How Orkney is changing life on a volcanic island deep in the Pacific Ocean

Vanuatu in the Pacific Ocean has a burgeoning tourist industry with academics from Orkney now helping islanders access growing opportunities in the market. PIC:Flickr/Roderick Eime.
Vanuatu in the Pacific Ocean has a burgeoning tourist industry with academics from Orkney now helping islanders access growing opportunities in the market. PIC:Flickr/Roderick Eime.
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It is covered in deep, green rainforests and littered with active volcanoes.

There seems to be little to connect Vanuatu, which sits deep in the Pacific Ocean around 1,000 miles north east of Australia, to the Orkney Isles.

But today, the two perhaps seem a little closer together after academics from the Kirkwall-based School of Northern Studies at the University of Highlands and Islands made the 10,000-mile journey to the Pacific.

There, Professor Donna Heddle and colleagues will help Vanuatu build their tourist industry and help local people become qualified tour guides.

READ MORE: Orkney: Immerse yourself in the rich history of the islands

The guides will complete a course accredited by the Scottish Qualifications Authority which is designed to improve the livelihood of islanders by securing them better wages and the opportunity to run their own small businesses.

Prof Heddle said that the experience of building the tourist industry in Orkney will help to inform the course.

She told BBC Orkney: "They have a burgeoning tourist industry and it is not unlike Orkney's. They are an archipelago of islands, they have a lot of cruise ships, they have a lot of people coming for the history, the culture and the wildlife and so on.

"So we are able to take the expertise that we have developed....and we are back here working with the government, and the governments of Australia and New Zealand, to create this qualification."

Vanuatu was colonised by both the French and the British in the 18th Century, shortly after it was visited by Captain James Cook.

Given the name the 'New Hebrides', the islands had been inhabited by the native population for some 3,000 years before Cook arrived.

READ MORE: Remains of lost 14th Century castle found on Orkney

The islands became an Anglo-French condominium that divided the New Hebrides into two separate communities.

The New Hebrides gained independence from both colonial rulers in 1980, with the islands then becoming known as the Republic of Vanuatu.

Today, there are more than 100 languages in Vanuatu, making it per capita the most linguistically diverse nation on earth.

It is known for its volcanic activity, with the constantly erupting volcano Yasur on the Island of Tanna a major tourist attraction along with the active lava lakes of Ambrym.