Whakaari/White Island

Whakaari/White Island

Infobox Mountain
Name= Whakaari/White Island
Caption=Main vent of Whakaari/White Island in 2000.
Elevation= Convert|321|m|ft|0|abbr=on
Location=Bay of Plenty, North Island, New Zealand
Prominence = Convert|321|m|ft|0|abbr=on
Coordinates = coord|37|31|S|177|11|E|

Volcanic_Arc/Belt=Taupo Volcanic Zone
Last eruption= 2001 [cite web|url=http://www.volcano.si.edu/world/volcano.cfm?vnum=0401-04=&volpage=erupt|title=White Island - Eruptive History|work=Global Volcanism Program| publisher = Smithsonian Institution|accessdate=2007-10-07]
First ascent=
Easiest route=
:"Whakaari/White Island is one of two New Zealand islands known as White Island. For other islands of this name, see White Island"

Whakaari/White Island is an active andesite stratovolcano, situated 48 km from the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand, in the Bay of Plenty. The nearest mainland towns are Whakatane and Tauranga.

The island is the largest of the four islands in the Olive island chain. It is roughly circular, about two km in diameter, and rises to a height of 321 m above sea level. However this is only the peak of a much larger submarine mountain, which rises up to 1600 m above the nearby seafloor.

Sulphur mining was attempted but was abandoned in 1914 after a lahar killed all 10 workers. The main activities on the island now are guided tours and scientific research.


Whakaari's eruptions have produced both lava flows and explosive eruptions of ash. It is New Zealand's only active marine volcano and perhaps the most accessible on earth, attracting scientists and volcanologists worldwide as well as many tourists. It marks the northern end of the Taupo Volcanic Zone.

Volcanologists from the [http://www.geonet.org.nz GeoNet Project] continually monitor the volcano’s activity via surveillance cameras. Survey pegs, magnetometers and seismograph equipment for early earthquake warnings via radio have also been installed on the crater walls. The island is usually on an alert level rating of 1 or 2 on a scale of 1–5. At most times the volcanic activity is limited to steaming fumaroles and boiling mud. In March 2000, three small vents appeared in the main crater and began belching ash which covered the island in fine grey powder. An eruption on July 27, 2000 blanketed the island with mud and scoria and a new crater appeared. Major eruptions in 1981–83 altered much of the island’s landscape and decimated the extensive pōhutukawa forest. The large crater created at that time now contains a lake, whose level varies substantially.


The full Māori name for the island is 'Te Puia o Whakaari', meaning 'The Dramatic Volcano.' It was named 'White Island' by Captain Cook on October 1, 1769 because it always appeared to be in a cloud of white steam. Although Cook went close to the island he failed to notice that it was a volcano. Its official name is Whakaari/White Island although it is most well-known as White Island.

Attempts were made in the mid 1880s, 1898-1901 and 1913-1914 to mine sulphur from Whakaari but the last of these came to a halt in September 1914, when part of the western crater rim collapsed, creating a lahar which killed all 10 workers. [Boon, Kevin. [http://homepages.ihug.co.nz/~glaive/nz/pages/white.htm "The 1914 White Island eruption"] . URL accessed 2007-12-04. (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/5TqkjKdYS)] They disappeared without trace, and only the camp cat (named Peter the Great) survived. [Sarah Lowe and Kim Westerskov (1993). "Steam and brimstone", New Zealand Geographic 17, 82-106.] Some years later in 1923 mining was again attempted, but learning from the 1914 disaster, the miners built their huts on a flat part of the island near a gannet colony. Each day they would lower their boat into the sea from a gantry, and row around to the mining factory wharf in Crater Bay. If the sea was rough they had to clamber around the rocks on a very narrow track on the crater’s edge. Before the days of antibiotics, sulphur was used in medicines as an antibacterial agent, in the making of match heads, and for sterilising wine corks. The miner’s diggings were handled in small rail trucks to the crushing and bagging process in the factory built on the island. Unfortunately, there was not enough sulphur at Whakaari and so the ground up rock was used as a component of agricultural fertiliser. Eventually the mining ended in the 1930s because of the poor mineral content in the fertiliser. The remains of the buildings can still be seen, much corroded by the sulphuric gasses.


Whakaari is privately owned and was declared a private scenic reserve in 1953 and is subject to the provision of the Reserves Act 1977. Visitors cannot land without permission or remove or disturb any wildlife and must leave only their footprints. However, it is easily accessible by [http://www.wi.co.nz/tour.htm authorised tourist operators] .Weather permitting, a luxury motor launch leaves Whakatane daily for a six-hour day trip. Helicopter trips are also available from Rotorua and Whakatane.

The waters surrounding White Island are well known for their fishing. Yellowtail kingfish abound all year round, and there is deep water fishing for hapuka and bluenose (type of warehou) in the winter and blue, black and striped marlin and yellowfin tuna in the summer. A small charter fleet offering day trips and overnight or longer trips operates from the nearby port at Whakatane.


In May 2004 a Dino figurine was glued to a rock in front of the Geonet volcano camera on the island. Geonet decided not to have it removed, assuming it was a plastic toy and would not survive long in the corrosive environment. [ABC News Online. [http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2004/05/23/1113950.htm Volcanologists spy pink 'dinosaur' on remote webcam] . Accessed 2007-12-04. (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/5TqlCycX5)] As of August 2008, the figurine is still present and did not appear visibly degraded. [ [http://www.geonet.org.nz/images/volcano/volcams/whiteisland/whiteis.jpgWhite Island volcano camera] , Geonet. Accessed 2008-01-31.] Most likely the figurine is made out of porcelain [www.goantiques.com [http://www.goantiques.com/detail,beswick-figure-dino,784262.html Beswick Figure 'DINO'] . Accessed 2008-08-24.] and as such would not be affected by any corrosive gasses.


* [http://www.gns.cri.nz/what/earthact/volcanoes/nzvolcanoes/whiteisprint.htm Volcanic Hazards at White Island]
* [http://volcano.und.nodak.edu/vwdocs/volc_images/img_white_island.html Volcano World: White Island]

ee also

* Volcanoes in New Zealand

External links

* [http://www.geonet.org.nz/whiteisland.html White Island crater volcano camera]
* [http://www.wi.co.nz/ White Island trust]
* [http://www.wi.co.nz/tour.htm Tourist Operators]

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