White Island - The Island

White Island lies in the Bay of Plenty, about 50km NE offshore Whakatane (North Island). The height above the sea floor is 760m, the height above sea-level is 321m. The island is an active volcano consisting of three cones. Only the youngest vent is active. It occupies most of the island and its crater containes very active fumaroles.

[1] Aerial view from the south

Picture [1] gives a good impression of the shape of White Island. It looks like a horseshoe with its opening to the south where the coast lies. The crater floor is only a few meters above sea level, and no one knows what would happen if sea water enters the crater.

Note the white boat (small white dot) which lies at anchorage at the point where freight ships used to anchor to load sulphur mined on the island.

The fumaroles discharge great quantities of steam which forms a cloud which is easy to spot from the mainland. The appearance of the cloud changes from day to day. Some days its barely visible, on other days it is of a pure white colour, and sometimes its dark and grey, ladden with ashes from an eruption.

Eruptions usually never last very long and ash seldom reaches the mainland. Before and after an eruption, the crater floor sometimes bulges and sinks. This has been noticed by the miners working on the island. Eruptions on the island are not connected to eruptions and earthquakes on the mainland.

[2] Aerial view from the north

On picture [2], a small forest can be seen growing on the outer slopes of the central crater. A similar forest on the other side of the island has been destroyed when a cloud of toxic gases swept over it during an eruption.

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