Tuesday 1st August 2017
Liro,Paama Island

Another busy morning ashore with the medical team on the job at eight. They saw 60 people this morning after 90 yesterday. So approximately 10% of the island have been seen by our Dentists, Optometrists and Doctor. Many had walked more than 2 hours to be seen at the clinic. Its a different world.

Glenys, one of our nurses, does the triage, for those like me of ten days ago, triage means she sorts the patients by priority and needs. Among the many very serious problems, there are the lighter moments like several people she has asked if they would like to see the dentist and with a big smile they say “evri wan i kam aot finish” and she notices they have no teeth. In general teeth on this island were in better condition than the other islands, maybe less western influence.

Today Dr Barry was surveying and pulling teeth in their maternity ward in the clinic. We noticed the bassinets were rusty and the linen all tattered. The islanders need lots of assistance.

The local plane came over this afternoon and didn’t land. A couple were looking to get off the island on that plane and they informed us that this island has the shortest runway in the pacific and planes can only land one way so conditions have to be perfect. He then added “the Tuesday guys a chicken”.

There is a young woman from Nebraska in the village. Jenny is with Peace Corp and has been living in the village for eighteen months. Our medical team found her to be an exceptional help, she knew the people and was able to help with communication as many didn’t speak Bislama.

Tonight we were invited to a dinner in the village as thanks for all that our team had done for them. One of the senior village leaders gave a very long speech for our benefit of which most of us could only pick up bits and pieces of the Bislama. Morinda our mission coordinator also gave a very good speech in reply. A very nice meal of BBQ chicken, yam, rice and local greens, it seems that a number of our team have almost had enough yam for the time being. A very nice finish to our couple of days here.

We have a challenge in the morning getting the team to their next village on the bottom of Ambrym Island. It was good to be able to get some advice from Rob by telephone, I was able to get enough phone coverage by standing on a post in the corner of their basketball court.

Still no internet, hopefully tomorrow.

Fair winds, smooth seas and there may be internet tomorrow.

Phil Wicks


Getting to know your local, neighbourhood, just-over-the-hill,  volcano … (Ambrym Island)

Here’s a website you’ve probably never visited … www.pacificdisaster.net  and here’s a link to a map and assessment of the volcanic history and risk presented by the Ambrym volcano on the island where the medical team is currently working …


Some 1800 years ago, a gigantic eruption modified the relief of Ambrym and formed the caldera which crowns the island (a caldera is a big crater. 13 km wide in the case of Ambrym). During the last centuries, Ambrym volcano has experienced many eruptions.

Three activity levels have to be considered:

Normal (or weak) activity : Lava lakes are present in the craters of Marum and Benbow: ash outbursts are dangerous only in the immediate surroundings of the active craters.

Intermediate activity (1863-64, 1871, 1914, 1962, 1968, 1972, 1986 and 1988- 89 eruptions): Explosions may provoke important ash clouds, several kilometers high, whose ashes, carried by the trade winds, commonly fall over the northwest slopes of the island (red elipses A). Due to the small quantity of ash in the plume, the hazard is not great, but acid rain is probable. Ashes may fall elsewhere on the island if other wind systems are present. During such an eruption lava flows may cover a limited area of the caldera floor. Due to the intense fall of ashes and small blocks (lapillis) near the vents, and the high probability of pyroclastic Hows being emitted from the craters and flowing over the caldera floor, the access to the caldera area must be strictly prohibited.

Strong activity (1820, 1888, 1894. 1913, 1929, 1937 and 1942 eruptions): High ash clouds are responsible for important and/or long lasting ashfalls which may affect all ol the island if the trade winds are not strong. The thickness of ash deposits may reach 50 centimeters or more within the area delimited by the 8 circle and a few centimeters to a few decimeters within the C circle. During this type of eruption, lavas may overflow the caldera wall. Other lavas may erupt, along the great fracture line which cuts the island. Lava flows restricted to the valleys, reach the sea and threaten coastal villages. If strong ashfalls are accompanied or followed by rains, all the valleys of the island as well as the coastal plains near their mouths may be ravaged by mudflows carrying trees and blocks. Such mudflows are extremely destructive (purples arrows D). 

Lastly, magma-seawater interactions may induce very dangerous explosions at the western and eastern extremities of the island, both onshore and offshore (blue circles E). If an eruption occurs at one of these extremities or spreads from the caldera towards it, it might be necessary to evacuate the populations. A plan for the evacuation (by sea) ol these populations should be beforehand prepared. The northern part of Ambrym is safe in case of a strong eruption: however, some ashfall may occur if southern winds are blowing.


Then there’s Lovevi …

Just a short distance down the road, or more correctly, upwind a few kilometres over the sea … is the volcano-island of Lopevi; 1,400m high and an island with no inhabitants since 1960

Lopevi also has its own website … www.lopevi.com

Lopevi is the most visually impressive volcano in Vanuatu. It’s steep stratovolcano shape rises steeply from the Pacific Ocean (1413 metres) southwest of Ambrym Island. Lopevi is one of the most active volcanoes in Vanuatu and is rarely visited.  Lopevi volcano previously had two villages but the island was evacuated in 1960’s due to ongoing volcanic activity.

Lopevi volcano is noted for the periodic eruptions which produce a wide variety of eruption types. The island is not inhabited, but ash eruptions may deposit ash on the neighbouring islands of Ambrym, Epi, and Paama.

2017 Unrest
On 13th January 2017 Lopevi volcano was raised to level 3 alert (on scale of 1-5).

Lopevi is subject to cultural restrictions which prohibit women from climbing the volcano. 

John Search

Volcano Adventurer, Filmmaker, and Scientist