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Tonga Volcanoes

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    Home Reef

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    West Mata

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    Curacoa

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    Unnamed

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    Home Reef

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    Home Reef

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    Fonuafo'ou

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    Curacoa

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    Home Reef

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    Lateiki

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    West Mata

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    Curacoa

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    Tofua

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    Unnamed

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    West Mata

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    Home Reef

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    Kao

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    Tofua

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    Lateiki

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    Unnamed

  • Current

Tonga has 21 Holocene volcanoes. Note that as a scientific organization we provide these listings for informational purposes only, with no international legal or policy implications. Volcanoes will be included on this list if they are within the boundaries of a country, on a shared boundary or area, in a remote territory, or within a maritime Exclusive Economic Zone. Bolded volcanoes have erupted within the past 20 years. Suggestions and data updates are always welcome ().

Volcano Name Location Last Eruption Primary Volcano Type
Curacoa Tonga Ridge 1979 CE Submarine
Dugong Northwest Lau Basin Unknown - Evidence Uncertain Submarine
Fonuafo'ou Tonga Ridge 1936 CE Submarine
Fonualei Tonga Ridge 1957 CE Stratovolcano
Home Reef Tonga Ridge 2006 CE Submarine
Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai Tonga Ridge 2022 CE Submarine
Kao Tonga Ridge 1847 CE Stratovolcano
Late Tonga Ridge 1854 CE Stratovolcano
Lateiki Tonga Ridge 2019 CE Submarine
Lobster Northwest Lau Basin Unknown - Evidence Uncertain Submarine
Niuafo'ou Tonga Ridge 1985 CE Shield
Niuatahi Northeast Lau Basin (Tonga) Unknown - Unrest / Holocene Caldera
Tafahi Tonga Ridge Unknown - Evidence Uncertain Stratovolcano
Tafu-Maka Northeast Lau Basin 2008 CE Submarine
Tofua Tonga Ridge 2022 CE Caldera
Unnamed Tonga Ridge Unknown - Unrest / Holocene Submarine
Unnamed Tonga Ridge Unknown - Evidence Credible Submarine
Unnamed Tonga Ridge 1932 CE Submarine
Unnamed Tonga Ridge 2017 CE Submarine
Unnamed Tonga Ridge 2019 CE Submarine
West Mata Lau Rear-Arc 2009 CE Submarine

Chronological listing of known Holocene eruptions (confirmed or uncertain) from volcanoes in Tonga. Bolded eruptions indicate continuing activity.

Volcano Name Start Date Stop Date Certainty VEI Evidence
Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai 2021 Dec 20 2022 Jan 15 Confirmed 5 Observations: Reported
Lateiki 2019 Oct 13 2019 Oct 22 Confirmed 1 Observations: Reported
Unnamed 2019 Aug 6 2019 Aug 8 Confirmed 3 Observations: Satellite (visual)
Unnamed 2017 Jan 23 2017 Jan 31 Confirmed 0 Observations: Reported
Tofua 2015 Oct 2 2022 Aug 10 (continuing) Confirmed 0 Observations: Reported
Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai 2014 Dec 19 2015 Jan 23 ± 3 days Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai 2009 Mar 17 (?) 2009 Mar 22 ± 1 days Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Tafu-Maka 2008 Nov 16 (?) ± 15 days 2008 Nov 16 (?) ± 15 days Confirmed 0 Observations: Reported
West Mata 2008 Nov 16 (in or before) ± 15 days 2009 May 16 (in or after) ± 15 days Confirmed 0 Observations: Reported
Home Reef 2006 Aug 7 2006 Aug 16 (?) Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Tofua 2004 Mar 19 2014 Oct 18 Confirmed 1 Observations: Reported
Unnamed 2001 Sep 27 2001 Sep 28 (?) Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Unnamed 1999 Jan 8 (in or before) 1999 Jan 14 (?) Confirmed 1 Observations: Reported
Lateiki 1995 Jun 6 1995 Jun 23 ± 2 days Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Tofua [1993 Apr 29] [Unknown] Uncertain  
Lateiki 1991 Jun 24 (in or before) Unknown Confirmed 0 Observations: Reported
Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai 1988 Jun 1 1988 Jun 3 (in or after) Confirmed 0 Observations: Reported
Niuafo'ou 1985 Mar 21 1985 Mar 22 Confirmed 0 Observations: Reported
Home Reef 1984 Mar 1 1984 Mar 5 Confirmed 3 Observations: Reported
Curacoa 1979 May 14 Unknown Confirmed 1 Observations: Reported
Lateiki 1979 May 10 (in or before) 1979 Jul 21 (in or after) Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Fonualei [1974 Feb 16] [Unknown] Uncertain  
Curacoa 1973 Jul 11 1973 Jul 16 Confirmed 3 Observations: Reported
Unnamed [1970 Jan 3] [1970 Jan 3] Uncertain  
Lateiki 1967 Dec 11 (in or before) 1968 Jan 4 ± 4 days Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Niuafo'ou [1959 Jul 2 ± 182 days] [Unknown] Uncertain  
Tofua 1958 Dec 31 ± 120 days 1960 Jul 2 (?) ± 182 days Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Fonualei 1957 Jun 16 ± 15 days Unknown Confirmed   Observations: Reported
Fonualei 1951 Aug 21 Unknown Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Niuafo'ou [1947 Jan] [Unknown] Uncertain  
Niuafo'ou 1946 Sep 9 1946 Sep 17 Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Niuafo'ou 1943 Sep 26 1943 Oct 16 ± 30 days Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Fonualei 1939 Jun Unknown Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai 1937 Unknown Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Fonuafo'ou 1936 Jun Unknown Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Niuafo'ou 1935 Dec 7 1936 Feb (?) Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Fonuafo'ou 1933 Apr Unknown Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Unnamed 1932 Dec 1 ± 30 days Unknown Confirmed 0 Observations: Reported
Niuafo'ou 1929 Jul 25 1929 Jul 26 Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Fonuafo'ou 1927 Oct 4 1928 Sep (in or after) Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Unnamed 1923 Jul 1 Unknown Confirmed 0 Observations: Reported
Fonuafo'ou [1921 Nov] [Unknown] Uncertain  
Niuafo'ou 1912 Oct 15 ± 5 days Unknown Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai 1912 Apr 29 Unknown Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Unnamed 1911 Aug Unknown Confirmed 0 Observations: Reported
Unnamed 1907 Jul Unknown Confirmed 0 Observations: Reported
Tofua 1906 Dec Unknown Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Fonualei 1906 Mar Unknown Confirmed   Observations: Reported
Tofua 1906 Jan 1906 Feb Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Fonuafo'ou [1894 Dec] [Unknown] Uncertain  
Lateiki [1894 (in or before)] [Unknown] Uncertain  
Niuafo'ou 1887 Unknown Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Niuafo'ou 1886 Aug 31 1886 Sep 18 (?) Confirmed 4 Observations: Reported
Lateiki 1886 Unknown Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Fonuafo'ou 1885 Oct 12 (?) 1886 Confirmed 3 Observations: Reported
Tofua 1885 Oct (in or before) Unknown Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Lateiki 1878 Apr (in or before) Unknown Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Fonuafo'ou 1877 Unknown Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Niuafo'ou 1867 Apr 12 Unknown Confirmed 1 Observations: Reported
Fonuafo'ou [1865] [Unknown] Uncertain  
Lateiki 1858 Unknown Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Home Reef [1857] [Unknown] Uncertain  
Late 1854 Unknown Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Tofua 1854 Unknown Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Niuafo'ou 1853 Jun 24 1853 Jun 24 (?) Confirmed 0 Observations: Reported
Home Reef 1852 Unknown Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Lateiki [1852] [Unknown] Uncertain  
Lateiki 1851 Unknown Confirmed 0 Observations: Reported
Kao 1847 Jul 10 (in or before) Unknown Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Tofua 1847 Jul 10 (in or before) Unknown Confirmed 1 Observations: Reported
Fonualei 1846 Jun 11 (?) 1846 Oct 10 (in or after) Confirmed 4 Observations: Reported
Tofua 1845 Jul 1 ± 60 days Unknown Confirmed   Observations: Reported
Niuafo'ou 1814 Unknown Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Tofua 1792 Unknown Confirmed 0 Observations: Reported
Fonualei 1791 Unknown Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Late 1790 Unknown Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Lateiki 1781 (in or before) Unknown Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Fonuafo'ou [1781] [Unknown] Uncertain  
Fonualei [1780 (in or before)] [Unknown] Uncertain  
Tofua 1774 Jun Unknown Confirmed 2 Observations: Reported
Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai 1110 ± 70 years Unknown Confirmed   Isotopic: 14C (calibrated)

There are 20 photos available for volcanoes in Tonga.

A bathymetric map prepared during a NOAA Vents Program expedition in November 2008 shows two submarine volcanoes, Tafu (Tongan for "source of fire") and Maka (Tongan for "rock"). The volcanoes lie along a NE-SW-trending ridge on the southern part of the back-arc NE Lau Spreading Center (NELSC). The November 2008 expedition discovered submarine hydrothermal plumes consistent with recent (maybe days to weeks) submarine lava effusion from Maka volcano.

Courtesy of NOAA Vents Program, 2008.
Waves break over Metis Shoal on 19 February 1968, more than a month after the end of a submarine eruption that began in December 1967 and produced an ephemeral island. Metis Shoal has produced a series of small islands during eruptions observed since the mid-19th century. An eruption in 1995 produced a lava dome that built up to 43 m above sea level.

Photo by Charles Lundquist, 1968 (Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory).
An aerial photo of Late taken in July 1990 shows the main summit crater breached to the SE and a NE graben occupied by large pit craters, the largest of which contains a saltwater lake. Except for remnants of a small lava plug in the summit crater, no fresh lava flows are present. The small, 6-km-wide island rises 1,500 m from the sea floor, with its conical summit reaching more than 500 m above sea level.

Aerial photo by Tonga Ministry of Lands, Survey, and Natural Resources, 1990 (published in Taylor and Ewart, 1997).
Seen from the NE, Fonualei volcano is a small, less than 2-km-wide island that contains active fumaroles in the crater, which is breached to the SW with a fresh lava flow extending to the sea and forming a rugged shoreline. Blocky lava flows from a central cone have reached the sea through notches in the caldera rim. Eruptions have been recorded since 1791.

Photo by Paul Taylor (published in Taylor and Ewart, 1997).
A partially eroded pumice cone formed during an eruption that began on 7 August 2006 is seen from the N on 18 December. By the end of the year, wave erosion had destroyed the cone. Floating dacite pumice from this eruption traveled as far as Australia. Home Reef, a submarine volcano midway between Metis Shoal and Late Island in the central Tonga islands, was first reported active in the mid-19th century, when an ephemeral island formed.

Photo courtesy of Royal New Zealand Air Force and Institute of Geological & Nuclear Sciences, 2006.
A small plume rises from Lofia cone on the N side of the caldera lake of Tofua volcano in this 1990 aerial photograph. Recent tephra was emplaced onto the caldera rim to the NW. The steep walls of the 5-km-wide caldera are about 500 m high. Three post-caldera cones were constructed at the N end of a cold fresh-water caldera lake, whose surface lies only 30 m above sea level.

Aerial photo by Tonga Ministry of Lands, Survey, and Natural Resources, 1990 (published in Taylor and Ewart, 1997).
Incandescence and a plume at the Hades vent of West Mata in May 2009, a submarine volcano with a summit more than 1,000 m below the ocean surface. The volcano is located in the northeastern Lau Basin at the northern end of the Tonga arc, about 200 km SW of Samoa. It was discovered during a November 2008 NOAA Vents Program expedition, when West Mata was observed producing submarine hydrothermal plumes consistent with recent or ongoing lava effusion. A return visit in May 2009 documented explosive and effusive activity.

Courtesy of NSF and NOAA Ocean Exploration Program, 2009.
An eruption plumes rises from the Prometheus vent at West Mata submarine volcano summit in May 2009. A November 2008 NOAA Vents Program expedition to the Lau Basin had discovered hydrothermal plumes from an actively erupting site on the summit of West Mata volcano. During a return trip in May 2009 explosive and effusive activity was observed from Hades, a vent on the SW flank, and explosive activity ejecting ash and bombs was seen from a scoria cone at the Prometheus vent.

Courtesy of NSF and NOAA Ocean Exploration Program, 2009.
A raft of floating pumice from a July 1973 submarine eruption behind the wake of a ship. This was the first report of an eruption from the Curacoa submarine volcano in the northern Tonga Islands. The pumice raft covered an area of more than 100 km2 and was encountered by a ship 200 km to the W nearly two weeks after the start of the eruption. Another eruption was observed in the same general area in 1979.

Photo by the crew of the vessel "Port Nicholson," 1973 (courtesy of Tom Simkin, Smithsonian Institution).
A plume and discolored water from a submarine eruption were observed in January 1999. This unnamed submarine volcano, 35 km NW of the Niu Aunofo lighthouse on Tongatapu Island, was constructed at the southern end of a submarine ridge segment of the Tofua volcanic arc extending NNE to Falcon Island. The first documented eruptions took place in 1911 and 1923. An ephemeral island was formed during this eruption in 1999; prior to this the summit was 13 m beneath the sea surface.

Photo by B. Hutchins, 1999 (published in Taylor, 1999).
The small 1.2 x 2.8 km wide island of Tafahi is a conical stratovolcano that rises more than 500 m out of the ocean about 7 km N of Niuatoputapu. No historical eruptions have been reported, but its youthful morphology suggests recent activity.

Photo by Paul Taylor (published in Taylor and Ewart, 1997).
Plumes rise above a new island being built by the eruption at Home Reef as seen from the east about 2.8 km away on 12 August 2006. The island at this time was ~1.5 km in diameter. The eruption began on 7 August and lasted until about the 16th. Widespread pumice rafts reached Fiji and as far as Australia.

Photo by Fredrik Fransson, 2006.
A NOAA Vents Program bathymetric map shows West Mata volcano that rises about 1,500 m from the sea floor at the N end of the Tonga arc. Submarine eruptions were detected in 2008 and 2009 from two vents. The lower flanks of East Mata volcano are visible at the middle right.

Courtesy of NSF and NOAA Ocean Exploration Program, 2009.
Young curtain lava flow draped and folded over the landscape originated from the Puipui eruption of Maka volcano along the NE Lau Spreading Center, as photographed during a 2009 NOAA Vents Program expedition. A previous expedition documented submarine hydrothermal plumes from Maka volcano on 21 November 2008. The chemistry of water samples suggested that these fluids could be warmed by a recent (days or weeks?) eruption of lava onto the seafloor. A return visit in May 2009 showed fresh lava flows, but without gas emission.

Courtesy of NSF and NOAA Ocean Exploration Program, 2009.
Niuafo'ou is a low, 8-km-wide ring-shaped island that forms the summit of a largely submerged shield volcano. The 5-km-wide caldera is seen here from its eastern rim, displaying caldera lakes, the large Vai Lahi (background), and the much smaller Vai Si'i (foreground). The caldera is mostly filled by Vai Lahi with a lake bottom that extends to below sea level. Historical eruptions recorded since 1814 have often damaged villages on the island.

Photo by Paul Taylor (published in Taylor and Ewart, 1997).
The active crater of Fonuafo'ou (formerly known as Falcon Island) through the SE breach and a plume that is dispersed to the NW by dominant SE Trade Winds. The ephemeral island in the central part of the Tonga Islands had been named after the British vessel H.M.S. Falcon, which reported the shoal in 1865. This volcano has been the site of eruptions on at least two occasions since the 19th century. By 1949 the island had eroded beneath sea level, but the summit of the volcano remains at shallow depths.

Photo by A. Thompson (published in Taylor and Ewart, 1997).
Floating pumice partially fills North Bay along the southern coast of Kadavu, Fiji, on 30 September 2006. This photo was taken about seven weeks after a submarine eruption began on 7 August at Home Reef, in the Tonga Islands. Wide tracks of floating pumice extended across the SW Pacific, and by March and April of 2007 had washed up along a 1,300-km-long stretch of the eastern Australian coast.

Photo by Roger Matthews, 2006 (published in GVN Bulletin).
The small islands of Hunga Tonga (upper right) and Hunga Ha'apai (left) are the peaks a large seamount located about 30 km SSE of Falcon Island. The two islands are about 2 km long. They have inward-facing cliffs that represent the W and N remnants of the rim of a largely-submarine caldera lying E and S of the islands. A shoal is visible 3.2 km SE of Hunga Ha'apai and 3 km south of Hunga Tonga and marks the most prominent historically active vent.

Aerial photo by Tonga Ministry of Lands, Survey, and Natural Resources, 1991 (published in Taylor and Ewart, 1997).
Clouds almost entirely obscure the small island of Kao (lower-center) in this NASA International Space Station image, and a circular cloud pattern rises above the caldera rim of the larger island of Tofua (left-center). No historical eruptions are known from Kao, and fresh-appearing lava flows are not seen, although the absence of sufficient time for erosion to produce deep gullies or high sea cliffs suggests a very recent origin.

NASA International Space Station image ISS008-E-14026, 2004 (http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/).
An eruption of Home Reef in the Tonga Islands in March 1984 produced an island with an estimated size of 500 x 1,500 m and a height of 30-50 m. A plume to 12 km height was reported during the 1-5 March eruption and large amounts of floating pumice were later encountered by passing ships. This photo, taken on 23 March 1984, shows water discoloration surrounding the ephemeral island.

Photo by P.J.R. Shepherd (Royal New Zealand Air Force; courtesy of John Latter, DSIR, published in SEAN Bull., 1984).

This is a compilation of Tonga volcano information sources, such as official monitoring or other government agencies.

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