White Island Volcano - John Seach


Bay of Plenty, New Zealand

37.52 S, 177.78 E
summit elevation 321 m

White Island is currently the most active volcano in New Zealand. It is located 48 km offshore in the Bay of Plenty at the northeastern extremity of Taupo Volcanic Zone. White Island is unusual because its active subaerial vent is located below sea level.

White Island Volcano photos by John Seach

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White Island, New Zealand 2011

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John Seach at White Island volcano 2010

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White Island volcano vent. Newly formed a few weeks earlier

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John Seach with Japanese film crew at summit of White Island 2011

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White Island volcano, New Zealand

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White Island volcano

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Landing at White Island volcano

White Island volcano
White Island crater lake - John Seach

White Island consists of an older eroded western cone, and a younger central cone that forms most of the island. The volcano rises 700 m from the sea floor.

The volcano has a history of frequent small phreatic and phreatomagmatic eruptions,
interrupting long intervals of continuous intense, fumarolic and hydrothermal activity. Historically active vents are located in the western subcrater and the western half of the central subcrater. Fumaroles and hot springs discharge on the floor of the main crater, and represent the subaerial expression of a long-lived acidic hydrothermal system related to the deeper magmatic system of the volcano.

The floor of the main crater is covered by a debris avalanche deposit, with a hummocky topography which formed by crater wall collapse in
September 1914, blocking a long-established vent system in the western subcrater.

Gases are continually emitted from the craters and fumaroles on White Island and pose a hazard to visitors to the volcano. Sulphur mining occurred at the island until 1914 when a crater collapse created a lahar which killed 10 workers.

2013 Activity
Hydrothermal activity was reported at a small hot lake at White Island volcano. The activity increased since late 2012 and became semi-continuous by 21st January 2013. It was the strongest activity at the volcano for years. Elevated levels of volcanic tremor were recorded.

A change in activity occurred at White Island volcano on 29th January 2013. The crater lake began drying out and small explosions of rock occurred from an area near the crater lake. Intermittent tremor was recorded.

A small eruption occurred at White Island volcano on 20th August 2013. The eruption lasted 10 minutes and sent a plume to an altitude of 4000 m. The eruption occurred in a area of recent bubbling mud. The eruption was preceded by a short period of intense volcanic tremor the previous day. 

2012 Lava dome
On 12th December 2012 the alert at White Island volcano, New Zealand was raised to level 2 after a 20-30 m wide spiny lava dome was observed in a small crater. Tour operators on the island had noticed the lava dome for about 2 weeks. The dome possibly started forming after the August 2012 ash eruption. This is the first time a lava dome has been observed at White Island volcano.

2012 Eruption
A small eruption occurred at White Island volcano at 04:55 am on 6th August 2012. The eruption occurred at the crater lake and was preceded by strong volcanic tremor on 4-5 August. The crater lake had gradually emptied during 2011 and 2012, and the water level rose rapidly 3-5 m on 27-28 July 2012.

2008 update
White Island's Crater Lake has continued to rise since December 2007, after being almost completely evaporated in late October 2007. By 23rd October 2008 the lake had risen by 15 m. New springs formed on the floor and old springs flowed again. Steam, gas, and mud emissions increased from the largest vent during October 2008.

1976-1982 Eruptions
The eruption sequence was the longest and largest historical event at the volcano. The eruptions consisted of seven phases of alternating phreatomagmatic and Strombolian explosions.

White Island Volcano Eruptions

2012-13, 2001, 1998-2000, 1998, 1995, 1986-94, 1983-84, 1976-82, 1974, 1971, 1971, 1970, 1969, 1968-69, 1966-67, 1962, 1959, 1958, 1957, 1955, 1947, 1933, 1930, 1928, 1926, 1924, 1922, 1909, 1908?, 1886?,1886, 1885?, 1885, 1856?, 1836, 1826.