Report on Whakaari/White Island (New Zealand) — 22 October-28 October 2008
Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 22 October-28 October 2008
Managing Editor: Sally Kuhn Sennert
Please cite this report as:
Global Volcanism Program, 2008. Report on Whakaari/White Island (New Zealand). In: Sennert, S K (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 22 October-28 October 2008. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.
37.52°S, 177.18°E; summit elev. 294 m
All times are local (unless otherwise noted)
White Island's Crater Lake has continued to rise since December 2007, after being almost completely evaporated in late October 2007. By 23 October the lake was reported to have risen 15 m and was beginning to affect the geothermal features on the Main Crater floor. New springs formed on the floor and old springs flowed again. The lake temperature remained hot at 57 degrees Celsius and the color had changed to light green, reflecting a decrease in suspended sediment. High-temperature fumaroles (101-103 degrees Celsius) were located on the S side of the Main Crater floor. Steam, gas, and mud emissions had increased from the largest vent during the previous few weeks. The Alert Level remained at Level 1 (on a scale of 0-5), indicating signs of volcano unrest.
Geologic Background. The uninhabited Whakaari/White Island is the 2 x 2.4 km emergent summit of a 16 x 18 km submarine volcano in the Bay of Plenty about 50 km offshore of North Island. The island consists of two overlapping andesitic-to-dacitic stratovolcanoes. The SE side of the crater is open at sea level, with the recent activity centered about 1 km from the shore close to the rear crater wall. Volckner Rocks, sea stacks that are remnants of a lava dome, lie 5 km NW. Descriptions of volcanism since 1826 have included intermittent moderate phreatic, phreatomagmatic, and Strombolian eruptions; activity there also forms a prominent part of Maori legends. The formation of many new vents during the 19th and 20th centuries caused rapid changes in crater floor topography. Collapse of the crater wall in 1914 produced a debris avalanche that buried buildings and workers at a sulfur-mining project. Explosive activity in December 2019 took place while tourists were present, resulting in many fatalities. The official government name Whakaari/White Island is a combination of the full Maori name of Te Puia o Whakaari ("The Dramatic Volcano") and White Island (referencing the constant steam plume) given by Captain James Cook in 1769.