Report on Whakaari/White Island (New Zealand) — January 1978
Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 3, no. 1 (January 1978)
Managing Editor: David Squires.
Whakaari/White Island (New Zealand) 19 January overflight shows mild steaming
Please cite this report as:
Global Volcanism Program, 1978. Report on Whakaari/White Island (New Zealand) (Squires, D., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 3:1. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN197801-241040.
37.52°S, 177.18°E; summit elev. 294 m
All times are local (unless otherwise noted)
White Island was inspected from the air on 19 January, the first observation since 20 November. No significant activity had been reported during the intervening period.
A 600-m column of weakly convoluting white steam was continuously emitted from Christmas Crater during the 20-minute overflight. A yellow-green pond, first noted in November, had grown to occupy much of the central floor of Christmas Crater, but was not steaming or otherwise active. Strong steaming continued from the new vent in the NW wall of Christmas Crater and from older fumaroles within the large main crater.
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.
Information Contacts: I. Nairn, NZGS, Rotorua.