White Island, NZ

IN December 2019, White Island erupted while there were a number of tourists on it, killing 21 and seriously injuring 26 more.
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I suppose there’s always an element of danger, but at the time it seemed relatively safe and how often do you get to visit a live volcano?

This was White Island in 2004. Our guide mentioned it did erupt from time to time, but usually seismologists had some warning. However, she did mention that one morning, they arrived to find there had been a significant event overnight and everything was changed. You could take the tour boat out, it was about an hour each way. We landed on the broken old dock from a rubber dinghy.

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Approaching the Island

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Bird rock

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Getting to shore

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Going ashore


At one time a factory was built on the island to process the sulphur and minerals. Eventually an eruption wrecked the building and killed the workers.
Later they tried putting the workers camp over the ridge outside the crater. However, it was a long trek up and over and that still didn’t stop the mill from being destroyed by an eruption. Finally they cleverly gave up.

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The tour provided us all with hard hats and gas masks which should provide some protection against minor events.
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We were warned to stay on the marked paths, since there was the possibility that steam and boiling water could have created voids that could give way in some areas of the crater.

In the center of the crater was a large steaming pool of sulfurous water. There were a number of vents releasing stinky gas.

After the tour the boat circled the island to see the backside. It did not usually get the full effect of any events, which is why it was supposed safe for the workers’s camp back in the 1930’s. Trees grew there; but near the edge of the crater, it seems occasionally the gases spilled over and killed the trees once in a while.
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