Tag Archives: white island

White Island – Part 3

We turned back from the crater to walk back to the beach. The blue sky and sea made a dramatic contrast to the crater.

Day trip to White Island

Day trip to White Island

Near the beach, we visited the remnants of the old sulphur mine. At the turn of the 20th Century, some very hardy souls tried to mine the deposits of yellow sulphur. Sulphur was used in medicines, as sterilisation, in match heads, and in fertiliser, so they thought there was a buck to be made.

Day trip to White Island

Day trip to White Island

Living on a volcano had its downsides. Food and water had to be brought to the island, however since the Bay of Plenty was frequently rough, supplies weren’t guaranteed. The air quality (as we found out) wasn’t great, and the sulphuric acid ate away at everything. But most crucially, a hundred years ago they didn’t have seismic monitoring and so when part of the rim collapsed in 1914 creating a lahar (a mudflow made up of volcanic material and water) the 10 workers on the island didn’t have a hope. The only survivor was the camp cat, Peter, which was found a few days later. He was appropriately renamed ‘Peter the Great’ and became a local celebrity.

Day trip to White Island

Day trip to White Island

They had another go at mining a few years later, but the amount and quality of sulphur wasn’t great and so mining was abandoned; the buildings and equipment left to corrode in the sulphuric fumes.

Day trip to White Island

We returned to the boat, and on the way back to Whakatane passed by a New Zealand fur seal colony nearby. At least these guys can get away quick smart if the volcano gets twitchy.

Day trip to White Island

The boat sped off back to land, and soon the volcano was once again steaming away in the distance. This was one adventure we won’t forget in a hurry.

Day trip to White Island

White Island – Part 2

We left the relative comfort of the boat and stepped on to a moonscape. This was the earth at its most raw, how it must have looked when it was first born.

Day trip to White Island

Day trip to White Island

Day trip to White Island

All around us were piles of rocks (some of startling hues due to its mineral content), steaming vents, and bubbling mud pools. We were given gas masks as the sulphire dioxide (that stinky egg smell) was sometimes overpowering. We really had to follow our guides carefully as none of us wanted to drown in a pool of hot acid.

Day trip to White Island

Day trip to White Island

Day trip to White Island

The most impressive site was the steaming vent, or series of vents. Even though the steam was caused by seawater pouring into the hot crater and something more noxious, it was still frightening. It was like peering into the depths of hell.

Day trip to White Island

Day trip to White Island

White Island – Part 1

Our visit to White Island was certainly the highlight of the tour. White Island is an active volcano 50km off the coast, in the middle of the Bay of Plenty. There’s not that many places on earth where you can step into the crater of a live volcano so everyone on the tour was excited.

It was an early, pre-dawn start, with breakfast at 5.15am so we could reach the Bay of Plenty town of Whakatane, our departure point. The sun was just rising when the boat passed the sandbar.

Day trip to White Island

Day trip to White Island

The coast was soon behind us as we cruised into the middle of the bay.

Day trip to White Island

Day trip to White Island

It was a bit chilly on deck, but being very prone to seasickness, I’d rather be there than indoors. Luckily the weather was good and the water was quite calm.

Day trip to White Island

We first caught sight of the island about an hour or so into the journey. And the volcano was steaming!

Day trip to White Island

Day trip to White Island

Day trip to White Island

We arrived at the hour-and-a-half mark. With some trepidation, we boarded the rubber zodiacs and approached the island.

Day trip to White Island

What did we find?