In Māori tara means mountain peak and naki is thought to come from ngaki meaning shining - referring to the mountain’s winter snow cover.
For a one page fact sheet / poster on Mount Taranaki volcano click VolcanoFactSheets Taranaki.pdf (536.34 kB) .
This classically shaped symmetrical peak stands in isolation to the west of the Central North Island volcanoes. At 2,518 metres high, it is the second highest peak in the North Island after Ruapehu, and is New Zealand’s largest mainland volcanic cone by volume.
It is a stratovolcano (also called a composite cone volcano) made of layers of mostly andesite lava flows and pyroclastic deposits (tephra). The summit crater is filled with ice and snow and has a lava dome in the centre. There is a secondary cone called Fantham’s Peak on the south side. Volcanic debris from lahars and landslides covers the plains around the volcano. Past huge landslides have reached as far as 40km from the cone, with lava reaching 7 km and pyroclastic flows 15 km from the vent. Volcanic ash has been weathered and mixed with the soil to produce rich, fertile farmland.
Taranaki is the youngest, largest and only active volcano in a chain that includes the Kaitake and Pouakai Ranges, Paritutu and the Sugar Loaves. All these are now eroded remains of what were once large volcanoes.
Taranaki began erupting about 130,000 years ago, with large eruptions occurring on average every 500 years and smaller eruptions about 90 years apart. An explosive medium sized ash eruption occurred around 1755AD and minor volcanic events (creation of a lava dome in the crater and its collapse) occurred in the 1800’s. The last major eruption was around 1655 AD.
At present the mountain is considered to be a “sleeping” active volcano that is likely to erupt again. There are significant potential hazards from lahars, debris avalanches, and floods.
GNS Science is monitoring Taranaki with a web camera and 9 seismographs.