We got up at 6 am to drive to Whakatane, the place where we got the boat to White Island, New Zealnds only active marine volcano!
Whakatane (Fack-a-tarn-ai) got it’s name from when the Maori first sailed to New Zealand. A canoe full of Marori men and women came up a river to a beach and landed, the men went off, absorbed in their findings. The Maori Chiefs daughter could see that the canoe had not gone far enough up the beach to be safely anchored and the boat drifted out to sea, she called out a warning. The men took no heed, they were fascinated by the new land. The captains daughter said “I wish I could act like a man” because women were forbidden to handle oars in the Maori belief. She picked up the oars and saved them, Whakatane means to be like a man in Maori.
This is a statue of the chiefs daughter.
White Island is a long way from Whakatane, it took us an hour and a half to get there, the sea was really smooth.
The boat anchored in a bay and we had to get a dinghy to a slab of concrete sticking out from the shore. Then we had to clamber over boulders to get to the beach. We needed hard hats and gas masks to be allowed on the island because it is an active volcano.
The volcano doesn’t erupt lava anymore, it spits out rocks and ash, there is a high quantity of silica and that acts like glue sticking the lava into rocks.
The volcano is 100,000 – 200,000 years old and is mainly under water. The main magma chamber is only 5 metres below ground.
We saw 4 different colours in the rocks on the island because of the minerals in the volcano. Green from copper. Yellow from sulphur. Pink from iron (that has gone rusty). White from calcium.
The main crater spews horrible smelling steam and we had to wear our gas masks, at the bottom of the crater was a green lake which was really hard to see unless the wind blew the steam away.
We started walking around the main crater complex, there were vents, and mud pools everywhere! We got to feel the mud on the guides hand, it was strangely smooth and it dried really hard and pale.
We washed our hands off in a creek, the guide told us to taste it, it tasted really metallic from the iron. A bit further on there was another creek and this one tasted like lemon juice!
Sulphur was mined on the island at three different times. The third occasion was the most successful, and lasted for ten years before they stopped making money. The sulphur they got was used as fertiliser on fields. The remains of the last mine were left on the island, it closed in 1933.
New Zealand is on two plates, the Indo-Australian one and the Pacific plate. That’s why there is a lot of volcanoes, geysers, hot springs, earthquakes and mud pools.