“Mount Yasur is an active volcano on Tanna Island, Vanuatu, with a height of 361 meters (1,184 feet) above sea level, located on the South East coast near Sulphur Bay. Mount Yasur has a largely unvegetated pyroclastic cone with a nearly-circular summit crater 400 meters (1,312 feet) in diameter. It is a stratovolcano caused by the eastward-moving Indo-Australian plate being subducted under the westward-moving Pacific Plate. It has been nearly continuously erupting for centuries, although usually it can be approached safely. Its eruptions, which often occur several times an hour, are classified as Strombolian or Vulcanian.” – airtaxivanuatu.com
As noted in our previous blog post [“Tanna Island, Vanuatu”] the glow of the Mount Yasur volcano was apparently what attracted Captain James Cook on the first European journey to Tanna Island in 1774.
Because of the importance of the volcano to the tourism industry in Tanna, the local government has created levels to restrict people’s access:
Level 0 – Low activity, access to the crater allowed
Level 1 – Normal activity, access to the crater allowed
Level 2 – Moderate to high activity, lava bombs may land beyond the crater rim, access to the crater is closed;
Level 3 – Severe activity with loud explosions, lava bombs ejected up to hundreds of meters outside the crater and large plumes of smoke and ash, access to the summit zone is closed
Level 4 – Major eruption affecting large areas around the volcano and possibly other parts of Tanna and even neighboring islands, all access closed
The night we visited the live volcano activity was at Level 1, so we were able to drive up to the crater and walk to the rim to observe the eruptions. This was very thrilling – a nearly unique experience in world travels, as Mount Yasur is so easily accessible (once you’ve gotten half-way around the world to Vanuatu!). As expected, the volcano put on quite a show (aurally and visually).