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Mbwelesu Crater (Marum Crater) with lava lake

Marum Crater, 2009
Marum Crater, 2009./ Geophile71, WIkimedia Commons / public domain

WorldBlue  In short

The giant caldera of Ambrym Volcano has several craters. Up to recent times 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)
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.

Benbow (left) and Marum (right) craters from space, september 2009
Benbow (left) and Marum (right) craters from space, september 2009./ European Space Agency, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

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 the 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, and 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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This category includes the most unusual and interesting volcanoes of the world.

Over the last 10,000 years in some 1,500 places around the Earth mantle of Earth has emitted lava, ash, and gases through the crust of the planet. Each of these places is an active volcano. Some 50 – 70 volcanoes erupt every year and at any moment there are some 20 – 30 eruptions ongoing.

The lake of acid in Ijen Crater, Indonesia
The lake of acid in Ijen Crater / © CEphoto, Uwe Aranas, Wikimedia Commons

Lakes and streams

There are many factors that can make lakes, sea bays, or rivers unusual. Some lakes have unusual chemical properties and even do not contain water at all – such as lava lakes. Others may have unusual animals living in them or… legends about such animals.

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Vanuatu: Far Flung Places Travel Guide

The only current detailed guide to the islands of Vanuatu, with invaluable information, not just on the main islands, but also the more rarely visited outer islands. Including maps and detailed listings.

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