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Descent into Marum Crater - Filming Angry Planet

Ambrym Island, Vanuatu - Jan 15 - 25, 2015
After such a successful expedition to Ambrym Island in 2014, I just had to return there, this time, we'd be filming for a new episode of my Angry Planet TV series for Pivot TV. The goal was to return to the Marum crater, this time with Danish geologist Sara Hoffritz to study the gas emissions of the volcano to see what kind of effect volcanoes like this one have on the Earth's atmosphere. It was an epic journey (To say the least) and once again, I'd like to extend great thanks to Geoff Mackley, Bradley Ambrose and Chris Horsley for their tremendous help.

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Partway down inside the crater. Talk about a spectacular view of the lava lake below!
400 meters down at the bottom of Marum. Getting as close as I can without any thermal protection.
Gathering fresh lava samples from the closest point humanly possibly.
 
 
The Expedition
 
 

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Sara and I in the chopper, approaching the summit of Ambrym Island, Vanuatu.
Our first glance of the steam and gas plume coming from the Marum crater.
Getting ready to land at the summit base camp.

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Slinging in more equipment and supplies for our week on the volcano.
The weather is notoriously terrible on Ambrym. This is what was left of one of the tents. It had only been up for a week or so before we arrived. Totally weakened by acid rain and shredded by wind and volcanic ash.
A cow skull watching over our campsite... Welcome to Marum camp.
 
 
The Descent
 

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Because of the variability of the weather, it took a few days before we got a weather window to make the descent.
Roped up and ready to descend. The frequent clouds of sulfur dioxide gas made wearing a gas mask part of everyday life on the volcano.
The view, looking down at my target. The lava lake 400 meters below. That's deeper than the Empire State Building is tall!

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This will mark my 3rd descent down inside, 2 in 2014, and now again.
Weighed down with way too much gear, and ready to go.
It is a tricky, multi-stage rappel that is not for the fain of heart.

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On a ledge, about 100 meters down from the summit. Still a long way to go, but what a view!!
The violent lava churning below was sending up quite a bit of heat. I could feel it here, but still had a long way to go to reach the bottom of the pit.
Getting closer.

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A wide angle view of the crater, note the gas coming from multiple vents around the crater, not just from the lava lake.
We (Brad, Nik Halik and I) made it to the bottom. The lava did not disappoint. Being up close to something that violent and intensely hot is always awe inspiring.
Lava splashing up against the walls of the pit crater.

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Looking straight into the boiling lava.
I brought a Fluke thermal-imaging camera with me to the bottom to measure the temperature of the lava. I measured 1700 degrees Fahrenheit.
I could just sit and watch the mesmerizing lava for hours.

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One last photo before suiting up to get even closer.
With my thermal protection suit on, I can now linger along the edge for a few minutes at a time instead of just a few seconds without it.
Staring into the abyss.

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What did YOU do at work today?
Gathering fresh lava samples for Sara. They were still so hot that they burned my hand, even through the gloves.
OK, that's enough, time to start the long climb back up, 1200 feet. To do it, we needed to use gasoline powered rope ascenders.
 
 
 
Around Base Camp
 

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Looking out across Ambrym Island from Marum summit.
The walls of the Marum crater are insanely steep. Look closely for our base camp tents, not far from the vertical drop.

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One of the favorite evening pastimes was looking down into the crater and enjoying the glow.
The ash plain at the summit where our base camp was, illuminated by the surreal light of the crater glow.
Yes, this is what it was like to camp on an active volcano. It felt (and looked like) being on another planet.

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Chris, Brad and I in the main mess tent where we'd have our communal meals.
Sara, gathering gas data at the edge of the crater.
On our last night, a vicious windstorm trashed 3 of our tents and sent the entire base camp into chaos. We struggled in high winds, toxic gas and sandblasting gravel to try and secure whatever we could.
 
 
Endu Village
 

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Visiting Endu village, along the coast. Chief Moses greets us in the village.
Sara and I had the equipment, so we did an analysis of the drinking water in Endu village. There were substantial traces of sulfur and fluorine.
The people of Endu put on a show for us with traditional singing and dancing.

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I look forward to going back to Endu again, not only to see the volcano, but to visit the people again as well.
Ambrym is sometimes referred to as the "Black Magic Island" as some of the people who live there engage in the practice.
Spending time with the locals.

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