Saturday 23 May, 8.52pm (anchored at Port Resolution, Tanna)

Tonight was volcano night!!

After nearly 2 days of rain and wind from just every quarter, it was time to go ashore and head up the mountain with the medical team. Andrew volunteered to remain on board and guard the fort while the rest of us climbed into the back of a Toyota ute and made our way through the tropical growth and over the ash plain on roads that had definitely suffered as a result of the rain, to the car park, where we set out on foot, UP, to the edge of the exploding cauldron of molten lava.

It was getting dark as we got near, with the westerly wind driving the fine ash, smoke and steam our way as we clambered up the black sandy slope. Before we even saw the volcano, we felt it … in our eyes, our throat, our ears, in our hair … everywhere. Every now and then there was an almighty explosion with a red glow visible over the dark rim we were climbing towards. Finally we made it to the top and could look down into the crater, with two fiery red vents glowing, bubbling and then every now and the exploding with red rock and whatever comes out of a volcano, landing on the inside rim of the crater.

In reality, the explosions were a reasonable distance away, befitting the volcano’s current (low) Level 1 risk rating, but at night things do appear closer and given there was steam coming from the edge of the road near the car park and there was nothing but rock and ash for about 2 km in all directions you got the feeling that one day, this thing will put on a real performance. Fortunately not today.

Prior to climbing into the ute for the trip up the mountain we first had to empty the ute of its cargo of boxes. Boxes containing all manner of glasses and equipment for the clinics further north. The transfer was done using the dinghy, and also the dinghy off a large catamaran which had recently joined us in the bay. They were transferring passengers ashore after their trip from Noumea and kindly took a load seeing that our dinghy was pretty much full.

So tomorrow is the big day. The day when we take the medical team north the 10 hours or so to Erromango (land of the mangos). I think in the medical camp there’s a mixture of excitement and apprehension at the prospect of the island transfer. We have promised breakfast, because hopefully we can pick them all up from the beach at the appointed time of 06:00 and be away by 07:00 … then again some may be keen to skip breakfast and start the day on an empty stomach!

Fortunately the weather is improving as predicted and if the wind stays in the west and comes in at around 15 knots it’ll be a jolly nice sail. If necessary, we’ll run the engine in order to keep our speed at 6 knots and above because we certainly don’t want to arrive in darkness if we can avoid it.

Late today Bob’s bird was finally given the heave ho. It’s got a happy ending. The bird escaped his nicely prepared box and home made nest and chose to sit on the floor in the steering well. Sat there all day. “He’s not drinking Bob”, “He’s not eating Bob” we’d say, but Bob would respond, “he’s just resting”. “He’s not ready to go”. Then in one of the transfers to the shore late today, Bob came ashore clutching his new feathered friend in two hands. As the dinghy hit the shore, Bob leant over and placed the bird in the shallows and it immediately fluttered and waded, then fluttered some more before spreading its wings and taking to the sky. Within a few short moments it was across the bay and out of sight, all to the cheering sounds of Bob and all gathered on the shoreline.

In leaving Port Resolution it will farewell to some very helpful, friendly locals. In particular Stanley, his sister Miriam and their respective kids, Werry (from the yacht club) Tom, the fisherman, Pascal the horseman and many others.

With all the rain yesterday, we heard that the truck to Lenakel (for the Friday market) was especially exciting because a few miles out of town the usually dry creek bed from the ashplain higher up had been turned into a raging torrent. The vehicle couldn’t get through, so everyone who was game had to swim across and get aboard another vehicle on the other side. Some gave up their weekly trip to market and headed home, others found their way across with the aid of a makeshift rope and carpenter’s ladder which was quickly lashed together. Those that had to get out were the Romanian group – due on a plane at 3:00pm. In another day’s time the riverbed will again be dry. Apparently 9 years ago a 9km long lake broke it’s banks in this region and drained over night. I’m yet to hear all of that story.

I should mention, that in addition to gallantly remaining aboard while we played on the volcano, Andrew also stored all the boxes below decks … all those boxes which were hastily passed up from the dinghy prior to us racing way in the ute.

It’ll be an early start tomorrow so it’s now time for bed. Will has apparently sharpened the fish hooks and we’ve got about 10 hours to land us some big ones!! Certainly a good way to make friends in a village!

Smooth sea, fair breeze and quiet volcanos

Rob