Wonder

Mbwelesu Crater (Marum Crater) with lava lake

Lava lake in Mbwelesu Crater, August 2010
Lava lake in Mbwelesu Crater, August 2010. / Gus MacLeod, Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

WorldBlue  In short

The giant caldera of Ambrym Volcano has several craters. Up to recent time here were located two of the few lava lakes of the world – one in Mbwelesu Crater (known as Marum Crater) and another in the nearby Benbow Crater.

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GPS coordinates
16.2510 S 168.1366 E
Location, address
Oceania, Melanesia, Vanuatu, central part of Ambrym Island, in the side crater of Marum Crater – Mbwelesu Crater
Alternate names
Marum Crater (not very correct)
Height
around 1,334 m

Map of the site

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WorldYellow In detail

Giant volcano

The whole island of Ambrym has been shaped by the enormous basaltic Ambrym volcano. Sometimes around 190 AD (or somewhat later… or before this… exact date is not known) here happened a giant volcanic eruption which created the present-day Ambrym caldera which is some 12 by 8 km large.

Later in this caldera rose several craters – two larger ones (Benbow and Marum) and three smaller ones.

Ambrym is one of the world’s most active volcanoes up to this day. Its eruptions often are disastrous and local people from time to time (e.g. in December 1913) are forced to flee from the island.

Plumes of ash from Benbow and Mbwelesu craters, December 2013
Plumes of ash from Benbow and Mbwelesu craters, December 2013. / Stuart Rankin, Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

According to a local legend, one of the villages has a special power over the volcano. They have magical stones hidden in the ground – these stones can cause an eruption.

Lava lake in Mbwelesu Crater

The research history of the Ambrym volcano is fairly short – only in the late 19th century, it was first climbed. Several times there have been observed lava lakes. For several decades from the 1990ies until December 2018, there existed two lava lakes – one in Benbow Crater and one in a smaller side crater of Marum – Mbwelesu Crater.

In August 2018 there were even three lava lakes – a third one appeared in Niri Mbwelesu crater around January 2018.

The lava lake in the Mbwelesu crater could be observed right from the rim of the crater. The rims of the crater are near vertical – one should be very careful here.

The lava lake was small but absolutely fascinating. It had constant lava fountains rising up to 30 m high, the small lake had a constant movement, mesmerizing the visitors. It was even more impressive during the night. There were few places on Earth with similar experiences.

After a powerful eruption and several earthquakes, all the lava lakes of the Ambrym volcano have disappeared. We do not know if they will return…

Mbwelesu Crater (Marum Crater) is included in the following article:

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