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White Island Volcano

Today we set out for a tour of New Zealand’s most active volcano – White Island. A secluded island 48km off shore, the 1.5 hour boat ride through the Bay of Plenty was a wet and wide ride as the captain steered through the swells.

Steaming mysterious White Island

Pools of dolphins chased the boat’s wake, allowing us to catch a glimpse of them gliding through the water. I really wish I could have jumped in with them!


As we approached the island, the white steam pouring from the main crater creating a mysterious atmosphere. We moored the boat inside a small cove, and shuttled people by zodiac to shore. With our hardhats and gas masks on, we set out to explore the active volcano with our lovely guide Chantelle.

Steaming crater lake in the distance
Exploring the White Island Volcano

As we walked along the crater floor, it felt like we were walking on an alien planet (or what I assume it looks like) There were bubbling mud pits, roaring fumaroles and steaming geysers releasing the pressure built up under the volcano. Piles of ash from past eruptions (most recently in October!) splattered the terrain.

Boiling mud pools

The yellow sulphur could be seen throughout the island, and because it was such a beautiful day, the colors of the mountains stood out against the contrast of the blue sky.

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Beautiful colorful crater floor

As we approached the large center crater, the gases intensified, requiring our gas masks to be worn in order to keep from choking on the sulphuric gases. You could see a glimpse of the crater lake below as the steam subsided – it was a bright green color – but we were told it’s been many colors over the years from reds, to blues and greens.

Steaming crater lake

Despite our guide just finishing explaining the severely acidic crater lake (60x more acidic than battery acid), she told us we could taste the water from the two streams on the island. A bit hesitant, we tried it and were surprised to find one tasted a bit salty/sulphury, while the other had a lemony/vinegar taste! As she said, we paid for a unique volcano experience, so this was a chance to taste it ourselves!

One of the crater rivers

Making our way back towards the water, we learned about the history of the island and of the sulphur mine that was here for 30 years back in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. The workers lived on the island for months at a time, mining the sulphur in some pretty harsh conditions. After the deadly eruption in 1914 that killed 10 workers (leaving no survivors), the workers quarters were moved to another part of the island, but by the 1930’s production was halted. Remnants still scatter the island giving it a very haunting feeling.

Remnants of the sulphur mines

Back at the boat they gave us a light lunch and had an opportunity to swim off the boat. Jordan quickly jumped at the opportunity and leaped into the sulphur-laced water to cool down.

Jordan enjoying a swim

The ride back was pretty rough, with a few moments I felt we were very close to tipping over, but most people, exhausted after the 5 hour trip so far, took a nap and slept pretty much the entire ride back (Jordan and I included). A great way to end our Christmas holiday!

Jordan catching some zzz’s after a long day

 

Check out Episode 25 – White Island 

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