Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Exploring Vanuatu

Vanuatu has some of the most active, and potentially dangerous, volcanoes in the southwest Pacific. Over the last 50 years, many communities have been affected by volcanic ash fall, gas and acid rain, lava flows and lahars.

So (naturally) last week i went there for a tropical holiday!

First is a wee bit of info on the volcanoes and our (GNS Science & GeoNet's) relationship with Vanuatu....

In 2012 a five-year New Zealand-funded project to increase the resilience of Vanuatu to volcanic eruptions begun, funded by the government's New Zealand Aid Programme. This built on co-operation between the two countries over past eruptions on  Ambae Volcano and Gaua Volcano and has introduced real-time seismic and camera monitoring of three Vanuatu volcanoes (Tanna, Ambae, and Gaua) for the first time, allowing time for emergency procedures to be put in place. It also aims to enhance community preparedness through a comprehensive outreach and education programme, and develop robust protocols and procedures for responding to a volcanic emergency.

Data from the volcanoes is transmitted back to the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geohazards Department (VMGD) in Port Vila. where technicians will be able to monitor and provide timely warnings to the communities on the islands. Volcano experts from our team up in Wairakei have helped train these technicians in the skills needed for installing and maintaining the new instruments, so the benefits of the project will be sustainable.Head of the Volcanology Department at GNS Science, Gill Jolly, has also spent  time working closely with scientists in Vanuatu to develop procedures for triggering warnings of volcanic activity in the islands.

Now for the fun part! 


I spent last week in sunny Vanuatu and had an amazing time exploring and snorkeling! We were based in Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu, which is on the island of Efate.

On my last day there i went for a day trip to the island Tanna, which is an hour south (on a small plane) and is home to the volcano Mt Yasur. 

Looking over to Mt Yasur

And after 90-bumpy-minutes by 4WD you are at the base of the volcano, it is surrounded by a huge ash plane which looked awesome (and was quite fun in the 4WD)

The ash planes

We then picked up a guide and did some more 'extreme' 4wheeldriving to get up near the top of the volcano and then its a 15min walk up to the top of the crater.

Thats our guide - with bare feet .....

The view was amazing and the sounds that the volcano makes are impressive! Every 5min or so you would hear a large boom and see huge 'lava bombs' thrown up into the air and thump back down onto the crater wall.

Heading up to the top of the crater

We left with big grins and a covered in a fair amount of ash! A fantastic (and slightly scary) experience!

And there it is!

Here is a small video i made, naturally i missed all of the 'good stuff' but you can still see how powerful this volcano is - especially when its in a 'normal / quiet' state!


You can see the cameras and latest activity on the volcanoes here and read more on Tanna here

And here are some token touristy / fish photos!

This is a 'cousin' of Nemo - he doesn't look too happy that i found him

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sara,
    Is that you in the last photo?
    I have only just discovered your blog today. It is interesting but not too much of the science stuff. I like that.