A constant reminder

Rangitoto Island; Auckland’s newest and largest volcano. image: Su Leslie 2019

It’s just over 24 hours since the sudden volcanic eruption of Whakaari/White Island off New Zealand’s east coast left at least five people dead, 31 injured and eight more missing.

Volcanic activity is weirdly compelling to watch. Visitors have flocked to geologically active places since tourism began, and despite frequent eruptions and a perpetual, slightly toxic, steam cloud, Whakaari/White Island had become a major tourist attraction.

As I walk on a beach studded with the jagged remains of old lava flows, beneath one volcanic cone and within sight of several others, I’m conscious of how much of New Zealand’s topography has been (and continues to be) formed by volcanic activity.

Some volcanic fields, like that on which Auckland lies, tend to have single eruptions on specific sites within the field. Others, like Whakaari and the mountains of the central North Island are polygenetic, erupting multiple times with varying frequency and intensity.

No matter how much our rational brains understand this, yesterday’s tragedy is a somber reminder of how thin the crust we walk on really is.

47 thoughts on “A constant reminder

  1. The shadowing and shades in your photo are very beautiful, Su. We humans of the hi-tech age do not like to accept that we are NOT in control of our environment. It’s an interesting paradox, isn’t it. A form of magical thinking even when we have all kinds of hard facts and evidence literally at our fingertips – those of us with smart phones that is, which would not be me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been so sorry to read about the volcano, Su and my heart goes out to all the people, including the brave rescuers. Reading the comments on your post reminded me of how the multitude of ‘small print’ warnings we have to agree to these days makes it less likely we assess them with the care some of them deserve. They seem like a legal formality – a way to try to pass responsibility on to us if the worst happens – rather than a picture of what is likely to happen. I don’t think we’ve got the balance right about this yet.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Susan.
      I agree; a d already the news is full of stories about prosecutions and legal wrangling.
      I do know that there were safety briefings given before the boats depart the mainland, but how good they were — and how much people listened …

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Such a terrible thing to happen. 😦 It’s astonishing that tours were going on in the past weeks, especially since geological institutes like the one in Potsdam near Berlin kept warning that this was due to happen. I guess the island being in private hands instead of governmental ones was part of the reason for the warnings being ignored. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is terrible. There are so many questions that need to be answered. I’m not sure how much ownership of the island affected things though; the owners have a long-standing deal with the government granting the island semi-public status, and they have no involvement in running the tours.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Absolutely; a lot of people make their living out of the tours — directly and indirectly. Most of the visitors were from a cruise ship, which was only in the area for a day. There must be incredible pressure not to cancel trips under those circumstances. It’s not like other visitors who can just go another day.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you very much for this deeply personal and insightful post. I am very sorry for the awful tragedy and the loss of so many lives. I have recently published an article on my blog about the danger of adventure tourism with an emphasis on the white island eruption. If you have time, it would be great if you could check out my post, as I would be really interested to hear your thoughts! Thanks 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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