Explorers Climb Into the Heart of the Earth

These explorers just climbed into a lava lake and lived to tell the story.
© Ulla Lohmann
By Corinna Halloran

Deep in the center of Ambrym Island lies a bubbling lava lake, atop Benbow Volcano — a lava lake so massive it offers a window into the heart of the Earth. Last year, three explorers plus a film director journeyed to the volcano and climbed inside.

"It’s pounding, it’s splashing, it’s blood, it’s the veins, it’s alive."

Ulla Lohmann


The three experienced rock climbers and alpinists included Lohmann, her husband Sebastian Hofmann and volcano scientist Thomas Boyer. They traveled to the lava lake to not only collect samples of the lava and learn more about Ambrym’s explosive caldera, but also to realize the group’s dreams and unlock the mystery of the volcano.

"Ever since I saw the volcano for the very first time, all I've wanted to do was to repel down — to go all the way down, into the crater, to be as close as possible to the boiling lava lake."

Ulla Lohmann

Drawn by these reasons, the group trekked through a thick rainforest and over a deserted lava field with over 600 meters of rope, tents and equipment to the third terrace (the closest level to the lava) of Benbow.

The group constantly battled with the immediate dangers and their need to go further. Challenged by weeks of acid rain, the fear of deadly expositions, toxic gas and strong sulfuric winds, the three explorers let curiosity pull them closer and closer until they finally stood on the edge looking at the pulsating lava.

“There’s no warning signs saying stop here because it’s too hot, there’s only one way to find out and that’s to go down and get burned eventually,” Hofmann said. “But we made it that far, the conditions were perfect, and well, curiosity was winning over fear.”

Climber heads into the boiling lava lake of Benbow Volcano
One of the three explorers climbs into Benbow © Ulla Lohmann

Click here to watch the amazing story of the three explorers' journey to the center of the Earth.

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