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Report on Whakaari/White Island (New Zealand) — June 1977

Whakaari/White Island

Natural Science Event Bulletin, vol. 2, no. 6 (June 1977)
Managing Editor: David Squires.

Whakaari/White Island (New Zealand) New ash deposits

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1977. Report on Whakaari/White Island (New Zealand) (Squires, D., ed.). Natural Science Event Bulletin, 2:6. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.NSEB197706-241040

Whakaari/White Island

New Zealand

37.52°S, 177.18°E; summit elev. 294 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Another aerial inspection on 24 May revealed two new ash deposits: the E half of the island was covered by gray-green ash erupted about 10 May, and the main crater contained red-pink ash that had fallen during the night 23-24 May. Steam was being emitted at low velocity from Christmas Crater. On another overflight 1 June, Christmas Crater was emitting a steam column containing some ash which rose slowly to 1,100 m, interspersed with occasional higher velocity ash pulses. Some ash adhered to the aircraft, for the first time since 28 March. No new large ejecta were observed during either inspection.

Observers in Whakatane (~55 km from White Island) reported eruption clouds during the early morning of 28 May and at 0627 on 1 June. An earthquake was felt in the Bay of Plenty at 0653 on 1 June.

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: NZGS, Rotorua.