Saturday, December 12, 2009

Part of Tanna

This is late in coming, but a little bit about Tanna (from Elias) --

Tanna is a small island in the south of Vanuatu, population 20,000, 212 square miles. There's a small hospital there, and as part of the Vancouver Island Vanuatu Partnership, a general practitioner from Vancouver Island staffs the hospital in 6-month stints. Dr David generously allowed me to tag along with him for a few days. While I haven't quiiiite written up that experience yet (which made a big impression), the other thing I did on the island was tag along with Geoff Mackley and Gareth Hawken, documentary film makers from New Zealand, who had set out to get the only HD footage of Mt Yusur (on Tanna) and the Ambrym Lava Lakes (on Ambrym).

Mt Yusur is one of the most accessible active volcanoes in the world -- you can climb right up to the rim! They had hired a guide so we were able to stop often along the way for them to get footage of the surrounding areas.

Snake Road


At the base of the volcano there are massive ash plains - totally foreign landscape.

Ash Plains

There used to be a lake here, but in 2000, the lake burst through the valley, destroyed village of Sulphur Bay, and is now gone.

Ash Plains

We met some folks who live in this village -- despite being entirely destroyed, nobody was killed -- and it's bizarre to think of geological things like this still happening. In my mind, geological phenomena are tens of thousands of years in the past. On the other hand, Vanuatu is an extremely tectonically active region -- I experienced two earthquakes in the 6 weeks I was there.

Battlestar Galactica Sunset

We hiked up well before any of the tour groups got there and got footage from the typical tourist vantage point. Then we hiked around to the far rim. The climb itself was not that bad -- one foot in front of the other -- but every so often I would realize where I was -- sheer mountain face on the left, sheer CANYON OF MOLTEN DOOM on the right -- and up my terror levels. It was worse when I realized we'd be hiking back in the dark. I ended up pulling on jeans over my shorts, not just because of jeans, but because I wanted some protection if I did end up falling down the side. The outside, at least. I was able to get some good photos of the explosions, but nothing like Geoff's cameras.

Just now Google emailed me to tell me my name popped up in this video! Geoff filmed a little interview piece of Gareth and me for NZ3 news. While Gareth was saying something about "this is the greatest show on earth, why would you want to sit at home watching television--" there was a HUGE eruption, which Geoff was able to swing around and capture. (He had asked me, "as a doctor, what's your advice to us on this volcano?" And he had dropped his radio and I had retrieved it from the skittering edge of the volcano, sooo...) Check it out!

Molly has since moved on to New Zealand, and I have since moved on to Australia. Check out my Vanuatu and Australia photos!

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