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Report on Ambrym (Vanuatu) — September 1998


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 23, no. 9 (September 1998)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Ambrym (Vanuatu) Long-active lava lake continues to hold bubbling lava

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1998. Report on Ambrym (Vanuatu) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 23:9. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199809-257040



16.25°S, 168.12°E; summit elev. 1334 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

This long-active caldera was visited by John Seach during 4-7 September 1998. At Niri Mbwelesu Taten, a small collapse pit, strong degassing was observed as well as yellow sulfurous deposits on the NW wall. During the night, degassing was heard from a distance of 4 km and white vapor tinged with blue was constantly emitted from the pit.

Niri Mbelesu crater was constantly full of vapor resulting in poor visibility. But bubbling lava was heard and at night the clouds reflected a red glow from the crater.

At Mbwelesu crater, an active elongated lava lake (~100 x 30 m) was observed. The larger explosions threw lava high into the air and onto the crater wall. To the east of the lava lake a smaller elongated vent contained lava. On the NW wall of the crater was a circular vent 20 m in diameter from which no lava was extruded.

Benbow crater was climbed from the S. The sound of bubbling lava was heard but not observed, and there was a very intense night glow.

Geological Summary. Ambrym, a large basaltic volcano with a 12-km-wide caldera, is one of the most active volcanoes of the New Hebrides Arc. A thick, almost exclusively pyroclastic sequence, initially dacitic then basaltic, overlies lava flows of a pre-caldera shield volcano. The caldera was formed during a major Plinian eruption with dacitic pyroclastic flows about 1,900 years ago. Post-caldera eruptions, primarily from Marum and Benbow cones, have partially filled the caldera floor and produced lava flows that ponded on the floor or overflowed through gaps in the caldera rim. Post-caldera eruptions have also formed a series of scoria cones and maars along a fissure system oriented ENE-WSW. Eruptions have apparently occurred almost yearly during historical time from cones within the caldera or from flank vents. However, from 1850 to 1950, reporting was mostly limited to extra-caldera eruptions that would have affected local populations.

Information Contacts: John Seach, P.O. Box 16, Chatsworth Island, N.S.W. 2469, Australia.