About Whakaari/White Island

Whakaari/White Island is New Zealand’s most continuously active and largest volcano by volume. It is an uninhabited island about 2 km in diameter and 48 km from the coast of the Bay of Plenty. It marks the northern end of the Taupo Volcanic Zone.

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Although 70% of the cone is under the sea, the highest point reaches 321m altitude. Most of the island is occupied by the Main Crater, with the crater floor being less than 30m above sea level.

Whakaari/White Island has been active for at least 150,000 years, It is a stratovolcano, (composite cone volcano) made of layers of andesite lava flows and pyroclastic deposits (tephra). Since human settlement in New Zealand there has been continual low level activity and small eruptions.

Past events
From 1975 until 2001 there were frequent small eruptions making this the island’s most active period in hundreds of years. Ash and gas plumes rose as high as 10km, lava bombs and blocks were thrown into the sea and occasionally the glow of red hot rock was visible at night from the Bay of Plenty coast.

A new eruptive episode started in 2012. This produced ash explosions in August 2012, followed by the growth of a lava dome Sept-Dec. Sulphur and steam eruptions followed in Feb-April 2013. Larger explosive eruptions ocuured in August and Oct 2013. In April 2016 a moderate eruption impacting the whole of the Main Crater floor occurred, and was followed by ash emissions in September.

A fatal explosive eruption occurred in Dec 2019.