White Island, New Zealand

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Featured Image The Main Vent

Featured Image: The Main Vent

ORT_Logo  Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 1 June 2020

White Island

Volcanoes and Other Dangers

I’ve seen and climbed on a number of volcanoes around the world including Mount Bromo in Java, Mount Agung and Mount Batur in Bali; Mount Vesuvius, with Pompei and Heraculaneum; Mount Etna and Volcano in Sicily; Mount Fuji in Japan and the New Zealand volcanoes.

The only ones I’d consider dangerous while I was on them were Mount Bromo, Vulcano and the New Zealand volcanoes.

Baby Fumarole
Baby Fumarole

On Mount Bromo whilst an eruption was always on the cards, I actually got into trouble exploring alone away from the crater. The very sharp rock was only millimetres thick with dust underneath. It was easy to break through and hard to climb up the steep gullies.

In the Aeolian Islands we stayed on Lipari. On Vulcano while climbing the volcano we were warned by a climber coming down to avoid getting trapped in clouds of smoke which were toxic. Denise also wouldn’t follow some of the trails I wanted to go down. We couldn’t get to Stromboli because it was late in the season and the boats weren’t running.

White Island Map
White Island Map

In New Zealand, one doesn’t think of earthquakes but they are always possible. I slept through one on Bali, which killed several people

New Zealand has plenty of dangerous activities including tramping, helicopters, ice climbing, climbing Mount Cook and the volcanic areas around National Park, Rotorua and White Island.

My article on the Tongariro Crossing outlines some of these around National Park. Mount Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro aren’t necessarily benign.

In the article I say:

The park’s three volcanoes Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu — all active — are the southern end of a 2500 km long range of volcanoes. The northern end of this volcanically active zone within New Zealand, which passes through Taupo and Rotorua, is White Island in the sea off the Bay of Plenty. All three are magic places to visit and within a few hours drive of Tongariro.

 The cause of this volcanic activity in New Zealand is where the Pacific Tectonic Plate is subducted under the Australian Plate.

The Ketahi Hut towards the end of the Tongariro Crossing walk is no longer permitted as an overnight stop because a boulder ejected from the small Te Maari craters crashed through the roof of the hut. It would have killed anyone in the bed, but the bed was empty. More dangerous is the lahar zone at the end of the walk. You are told to not to linger and if you hear a loud noise to run like hell. This might be difficult because the zone is 2 km long and you are usually quite tired when you reach it.

The Active Vents
The Active Vents

On the ski area of Mount Ruapehu, surveys show that less than half of the skiers are aware of lahars. If the alarm goes off when you are skiing, you are meant to run uphill as fast as you can. One hopes that if half the skiers are running for their lives, the rest might follow.

I said in the article:

Lahars are another problem on Mount Ruapehu and also Tongariro. A lahar is a mudflow or debris flow (ash and rock) mixed with water and caused by volcanic activity. Lahars have been recorded on Mount Ruapehu since 1861, important ones were 1953, 1968, 1969, 1975, 1995 and 2007. The 1953 lahar damaged a bridge on the main Auckland to Wellington railway a short time before a train was due. The train derailed and 151 lives were lost.

The White Island Eruption

On 9 December 2019 at 14.20 White Island erupted. There were 47 people on the island at the time. Twenty-one people were killed and a further twenty-five were seriously injured, many critically.

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Posted in Canberra


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