Volcano on White Island – Wednesday 1st February 2012


Today was awesome!
Oh! This is so difficult!
Since October, last year, I have been writing about amazing scenes, exciting days, and things that made me go ‘wow! I love it!’. So how am I going to tell you about today!
Well, it is up there with my top 10 of everything we’ve ever done.
It’s as wow as the whales in Sydney and (though I was not blogging then) the Grand Canyon or the Victoria Falls.
And it is to the credit of Anne-Marie and Michael who host the Arista of Rotorua that we went. Thank you guys!

John has always wanted to see a live volcano up close. For me, it was whales: for him, volcanoes!

Our friend in Melbourne told us that White Island was stunning and well worth the trip. But the debate was over how to get there: helicopter or boat?
Partly it was a question of money. The boat being about one quarter the price of flying; not just money, but value! In a boat you’d see dolphins and take all day. The helicopter only takes three hours.
The boat means an early pick-up, a coach ride and possible sea sickness if it’s rough. Travel Advisor reports feature sea sickness as part of their reflections on going by boat, because it is a long way out to sea. The helicopter, however, flies out direct form Rotarua but it is VERY small and carries other risks: like plunging into the sea from a great height.

Well, you’ve guessed by now, we went by helicopter.

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We arrived at the Lake before 8 am and witnessed the clear grey of post dawn. It was eerily silent and the helicopter was not actually there. We were very pleased to see it fly in as by this time we were sitting on the closed office steps of Volcanic Air Safaris, wondering what was happening. However, we loved watching the crowd of sleeping brown ducks bobbing on the water.

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Once airborne the journey was fantastic. The lush green forest, the aerial view of the logging company at work, the coast, the simple blue of the sea and sky melding together, and finally the island, itself, looming before us.

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First we sweep over the island and it’s volcanic heart. White Island is one of our younger volcanoes and erupts with some force every 11-15 years, the last major eruption being about 11 years ago!

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At times it was just too steamy to see through the sulphurous gases. You could feel our little helicopter battling against the sudden jets of wind in the chaos which reigned about the crater.
But the island was phenomenal!

Colourful: red ferric and ferrous rock, black lava in aerated light bombs, white steam gushing from black vents, even some green algae – who would want to live here?- but the most impressive of all was the sulphur! From palest yellow, through hues of bright yellow, gold and dappled yellow with white. Simply beautiful.
Noisy: pits of bubbling mud or boiling water; jets of steam hissing through vents; the wind roaring round so strong that three time it blew off my compulsory hard hat, which, by the way, perched delicately on my head no matter how I adjusted the thing. It was to protect us against the occasional black bomb of hot lava which may spring out of the volcano. If it had done the hat would certainly have come off and the next bomb would get me!
The ground was surprisingly soft, mostly with abrasive rocks littered in all colours over it.
And the smell! Acrid sulphur. We really needed our masks to permit us to approach some of the gaseous areas.

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Kerry, our pilot and tour guide, was casual and informative. He let us take our time so that in all we spent over an hour walking around the geological wonder. He showed us the sulphur mine wreckage, long abandoned and told us how it was used for fertilizer! We walked down to the seashore and burnt our fingers on the hot black sand.

In all we took 300 photos between us, and came home overwhelmed by the excitement, the wonder and the amazement of seeing such a hot, hostile environment. Anne- Marie bounded out the office to ask how we got on. Having enthused to her, we got straight onto Facebook and shared some of the photos with friends.

Then there was the afternoon…

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