Melanesia Expedition: Ambrym Island, Vanuatu
Ambrym is a volcanic island in the archipelago of the Republic of Vanuatu. The name, Ambrym, means “here are yams” (ham rim in Ranon language). Captain Cook anchored off the island in 1774. The active volcano has two craters near the summit and is regarded as the most active volcano in Vanuatu. Most of the island, other than the large, desert-like caldera of the active volcano is covered by thick jungle. We visited the small village of Ranon in the north, with a wet landing at the black beach from Zodiacs from our Ship, which was anchored off shore.
The jet black volcanic sands of Ambrym Island give this place a mysterious air – it is Vanuatu’s “Black Magic” epicenter. Perhaps fittingly it is known as the home of Vanuatu’s sorcery where tall mask carvings and dancing rituals have been passed down through the millennia. The “bush material” costumes set against a jungle background in the Rom Dance at Ranon Village were fascinating for both photographers and amateur anthropologists.
“The most striking custom dance is the Rom dance. It is held every year in Northern Ambrym and is followed by a pig-killing ceremony. Traditionally it has been an exclusively all male event and kept very secret. The masks, which are made especially for this event, are superb. The outfits worn for the dance are destroyed immediately after the dance is finished so the spirits won’t haunt the dancers.” – www.ambrym.com