at once

This is an ACTIVE VOLCANO, you are standing on the edge and you see a shock wave coming and it hits you, then there is an eruption, molten lava, red hot, shoots up into the air. The lava comes in blobs that change shape in the air as they go through their trajectory. Immediately following the lava is a billowing plume of ash and dust, it shoots straight up and then spread out as it ascends forming a huge cloud of every increasing size. You smell the sulfur that is spewing out, you feel the ground shake, you hear the volcano rumble and roar and you see the pyrotechnics of the lava. Then the mountain rests and you wait, and then boom, another eruption happens and this time the molten boulders are shot up over the rim of the volcano, it was absolutely fantastic. We watched in awe for over two hours. We arrived late in the afternoon and stayed until night fell; leaving only when the wind switched and our guide said it was not safe to remain.

Watching that volcano made me realize the power of nature and how fragile our planet really is. The thin layer of the earth’s crust is all that is protecting us from the molten center, we had better take care of it.