Remember when George Kourounis stood at the edge of a hot molten lava spewing volcano and took a selfie?
Friend and adventurer Sam Cossman who originally filmed the footage of George took his love for exploring to another level.
These new images show Sam delving deep into one of the most active lava lakes in the world. Standing only 10 metres away from the harrowing Marum crater, which is one of only seven lava lakes on the planet, located on the remote island of Ambrym, in the Republic of Vanuatu.
Former Silicone Valley worker Cossman proudly stands above the caldron of lava in Ambrym, Vanuatu.
The aim of the expedition was to survey a volcanic crater with cutting edge technology, including a drone mounted camera. The footage it captured using photography software was extraordinary.
Sam and his crew were able to create the first virtual environment of a real volcano enabling volcanologists around the world to undertake virtual field research for the very first time, As well as collecting lava samples to understand how life can exist in extreme environments in this world and beyond.
Looking down from 1200 ft, to put that into perspective: that is the same vertical height as the Empire State Building
Sam explains: “Further down you want so badly to take your mask off, but it’s just impossible, you take one breath of that super heated gas and that’s the end.”
Venturing further down only a deadly 30m away from the active volcano Sam had to wear a custom built industrial heat suit built to withstand radiant temperatures of up to 3000 degrees Fahrenheit.
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Speaking about his experience Sam said: “My first trip to the volcano in September 2014 produced a video which went viral and reignited my passion for filmmaking and adventure.
“Marum is one of the most extreme and active volcanoes on earth, home to a roiling pit of molten rock that is in a perpetual state of explosion.
“Its a dangerous place – getting to the bottom requires a 1200 foot vertical descent into the depths of the caldera, an area so immense that it could easily swallow the Empire State Building.
“Toxic super heated gas, falling boulders, acid rain, and violent expulsion of molten rock are among the many perils of the dangerous journey.
“Shortly after the expedition, there was a large flank eruption triggered by an earthquake that would have killed anyone even remotely in the area, fortunately they had just recently departed.”
The aim of the project was to get a better understanding of how microbial life could exist and colonise in such an extreme environment.
Team member Dr. Marlow is currently testing samples taken from the crater using NASA's SHERLOC device which will be used in the space agency's next mission to Mars in 2020.
The crew used a drone to map areas of the crater which they were unable to view and measure the size and scale of such a unique environment.
Sam said: “Because it’s the single greatest source of sulphur dioxide on the planet, getting a clear picture with satellite imagery is nearly impossible.
“The expedition’s drone pilot, Simon Jardine, managed to capture aerial images at various moments which allowed the team to stitch the photos together using specialised software.
“In doing so, they created the first of its kind gas free true-to-scale 3D model of a volcano and lava lake – which enabled us to take precise measurements.”
Sam and the team used the 3D model to enable virtual field research with volcanologists and other scientists from around the world.
Indeed, the adventurer and his crew transformed the otherwise inaccessible environment into a fully immersive virtual environment which can be explored by anyone with a laptop and a wifi connection,
Sam said: “The project represents a quantum leap for education and classrooms of the future.
“With the proper expertise, gear, adaptability, and a healthy respect for mother nature, the expedition was a calculated risk, but one that was absolutely worth it.
“It was a truly awe inspiring experience to witness the Earth’s underlying forces first hand.
“Facing our own mortality is in some way a healthy reminder to appreciate life.”