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Report on Whakaari/White Island (New Zealand) — August 2000

Whakaari/White Island

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 25, no. 8 (August 2000)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Whakaari/White Island (New Zealand) Ash-and-steam emissions accompanied by magmatic eruption

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2000. Report on Whakaari/White Island (New Zealand) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 25:8. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN200008-241040

Whakaari/White Island

New Zealand

37.52°S, 177.18°E; summit elev. 294 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

The Alert Level for White Island was set to Level 2 on 19 April 2000 after it began to emit significant quantities of ash (BGVN 25:04). Ash continued to be produced from the MH vent at irregular intervals, and from April to June the ash emission was accompanied by a moderate level of seismic activity, although there was little correlation between the seismic activity and the amount of ash or steam coming from the volcano (BGVN 25:05). Ash emission continued during June and July; a short-lived magmatic eruption accompanied by strong seismicity produced a new explosion crater on 27 July 2000 (BGVN 25:07).

After the 27 July event, ash emission occurred from both active vents. However the ash content of the plume declined significantly in late August-early September. Staff from IGNS visited White Island on 19 September to assess the volcano status and reported that the current vents of White Island have not emitted any ash recently. The MH vent continued to emit steam and gas, but within the range of the normal fumarolic activity. Based on these observations, the Alert Level was reduced to Level 1.

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: Brad Scott, and Tony Hurst, Wairakei Research Center, Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (IGNS), Private Bag 2000, Wairakei, New Zealand (URL: http://www.gns.cri.nz/).