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Report on Whakaari/White Island (New Zealand) — September 1994

Whakaari/White Island

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 19, no. 9 (September 1994)
Managing Editor: Edward Venzke.

Whakaari/White Island (New Zealand) Small eruption in late July ejects mud and blocks

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1994. Report on Whakaari/White Island (New Zealand) (Venzke, E., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 19:9. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199409-241040

Whakaari/White Island

New Zealand

37.52°S, 177.18°E; summit elev. 294 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

A small eruption from Wade Crater on 28 July ejected mud and ballistic blocks. During a visit on 17 August, the floor of Princess Crater was occupied by a small green pond larger than on 28 June. The view of Wade Crater was restricted for most of the visit, but the gray lake was still present, and a small bench had formed on the E side of the lake. A mudflow deposit S of Wade Crater extended from the talus slope beneath the crater rim for 20-30 m towards The Sag. The deposit was ~20 cm thick, composed of fine mud with some small pebbles, and had a slightly yellow surface with a gray interior. The same deposit was seen on the divide between Wade and Princess craters, but thinned rapidly to the N, and disappeared before reaching TV1 Crater. Recent bombs and impact craters were observed SE of, but not within, the mudflow deposit. Additional bombs and impact craters were present N of TV1 Crater. The mud and block material was probably erupted at the same time from the lake bed of Wade Crater; the mud component was then remobilized and flowed down the talus slope. The blocks N of TV1 are assumed to be associated with the same eruption that formed the mudflow.

Leveling data showed a continuation of the uplift observed during January-June 1994. Total uplift at Peg M was 35 mm since January 1994. The uplift center was >100 m S of Donald Mound, although an area of relative subsidence persisted in the Donald Duck-TV1 Crater area to the N. Crater-wide inflation centered S of Donald Mound was clearly established. Inflation was also occurring N of Donald Mound, previously the most rapidly deflating area, but at a slower rate. The situation in mid-August was a significant reversal of the strong deflationary trend from 1987 to late 1993. These inflationary trends can be modelled as a doublet with a deep (500 m) source and a secondary shallow (200 m) source beneath Donald Mound, similar to the results observed in 1973-74 before the 1976-82 eruption. Volcanic seismicity continued at low levels during July-August compared to the April-June period, although volcanic tremor increased in late August.

Geological Summary. 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.

Information Contacts: S. Sherburn, IGNS, Wairakei.