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Whakarri – White Island

Thirty miles out of Whakatane in the Bay of Plenty there is an active volcano on a small island called Whakarri or White Island. Captain Cook named the island in 1769 when he sailed by the island and saw the white steam rising from the island, he never realized he was passing an active volcano. For years entrepreneurs tried to mine sulfur on the island often with tragic results, in 1914 10 workers died in a mud flow. Today it is one of the most accessible active volcanos on earth.

A forty five minute ride out to the island and a jump onto a dilapidated pier and you are on White Island. A place that looks like it belongs in a science fiction movie. As you approach the island it is a bit ominous as you can see the steam rising. Before we loaded into a dingy to head to shore we were given hard hats and gas masks. It was a stark realization that this really is an active volcano.

Once on the island the boiling mud pits and steaming holes. You are instructed to stay on the well walked path because the volcanic crust could be meters or millimeters thick. It is quite a different place with a myriad of colors, oranges, grays, yellow that matched the smells and geologic activity.  A really neat trip.

Some friends who accompied us out to White Island.

Some friends who accompied us out to White Island.

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Remnants of the old sulfur factory left from the early 1900's

Remnants of the old sulfur factory left from the early 1900’s

 

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