This Adventurer Descended into Vanuatu’s Lava-Filled Marum Crater and Lived to Tell the Tale

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Image: George Kourounis

Explorer George Kourounis stands in the belly of a 1,200-foot-deep crater, teetering at the edge of a pit filled with violently bubbling lava. Acid rain eats away at his protective suit, stinging and burning his skin. Kourounis is sweating so much from the intense heat that he’s actually losing weight. Then as his equipment begins to rust and melt around him, the starter cord on his powered rope ascender – his only lifeline out of this raging hell – snaps off in his grip. Has he gone too far this time? Suppressing any panic, Kourounis has no choice but to turn his attention to the task at hand: finding an escape route from the blistering furnace and returning to his anxious team above.

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Image: George Kourounis

While it might sound like the synopsis of a big-budget action movie, this scenario was all too real for Kourounis – a professional adventurer with a passion for traveling to the heart of the world’s most dangerous places. Indeed, Marum Crater, located on Vanuatu’s Ambrym island in the South Pacific Ocean, is just one addition to Kourounis’ list of conquered volcanoes.

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Image: George Kourounis

The island of Ambrym is itself a hotbed of intense volcanic activity, with Marum Crater its most dramatic feature. Tour companies offer intrepid travelers the chance to view the bubbling caldera cone from a near distance, but for Kourounis that wasn’t nearly close enough. Accompanied by a small but dedicated team, he set out to plumb the depths of what he refers to as “the Devil’s washing machine on the heavy-duty cycle.”

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