Volcanoes


Sitting 48 km offshore, Whakaari/White Island is New Zealand’s most active cone volcano which has been built up by continuous volcanic activity over the past 150,000 years. About 70 percent of the volcano is under the sea, making this massive volcanic structure the largest in New Zealand.

A sulphur mining venture began on the island in 1885; this was stopped abruptly in 1914 when part of the crater wall collapsed, and a landslide destroyed the sulphur mine and miners' village; twelve lives were lost. The remains of buildings from another mining episode in the 1920's era are now a tourist attraction.

Although privately owned, Whakaari/White Island became a private scenic reserve in 1953, and daily tours allow more than 10,000 people to visit the volcano every year. GeoNet continuously remotely monitors volcanic activity with webcams, seismometers (earthquake activity) UV spectrometers (SO2 emission rate) and GNSS (ground deformation). We also frequently visit the island to collect additional gas and water samples, and collect other geophysical data and general observations.

White Island, showing the white clouds of highly acidic gases.

White Island, showing the white clouds of highly acidic gases.

Scientists collecting gas samples.

Scientists collecting gas samples.

Previous Eruptions
2016:

On 27 April a short-lived eruption occurred in the evening. It deposited material all over the crater floor onto some of the crater walls. The eruption and associated small collapse of the lake edge also formed a new depression in the north east corner of the 1978/90 Crater Complex,.

In September, for a short period of time, ash was passively emitted from a vent on the 2012 lava dome.

2012-2013:

An explosive eruption occurred on 5 August 2012 with a period of ash emissions. This was followed by heating in the Crater Lake and the extrusion of a small lava dome Oct-Dec 2012.

Steam and sulphur explosions followed in Feb-April 2013 which removed the lake. By June the lake was re-established.

A further explosive eruption followed on 20 August and again on 4,8 and11 October 2013. In November 2015 a large landslide slipped into the lake.

1975-2000:

White Island was in eruption from December 1975 to September 2000, the longest historic eruption episode. This eruption episode developed many collapse and explosion craters. For long periods active vents in these craters emitted volcanic ash. The last major eruption of this episode was in late July 2000 and covered the crater floor area in scoria, also displacing a crater lake and forming a new explosion crater 150 m across.