Vanuatu was first settled by Melanesians, the Lapita people, over 4,000 years ago. The Portuguese arrived in 1605 but it was with the arrival of the missionaries in the late 17th century that the islands were changed forever. Tanna’s live volcano, Mount Yasur, is the most accessible volcano in the world and although not the highest mountain its night glow has been referred to as the ‘lighthouse of the Pacific’ and has been erupting continuously for over 800 years. We stood on the edge of this active volcano, captivated by its beautiful, strength and life. Mount Yasur lies within the community of Sulfur Bay which is also well known by the mythical figure, John Frum, who claimed wealth of goods and money would come to the people of Tanna…if they rejected the trappings of the modern world like money and Christianity. Soon afterwards American troops landed, stayed their time and left with all that they brought. Did this give credence to the myth? This cult still attracts numerous supporters, every Friday, at Sulfur Bay with prayers and dancing.
Erromango became exploited for its black-birding and sandalwood but was also famously named Martyr Island due to the number of missionaries that ended up in the stew. Dillons Bay has been renamed William’s Bay as an apology to the descendants of John William who had also been killed and added to the day’s menu.
The island of Efate has been most effected by the western world for this is where the largest population lives and commerce happens. Although Vanuatu has been affected by the missionaries they still hold tightly onto their old beliefs and through the power of magic stones, dance and ceremonial rituals reach out to their ancestors.