Cat’Leya: On the trail of the youngest volcano

Between Tonga and Fiji, there is a volcanic area that has only been active for 4 years. It has turned two islands into one…

Who: Jean-Pierre

Where: Tonga, Pacific Ocean

Multihull: Lagoon 52 Sport Top

Blog: www.sailingcatleya.blue


 

Far to the north we could see a huge plume of white smoke, accompanied by a darker trail. The chart indicates that this is an area of volcanic activity. It has been referenced since 1996. Tofua, west of Ha'apai, is an island whose collapsed crater shelters a freshwater lake. Tofua is also known because Captain Bligh, after the mutiny on the Bounty, made a short stopover there with his whaleboat and his companions of misfortune. However, what really interests us is the possibility of hiking right up to the edge of the crater. Other boats have passed onto us the GPS coordinates of the only point where it is possible to land. The waves are rolling in, and there's no question of anchoring the dinghy. Bertrand, the skipper of Mupi, prefers to keep an eye on his boat, he's the one who will take us down to Tofua. The ascent lasts nearly 2 and a half hours, and takes us through a previously inhabited area, coconut palms, a small pineapple plantation and under a canopy of trees. Then with the altitude the vegetation becomes lower, and at the top, only volcanic rocks remain. The landscape is magical. The clouds cling to the west face before descending the slopes of the crater. From time to time we can see the inland lake, at the very bottom, with its islands. It's an incredible blue green color. In front of us there were many small craters, one of which was spewing out quite thick white smoke. The descent turned out to be more complicated, without a compass or map. We managed to get lost twice and ended up going straight through the ferns to catch up with our initial route. But this is nothing compared to boarding the dinghy: we had to throw ourselves off the rocks! The next day, departure for Hunga Tonga and Hunga Ha'apai, which had witnessed the emergence of a volcano... only 4 years previously. This volcano was born from an underwater eruption between the islands of Hunga Tonga and Hunga Ha'apai, which filled the sea between the two land masses, giving birth to a new, unique island.

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