We left Aneityum six days ago, cruising 50 miles northwest for Tanna with one thing on our minds: volcanoes. Tanna is home to Mt. Yasur, famed as one of the most easily accessible active volcanoes on Earth.
Our corner of the Pacific hasn’t had any wind to speak of for the last two weeks, so we motored for the duration of the eight hour voyage. Seas were calm and there were no other boats in sight, but we did find ourselves crossing wakes with a few thousand south-bound black petrels. They streamed by for hours by the thousands; we assumed it was a seasonal migration, a flock heading south for the summer to roost.
The day was hot, the sky clouded with a stubborn haze. We weren’t able to make out Tanna’s silhouette until we were only a few miles off shore. First to appear was Mt. Melon, and then we started to make out the dark plumes of smoke and ash rising from Mt. Yasur; it was one of the higher drama landfalls we’ve made since arriving in the Marquesas in May of 2015. We visited the low-slung heights of Mt. Yasur on our second day on the island and got to stare directly into the fuming depths of her caldera (ample pictures to come when connectivity allows!).
The high drama continued—we quickly learned that active volcanoes make for challenging roommates. Anchored in Port Resolution, we could hear the thunderous rumbles coming from inside the volcano, and ash would fall like black sand raining from the sky. Helios was particularly vulnerable; she would get a few new coatings of ash throughout the day, and each morning we woke to darkened hatches and a fresh blanket of soot. (“Maybe you don’t need to be anchored quite so close to the volcano,” my mom said when I described the debris).
Although, dropping the hook in a volcanic hot-zone brought thrills that no other anchorage has. Our visit to the volcano was an unparalleled soul-shaking thrill; there are hot springs lining the bay with jacuzzi seat stones that made for a spa worthy soak; though the coral left something to be desired, the fish were huge, and we spent 45 minutes being serenaded by whale songs as we swam. Plus, the ashy dirt makes for an incredibly fecund island. Wandering around the island, we saw extraterrestrial flowers, bougainvillea the color of electric salmon, and a robust population of banyan trees that tempted us both toward a Swiss Family Robinson style defection from life lived at sea level.
Our stay so close to Mt. Yasur made clear that life in the shadow of an active volcano is a daily roll of the geological dice. Not wanting to press our luck too much, we weighed anchor this morning to make way for Port Vila. We’ve heard rumors of excellent restaurants and grocery stores that seem magically airlifted from France—rumors enough to make my tummy do some volcanic rumbling of its own.