November 05, 2013

Lopevi Volcano, Vanuatu

Catching the plane back to Port Vila from Craig Cove, was going to give  me a great chance to see Mt Benbow from the air. But despite being a blue sky day, the whole of the volcano and surrounding caldera was shrouded in clouds and volcanic smoke by the time the plane took off. But, to make up for this, I did see the Lopevi volcano, about 8 km’s from Ambrym.

I had tried to get to Lopevi earlier from Ambrym, abandoning the trip and ending up on Paama, see the blog post 'An Unexpected island, Paama, Vanuatu. Black sands and sharks'. It looked spectacular from the air. Lopevi is a stratovolcano. It is very active and, like Mt Benbow in Ambrym, has its own weather system with the top of its cone often hidden by clouds.

The island is slowly growing with each eruption, and the lava flows from its last major eruption in 2008 eruption are clear. Lopevi only had minor eruptions spaced many years apart in previous centuries, and it was inhabited with a growing population taking advantage of the fertile soil until 1960. That was when it lurched into hyper activity, destroying crops and villages with massive lava flows, a pattern that is still continuing, with nine eruptions in the last ten years. The islanders departed for Port Villa and Paama, and none have returned.

I landed back in Port Vila forty minutes later, having enjoyed, and sated my need to climb Volcanoes for a while, although this one does seem to invite a return visit at some point in the future.

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